Top Independent Brokerages 2016 - 1 THE AUSTRALIAN LENDING & INVESTMENT CENTRE

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ALIC has held the top spot through constant innovation, careful expansion, and a balance of individual brilliance and brokerage culture

This year’s No. 1 brokerage is not only different from any other in Australia; it’s different to the brokerage it was last year. For the third year in a row, The Australian Lending & Investment Centre (ALIC) has topped MPA’s list with its unique business model and continuing innovations. 

“Each year we have a theme,” explains managing director Jason Back. “Last year was about efficiency, and the client relationship road map; this year is actually about people.” ALIC has brought in a consultant, at great expense, in order to understand what motivates its staff. Back’s objective is a company culture “that understands you as an individual and how that works in a team environment … it’s quite a complex piece of work but we need it because we’re not hiring technical expertise, we’re hiring personalities.” 

ALIC’s approach to broking has already paid off with three Top 10 wins, an AMA for Brokerage of theYear, and regular Top 100 places for star brokers Mark Davis and Kevin Agent. It revolves around a network of referral partners – such as buyers’ agents – focused on high-net-worth property investors who are building portfolios. 

However, ALIC’s approach to investment is anything but flashy, explains Back. “We buy 600–800sqm blocks, established houses with three to four bedrooms and two bathrooms, with rents at 4–5% odd yield, 2–6km outside of Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne. It’s consistently boring, and that’s what the investor wants.” 

Back says customers expect a certain level of advice from ALIC and its partners. “[They expect that] the quality of advice they’re going to get from our buyers’ advocates and people like Mark and Kevin is going to be sound, solid and reliable: there’s no ‘get rich quick’ game.”

This is why recent changes to investor lending have had little impact on ALIC. “Our clients are generally equity-based lenders,” explains Back. “They’ve got good established, less-than-80% LVRs; they’ve got equity available and they’re affluent clients.”

The brokerage has also avoided SMSF lending and foreign investors for good reason, Back argues. “We’ve all been around for 20-plus years and we’ve all seen these fads and we all know there are challenges in these markets…” 

With a vastly improved approach to processing, anyone at ALIC can now pick up any file, which is becoming essential with a loan book that continues to grow. They can also track a range of metrics, says Back: “how long a file has been at a certain status, what the next step is, when the next task is set for, who is going to contact that client … it’s working really well”. ALIC has nine loan writers and 16 support staff but continues to be on the lookout for more.

This presents one of Back’s biggest challenges: how to train new brokers and build a company culture in a brokerage with not one but two Top 100 brokers. They’re building an academy to instruct new recruits, and Back insists there are a number of different business models at work within ALIC. “I would never tell anyone to replicate Mark [Davis]’s model; it’s a very difficult thing: he’s 110% committed, with massive hours, massive volume and massive client load, because that’s the commitment he’s given himself and his business.” 

Instead Back looks to support each of his brokers to operate in their own way. “It’s all tailored depending on their business models … we want to make sure they have the resources to support the outcomes they wish to drive.”