With less than six years of industry experience, Deanna Ezzy isn’t what you would call a mortgage veteran. And yet she is known as Canberra’s best female broker, the country’s 6th best performing female broker, and was ranked number 46 on Mortgage Professional Australia’s Top 100 Brokers list. In 2013, a mere three years into her career, Your Investment Property named her Mortgage Broker of the Year, and last year she was ranked number two in Choice Aggregation’s top performing brokers for NSW/ACT.
A finance strategist at Trilogy Funding, Ezzy is undoubtedly a testament to the fact that broking is a profession in which the barriers to entry are relatively low, and career progress can, as she has proven, be incredibly rapid.
“We’re so lucky in that, you know, you don’t have to go to uni for four years. It’s an industry where, if you get mentored right, you can move straight in, so I think it’s a big opportunity…”
Ezzy is quick to attribute much of her success to the mentoring she received, she says, when she was began working under Ed Nixon, the CEO of Trilogy Funding, who is still her boss today.
“He brought me on as a trainee broker. From the day I started he just gave me so much positive reinforcement … He would say to me, you’re going to be a way better broker than I ever was! He just gave me all the support that I needed… and I still get all the support I need,” she says.
This is particularly relevant given the recent release of the MFAA’s Young Professionals Report, which stresses the importance of young brokers learning from the older generation of brokers, and the fact that Ezzy herself is considered a ‘young professional’.
“I think it should be mandatory,” she says when asked her view on mentorship in the industry. “Only because there’s so much to know. I don’t even know how you would start without a mentor … it’s 100% important. You definitely need someone there to help you out, I’d say especially in the first twelve months.”
Ezzy believes that management that makes mentorship a priority not only creates a nurturing and supportive work environment for their young brokers to learn and succeed, but their business overall will benefit as well.
“[The Trilogy management] are quite smart in that they want their employees to grow and they’re quite open about the fact that the more we personally grow, the better the business is going to do,” she says.
Ah, but the woes of regulation
But the path brokers are walking is not as seamless as it used to be, and as a specialist in investor lending, Ezzy has plenty to say on the topic of regulation. Off the back of APRA’s speed limit changes at the end of 2014, Ezzy has noticed a big change in the value of loans she is writing.
“I think the regulatory changes for me have been probably more difficult than your average broker because we target investors. So many of my clients have multiple properties, and they were at a point twelve months ago where they could continue to invest - it was a lot easier to do stuff like get cash out and do renos, and the restrictions weren’t quite as tight,” says Ezzy.
Eighteen months on, however, these same clients are having to come to terms with a different regulatory environment that has a direct impact on them.
“And now, after all these regulation changes most of my clients have either slammed into a serviceability wall, where new calculators say they can’t even afford what they’ve got, and … they’re struggling. I’m having to educate them all now on the fact that they can’t do things as easily as they used to be able to and it’s meant a lot of work … and not being able to write the same amount of loans.”
The impact of APRA’s 10% cap has had such an impact, that Ezzy’s lodgement value has halved in the past twelve months.
“There was a big lull for me personally in lodgements – and when I say “lull” it was between four and six million a month, so it was still ok, but the same time last year I think Tash, my assistant and I did a $14 million month. We were doing $10 million months, $12 million months.”
Ezzy is transparent about the fact that under these new conditions, brokers are having to work a lot harder for and invest more time in, their investor clients.
“I will do everything I can to exhaust all options for someone, so in a way its good, it’s probably what makes me a good broker, but at the same time it uses up a lot of time, I can find myself working too many hours and getting sick,” she says, which, at the time of interview, she was.
But rather than fight the new challenges, Ezzy says, it’s important that brokers adjust. The brokers that simply go with the flow and are malleable to the industry’s ever-changing regulatory landscape are the ones that will succeed, she suggests. That means doing things like double-checking postcodes in the wake of the new postcode restrictions, and pulling up a new loan calculator in case things have changed overnight.
“… there’s a bit more work involved,” she says.
When it comes to the industry as a whole, Ezzy says there are a few things she would like to see operate differently, and one of her pet hates as a broker is channel conflict.
“You should be able to offer what the branch can offer and what mobile bankers can offer. There’s meant to be a level playing field … there’s meant to be no channel conflict, but there is. It’s a bit unfair, to be honest,” she says.
The problem is two-fold, according to Ezzy, who says that when banks undercut brokers, it makes those brokers not want to take loans to that bank again, and that means the broker starts to do the bank a disservice out of fear that the bank staff will try and take the loan.
“It’s a bit frustrating,” she says, adding that reviewing bankers’ commission structure could be an effective solution to the problem.
“I like the idea that when a loan is generated by a broker, that the branch [staff] – if they internally rewrite it - they don’t get paid for it. I think that’s a good thing … I’d like to see it all streamlined, so that if you came and saw me and you wanted a NAB loan, for example, it’s exactly the same as what you’ll get in the branch.”
The golden road
But Ezzy believes that the industry is still ripe with opportunity, and as the Secretary for Canberra Women In Business (CWB), she would like to see more women take advantage of this.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity for women. There [are] not a lot of well-known or good female brokers. I love when I meet another female broker who is killing it,” she says.
“The job’s really fun … and you never get bored and if you’re good at it then the pay’s really, really good, and I think women don’t know that about the broking industry and so it’s almost a bit of a missed opportunity.”
When asked what pearls of wisdom she could impart to assist other brokers in the industry, Ezzy has some very modest words of advice.
“Be nice … Stop being in the mindset of trying to get stuff… and try and be more in the mindset of what you can give out to people,” says Ezzy.
“ I make a point of trying to make friends with everyone that I’m dealing with ... and it’s so much easier [because] a) you get a much better outcome for your clients, but b) you get to work with your mates all day!”