Darren Little sees changes in the market creating opportunities his brokerage is well positioned to take
As general manager Darren Little sees it, Smartmove hasn’t changed, but the market has. “We still operate on a word-of-mouth business model,” Little says. “The big change this year has been with the regulatory change, which actually is creating a lot more opportunity for us.”
Smartmove is one of those brokerages that you’d expect to be heavily exposed to changes in investor lending. Little makes no secret of the fact that the brokerage is relatively undiversified. “Our business model for 13 years has been a very residential-focused business.” Many of Smartmove’s clients are investors, requiring finance to meet Sydney’s sky-high property prices.
However, Little sees the changes as an opportunity. “We’ve always been a process-driven business, and that’s holding us in quite a good position,” he explains. “When we get improvements we improve the process for everyone.” Smartmove has spent time on education, bringing in bank BDMs to explain policy changes to its Sydney and (via video link) Manila offices. It has a dedicated trainer in-house to help the growing team improve their skills. “With half our team here and half in Manila we need to keep across these changes.”
All that education takes time, which is already in short supply, according to Little. “There’s a lot more work involved: we’re using 18–19 lenders a month, whereas historically we’d use around 12, because we’re needing to look at those banks to get solutions for the client.” More documents are also required to move forward. “Now you really need everything up front so you can find the solution. If they drip-drip that information over a week you’re not going to have all the information to provide a solution,” Little says.
Smartmove is making some concessions to market conditions. It recently took on a commercial broker and is controlling costs with standardised processes and equipment. However, the brokerage is not planning to charge fees, and Little doesn’t believe it needs to change its core model. “We run a PAYG model with untapped earning potential and that’s held us in a good position for today, and I’m very confident for the future.”
That’s why, when many other brokerages are cutting support staff, talent acquisition is Little’s number one priority for the year ahead. That includes expanding Smartmove’s Manila support team “so the brokers we have on the ground here in Sydney are well placed to provide clients with those solutions and build relationships”.