“And the more I looked at it, the more I saw: yes, it is a winner! It’s genius!”
I run a RAMS Home Loans franchise.
In year 12, I had two different music teachers: one of them was horrendous and one was really good. So I decided there should be more good music teachers in the world, and I would become one of them. I liked music enough, and didn’t know what else to do with my life, so that seemed like a good idea.
I did a year and a half of a primary school teaching course, which ended up being a disaster. Whilst I was OK at the academic part of it, I found out during the practical components that I was no good with kids! After failing the teaching round, I left and joined my dad’s business, installing electronics like security systems, antennas and home theatre systems.
I still thought I might get back into music, so I continued to work with a music teacher on my clarinet playing, however after a year of it, he told me he still didn’t think I was ready to get into the teaching degree I wanted.
By that stage I had already been dating my now wife for some time and thinking about marriage, so I decided I didn’t want to wait another year to then have to do four years of study before I could get a job. I continued to work for my father, figuring that a ‘job was a job’ and that it didn’t have to be a calling, as long as I could provide for my family.
Eventually my dad retired, and my brother and I took over.
Running your own business is difficult. And when you’re not passionate about it, it’s very difficult to stay motivated and prosper. Neither my brother nor I were passionate about the business, so for several years we merely got by.
I did think about trying something else, possibly becoming a minister like my father, but when my wife fell pregnant with our first baby, I felt I had no choice but to continue with the security of what I knew.
When my brother announced his plans to leave the business I began exploring other options, even though I had a new baby.
The opportunity to join RAMS to become a loan writer eventuated through my existing interest in property investments. One of my clients through the antenna business worked for RAMS, and became a good friend.
When I was working for him, I’d ask him about property – how does it all work, what’s negative gearing, what’s leverage?
And he’d explain it: you use the bank’s money to purchase a property, you use rental income and tax savings to cover most (or all) of the costs, and you profit by the increase in capital growth over time. It’s a winner!
And the more I looked at it, the more I saw: yes, it is a winner! It’s genius!
Why doesn’t everyone do this? I got really into it, and was always going on about investing, mortgages, rentals. Over the next few years, this friend helped me with my investments and understanding finance.
Around the time I was soul searching, wondering what else I might do with my life, my mentor rang and offered me a job as a loan writer at his RAMS franchise. I asked him to explain what’s involved.
With loan finance, there’s a lot of talking to people – something I love doing.
Then there’s a lot of handling large sums of money, which I also love. There is a lot of admin and paperwork, which, sadly enough, I love! And finally, it’s a lot to do with the property market, which I really love!
It seemed like a dream job for me.
In fact, when I first took the leap to change careers, I was so excited about my new path that I didn’t want to tell people about what I’d be doing, because I genuinely thought they’d be jealous of my good fortune. And then, when I started to tell people, I was shocked by the negative reactions and perceptions of finance as a boring job. But for me, it was perfect.
I was thrown into the deep end.
After a short period of training I was out meeting with clients.
It was a big learning curve. Whilst I had no problems talking to clients about their purchases, the property market and investment strategies, once it came to the nitty gritty of finance, I’d have to run behind the scenes and consult with my mentor as to whether their loan requirement fitted our policies.
The first six months were like a whirlwind, I’d go home every day with my brain exploding with new information. Learning the rules and policies was the biggest challenge.
There a huge policy document that outlines what and how you can lend, who you can lend to and who you can’t lend to, and what the exceptions may be. As the finance industry is ever changing to keep up with the market, economy and other influences like government regulators, the policy document is an ever changing set of rules to remember.
My job as a lender is to do my best to lend my client money, whilst still following procedures.
In the wake of the financial crisis’s the world has experienced, responsible lending has become paramount.
Today governments are assuming that people are incompetent to make their own financial decisions and therefore it’s incumbent on the bank to make these decisions for them.
It the past, the responsibility was on the client to decide whether they could or could not afford a loan; they took it out it and if they couldn’t keep up with the payments agreed, they lost money or investments. These days, if a client can’t make their payments, the bank is seen as having failed in assessing them, therefore it’s the bank’s fault and there can be serious consequences for the lender.
With that kind of risk, no wonders the banks have tightened their purse strings and getting loans has become harder.
Whilst this is not necessary a bad thing, for people with less traditional incomes and lifestyles, it may seem unfair.
When I lend, I need to know that the loan I’m approving is going to benefit my client.
My job is to meet the client, to really get to know and understand their situation, and then do the very best I can by them.
And yes, sometimes that means saying no, but often it means working with the client to find a way to say yes where normally a computer or a less attentive writer might say no, all the while ensuring we are being responsible lenders.
This was made easier working for RAMS, as unlike some of the bigger banks, we actually have the ability to speak with the credit team and discuss situations and exceptions personally. It’s not as black & white as the bigger players who churn applications through computer systems and if it doesn’t check all the boxes, it gets rejected – end of story.
When I started, I was on commission-only.
That was one of the best things I could’ve done. At the time, it was a risk: I’d just had a child and my wife was on maternity leave. Knowing I would only get paid what I earned made me hungrier to own my outcomes.
After around 2 years, I was feeling pretty comfortable and knowledgeable, and on my way to building a good client network.
Then I was approached by my employers who said that there were a few RAMS franchises becoming vacant, and wanted me to join them as a partner in running them.
I hadn’t really thought about doing something like that.
I certainly wasn’t thinking of leaving what I was doing, as I had fantastic support and a great environment, I was able to do my own thing within the greater business.
But I decided to jump onboard because I had great trust in my mentors who were offering me this opportunity, and I knew I would have support from them.
So here I am.
Whilst there’s certainly been some changes in going from an employee to the owner, the majority of what I do is still loan writing: speaking with clients and helping them get finance for their property goals.
Initially, my clients came through the national advertising that RAMS did – and still do. When people ring to enquire, their queries get assigned based on the region they are in, so I got the leads that applied to my area. At the same time, I started networking and just talking to the people I knew and met: telling them about what I do and how I can help them.
The truth is, the sales part came easy to me because I love talking about this subject.
I can’t help but get excited and want to tell people about the possibilities of property and finance, and how it can benefit them. I get very passionate when I speak because I really believe in what I do and I think people respond to that.
In any sales job, you need to believe in what you’re selling, you have to be passionate. Back when I was doing antennas, I wasn’t passionate. Even though I was supposed to be selling and up-selling my services, I’d be thinking to myself “jeez, that’s a lot of money to spend on a system”. I had trouble justifying it to myself – yet alone my customers! I didn’t believe in my product.
Now I can’t help myself, I want everyone to get a mortgage and invest! And that passion becomes contagious.
I’ve been with RAMS almost five years, and more than 50% of what I do now is word of mouth or repeat business. It’s a good sign that you’re doing well and very satisfying. Plus, it’s a lot easier to take someone who’s been referred to you and make them into a customer than to convince a stranger of the street to trust you.
I actually struggle with cold calling.
Even with formal networking, aggressively introducing myself to referral partners, real estate agents – that’s just not me. It’s probably my biggest weakness, as a salesperson and a businessman actually, not liking to do the hard-sell, but I just prefer to do business via relationships that happen organically.
One of the big changes that came with taking on the franchise was getting a management fee to help pay staff and office costs. This management fee (paid by banks on each loan introduced by the franchise) adds up over time and allows you to invest more on your business and retaining clients.
Different lenders have differing arrangements with this ongoing management fee, some allowing you to retain the fee even after you stop actively writing new business which some use as part of a retirement strategy.
I don’t have set hours: if I don’t have appointments I can choose to come in late or leave early. At the same time though, I can sometimes meet with a client at 6am or stay until 8-9pm talking with a client, or visiting them at their home to discuss their loan needs.
What I love most about this job is helping people buy and sell property and know that I am helping with setting up their future.
Probably my favourite type of clients are first home buyers who are interested in property long-term. People who don’t just want to buy a house to live in, but who see property as a way to build wealth; who see the value, but might not know all the ins and outs, or not have all the savings or equity, who are not prime candidates for other lenders.
I get satisfaction from being able to use my experience and knowledge to set them on the right path forward.
I really believe that the most important attribute for anyone doing this job is to have a genuine heart for helping people.
Everything else can be learnt.
The other important attributes I’d say is a head for figures, and the ability to do paperwork. Look, if paperwork is not your thing, you can employ someone to do it for you, but you need to be aware there is a lot of it!
There’s two main types of paperwork: the application forms, which can be quite lengthy with all the clients’ supporting documents like income statements, ID docs etc.
A part of this is reading and understanding the lending guidelines , which is a very significant document outlining all the different scenarios and lending criteria. If you can understand it, and why the guidelines are in place, it makes it easier to successfully apply for credit on behalf of your clients.
And then you have to understand exactly what it means to be a responsible lender.
There is a whole raft of legislation that you need to be across and always keep your knowledge up to date. If you really hate all that sort of stuff, then maybe this job isn’t for you, because you really do need to know it, and be compliant.
I would like to do this indefinitely, because I love it.
I will also continue to build my property portfolio, something I’ve slowly continued to do over the years – I have just bought my fourth property.
I do have interests in other areas that I hope to one day pursue. Maybe something relating to politics, like running some kind of advocacy or lobby group, or becoming a minister like my father. Whilst none of these areas are exactly profitable, I hope that my work in finance and investing will support my other passions should I decide to actively pursue these one day.
I want to set myself up so that eventually I don’t have to work and to only do the work I want to, regardless of what it pays.
That’s the dream!
You have to go through a journey in life to get to where you need to be. If someone told me at the age of 17 that I should be working in finance, I would’ve hated the idea! I had to try a few things first, grow up and get to know myself before I realized this was the ideal path for me.
And funnily enough, maybe now, being older and more mature, I would actually make a decent primary school teacher.
I’ve learned that you can’t let other people talk you into doing something just because they think that’s the right thing for you.
You need to find something you are passionate about or enjoy , and then find a way to work in that space. Passion is so important when it comes to running a business. I learnt to believe in myself and back myself, and go all out for what I believe in – I think that’s my best advice to anyone.