An Australian Franchisor Interview
Franchisors name: Jessica Darnbrough
Franchise: Mortgage Choice
Tell us about how/when the business was started and the motivation behind establishing Mortgage Choice.
Mortgage Choice was established in 1992 by co-founders Rod Higgins and Peter Higgins, with a vision of building a national network of ethical, credible and professional mortgage brokers who local communities could trust.
Today, Mortgage Choice writes a home loan every 15 minutes in Australia via its network of more than 500 franchises. We offer a wide choice of hundreds of home loan products via an extensive panel of over 28 leading lenders.
In addition, many of our brokers help to source personal loans, commercial loans, asset finance, deposit bonds, and risk and general insurances for their customers.
They can also refer customers our growing network of Mortgage Choice financial advisers, who are committed to the concept of driving ‘real, relevant results’ for everyday Australians.
When and why did Mortgage Choice decide to go down the franchise route?
Mortgage Choice was always designed to be a franchise system. At the time of its inception, Australia was in the midst of a financial crisis and many bank managers were facing redundancy. Mortgage was created in a bid to capitalise on customer demand for choice and offer redundant bank managers a new career path.
What have been Mortgage Choice’s biggest achievements/successes to date so far?
Now 22 years old, Mortgage Choice has celebrated many milestones and successes. Some of the standouts include:
- 1994: Mortgage Choice set up its franchise system and sold its first franchise licence in Wollongong
- 1996: Mortgage Choice became the first national mortgage broker with representatives in each state
- 1998: Mortgage Choice launched its website and welcomed the 100th franchisee to the family
- 2000: Mortgage Choice wrote its 50,000th loan – breaking $10 billion in loan submissions
- 2004: Mortgage Choice was officially listed on the Australian Securities Exchange
- 2010: Mortgage Choice was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s top performing companies under $1 billion
- 2012: Mortgage Choice successfully transitioned into financial planning and established itself as a fully fledged financial services powerhouse
- 2013: Mortgage Choice was officially appointed to the ASX 300.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
As with any business, Mortgage Choice has faced its fair share of challenges over the years, most notably:
- Growing the footprint of the network – this has always proven a challenge for Mortgage Choice. Once you reach a certain size, it is often hard to get much bigger. But, thanks to some innovative recruitment and sales initiatives, the company has managed to grow its franchise numbers to more than 500
- Transitioning into a fully fledged financial services powerhouse – changing from a well-known mortgage broker into a full financial services provider was a difficult challenge for Mortgage Choice. Changing perceptions both inside and outside of the company was difficult, but once again we have managed to overcome those challenges and today we stand as a very successful full financial services provider.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow Mortgage Choice?
At Mortgage Choice, we use various marketing/promotional tools to help keep the brand front of mind with our customers, including:
- Television, print, web and radio advertising
- Blogs for both Mortgage Choice website and independent third party websites
- Active presence on social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus
- Various recruitment initiatives. Most recently introduced Plus One initiative where brokers were incentivised to bring on a loan writer
What differentiates Mortgage Choice from the competition?
There are four ingredients that, when added up, make our way of doing business and servicing our customers unique, including:
- Choice- Choice is not always about quantity. It is about what is relevant and meaningful for our customers and their needs
- Honesty – we provide all of our customers with honest advice, which is exemplified by the fact that regardless of which home loan provider our customers choose, our franchisees get paid the same commissions. This allows them to always focus on the right outcome for the customer
- Transparency – we are upfront with all costs and fees as a matter of practice. Our financial planning pricing menu is a great example of this. Our franchisees all speak and explain things in a way our customers can understand – they keep it simple. And so with Mortgage Choice, what you see is what you get.
- Amazing service – giving our customers amazing service sits at the heart of our new brand positioning and customer promise. Our amazing customer service is delivered through a 5 star AMAZE model where each of the five points on our star model represent a key aspect of what we call amazing customer service.
In your opinion, what makes a successful Mortgage Choice franchisee?
To be a successful franchisee you need to be able to:
- Deliver amazing customer service
- Know and understand all product/lender nuances – have a good understanding of the industry and the role you play
- Build strong relationships with referral partners, other professionals, lenders and, most importantly, customers
- Provide all customers with the appropriate choice/solution for them and their needs
- Work hard, work diligently and manage your time effectively
What changes have you seen in your industry over recent year? And how have you adapted to them?
The property market has gone from strength to strength over the past year, property values have surged 10.1 per cent over the 12 months to July and home loan approvals are currently sitting at four year highs. As a result, mortgage brokers and the third party distribution channel as a whole is busier than ever before. To keep up with the elevated demand, Mortgage Choice introduced innovative sales techniques to help boost broker productivity and launched various unique recruitment strategies to help us bring qualified, successful new brokers into the company and help grow our footprint.
What does the future hold for Mortgage Choice?
The future is bright for Mortgage Choice.
We will continue to successfully transition into a fully fledged financial services powerhouse. In addition, we plan to grow our footprint – both in terms of broker and financial planner numbers.
We have enjoyed some sensational growth over the last 12 months and we expect this to continue moving forward.
Today, we have the highest productivity levels of any brokerage in the industry. That said, we are not prepared to rest on our laurels – we will continue to work hard to improve our productivity and our conversions.
What expansion plans have you got nationally and internationally?
We have ambitious growth plans and aim to grow our footprint across the country both in terms of broker and financial planner numbers.
We aim to have 60 financial planners by June 2015 and we would like to add a further 50 loan writers to our mortgage broking network.
What advice would you give to someone considering franchising their business?
It is important to have a good franchise system and structure in place to support the growth of the business.
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
As with any business, you have highs and you have lows. While it would be nice never to face lows, challenges make a business stronger.