Top Independent Brokerages 2016 - 4 SMARTMOVE

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After a few years’ absence, Smartmove is back in the Top 10, with a vengeance. Its brokers are already serial high achievers, with several finalists for 2015’s AMAs, and broker Simon Orbell rising 49 places in MPA’s Top 100 report. They’re also trailblazers, as evidenced by general manager Darren Little calling in from the company’s Manila office to talk to MPA about the brokerage’s business model. 

“As a business we’re very referral-based; we don’t advertise at all,” Little explains. With a broad client base in Sydney’s prosperous northern suburbs, Smartmove has been expanding rapidly, which is why Little is visiting Manila.

“We’ve been in the Philippines now for four years, but over the last 12 months we’ve built a purpose-built facility out there which has given us a lot more capacity to support our client base and brokers here in Sydney.” 

Rather than outsource, Smartmove has offshored – it has its own facility and its own staff. It is encouraging links between the Manila and Sydney offices by bringing the former’s staff to Australia for two- to three-month stints. 

“We want staff for the long term, making sure we recruit the right people,” says Little. The objective is to “control the culture … we want those people working the Smartmove way, because if they’re working the Smartmove way they’ll treat the customers well, work with the customers, and we’ll have delighted customers.”

While this model is working well, Smartmove’s brokers have had to react to lending changes over the past year, namely by APRA. “We’ve really taken it as an opportunity to learn a lot more, look at a lot more banks and variety,” says Little. “We’ve been doing a lot more work with service, structuring and credit proposals. So we’re seeing it as quite an opportunity; maybe customers are going to a bank they’ve always gone to and they can’t go there now, or a mortgage broker who doesn’t look at a wide variety of lenders.” He’s also bringing lenders into the office to run educational workshops for his staff. 

Little is confident about the future because he believes Smartmove has developed a culture and corresponding hiring model to make sure new recruits fit. At the centre of that culture is the ‘Smartmove experience’ of excellent customer service, he explains. “We aim to create a highperforming culture across the business, but the key to our business is working together as a team. If someone’s busy, they’re more than happy to pass that lead on to the next person, because at the end of the day we want the customer to get that Smartmove experience.”