Work smarter, not harder

by Melanie Mingas06 Jun 2019

Scott Durrant, the founder and director of Successful Ways, explains how to settle $100m+ in half the time

Seven years ago, broker Scott Durrant had an idea for an IT system so advanced it would essentially become a virtual broking assistant capable of reducing run-off, managing client data and flagging new sales opportunities.

Fully aware that he wasn’t an IT expert, Durrant pitched the idea to his aggregator.

But when the aggregator said it couldn’t be done, he took matters into his own hands.

A few years (and dollars) later, Durrant’s system, Alexus CRM, is now the backbone of his fully integrated property purchase and wealth business, Successful Ways – and he reportedly works half the hours of the average broker while writing just as many loans.

“It’s about working smarter, not harder. My phone is off at 7pm, whereas when I first started as a broker, at 11pm I was still punching orders,” Durrant says.

“A lot of brokers want to control everything, but if you have good systems, and the right people are trained correctly, it works more efficiently.”

Alexus CRM features a variety of tools and tricks, allowing Durrant to identify and target clients based on any of the dozens of data points held on them. These include interest rate, lending bank, income, type of loan, LVR, value, cross securitisation and referral sources, to name a few. Further, client contact post-settlement is automated.

Brokers are prompted on new sales opportunities and refinance requirements, and all related services the client has within the business are also listed.

The formula supports broker diversification and client retention, and drastically minimises the risk of channel conflict. Because of the depth of information held, the system also facilitates greater collaboration between the six other areas in which Successful Ways operates (see box).

The result isn’t simply that Durrant is able to talk to a client about every step of their financial life; the systems and services within the business are also talking to each other.

However, the real USP is that each of the client’s data points including their current interest rate – is live.

“This is the difference with a good system. What I started to realise after working the way I work is that systems run the business and people run the systems.

If you have a great system and processes, and admin staff to administrate, then it frees up time for the broker to get in front of more people, tell their story and build up relationships,” Durrant says.

“Right now, brokers are blindfolded. We have to be smarter, cleverer and ahead of the banks”

“If I had my time again I would join a business that had in-house referrals, better systems and processors, and admin staff to take care of the back end.”

While a near decade of development time would push many to give up, Durrant was confident about the value that could be achieved, and he was right – in the last financial year he settled $104m.

Alexus CRM can now be adopted by other brokers on a subscription basis, implemented and even tailored to the processes of individual brokers and their firms.

“All the information I had in my aggregator system was stuck in there.

As most brokers will tell you, there isn’t much value in half a story. This system I use gives you everything you need. It’s very easy to work out and it’s user-friendly.

That’s why it works for me,” he says.

Points of difference

Client retention is critical at any time, but in a post royal commission lending environment it takes on new meaning.

Durrant calculates that, by leveraging the information in Alexus CRM, run-off can be reduced from a ballpark of 30% to 5%.

“Every lender will send a letter or make a phone call to a homeowner one month out from a fixed rate expiry or interest-only expiry. Our system can be automated to do that at two months out.

As another example, once a client’s LVR drops below 75% it will trigger a task to get in touch with your client and look for either equity release or a better deal,” he says. Since February, the issue of channel conflict has taken on added meaning, and brokers are increasingly wary of how banks are able to use the live data they hold on each broker-originated customer.

In this increasingly competitive environment, any advantage is a welcome one.

“The banks pay us commission to introduce the client, but they are also using their own information that we can’t see, and they are using it in a smart way,” Durrant says.

“There isn’t much value in half a story. This system I use gives you everything you need”

“Right now, brokers are blindfolded. We have to be smarter, cleverer and ahead of the banks.” Removing conflicts and promoting integration is a core philosophy of Durrant’s business model, and the idea of collaborative working echoes through all areas of the business.

He says, “That’s how you win business.

Everybody can offer interest rates, but what’s your point of difference?” As a natural progression from his time in real estate, Durrant launched Successful Ways with education for first home buyers.

With a captive audience he then branched out to broking and home loans, quickly followed by legal services and financial planning, building the business piece by piece to what it is today.

“I knew bringing services in-house would make business easier. Every professional involved in a real estate deal thinks they are in charge of it, and that creates conflicts and a stressful customer experience.

The idea here is that people at different points of the chain need to work together, and working in-house allows that. If you get the first part right the rest flows, then getting referrals becomes a lot easier,” he says.

Modernising broking

What this means for the future of aggregation is unclear.

Durrant is far from the first broker to tire of the pace of innovation in finance, and he won’t be the last.

While the aggregators will likely retain their market dominance based on relationships, their days as the sole developers of broker tech look to be numbered.

“If I were to start my broking career again, I would select my aggregator based on who has the best sales system, with AI and real-time updates,” Durrant says.

Regardless, his proposition for other brokers is strong: work less, make more and keep clients throughout your life.

“My whole goal was to bring in more brokers and give brokers the opportunity to have better systems – because if they don’t they are going to lose their clients and miss out on the opportunity to increase their revenue,” he says.

Noting the high levels of fragmentation throughout the broking space currently, Durrant sees further opportunity for brokers to collaborate to achieve economies of scale, whether through complementary services, better rates from the banks, or shared resources.

“You will get better service from the banks, the clients will get a better experience, and collaborative working means better ideas within the team,” he says. Durrant will be showcasing Alexus CRM during BBX 2019, taking place at The Westin Sydney on 5 June.

But for now, his message to brokers is clear: “The banks thought brokers would do all the heavy lifting for a commission, and then they could take the client after the first loan.

“But we are doing a better job than they expected, and that’s why brokers have gained market share.”