Junhao Sun, MD and founder of AUSUN Finance, tells Australian Broker how he leveraged a cultural market niche to build an award-winning, diversified brokerage in just over five years
One of the primary reasons people take the leap to launch a business is to see their ideas come to life. For commercial and residential broker Junhao Sun, the inspiration came from his passion for finance and a compelling desire to provide his clients with the best possible solutions.
The father of two first came to Australia as an overseas student and landed a job with Westpac in 2008, kickstarting his career in finance. He moved through several roles at Westpac – personal banker, home finance manager, relationship manager – but faced limitations that brought frustration most days.
“In situations where I wanted to do something different or make changes, it was difficult to get the seniors on board due to strict banking policies – they hardly took a step in the direction I wanted,” Sun says.
“I hoped to provide my clients with multiple solutions based on the market situation, but because of the limitations I faced, I could not do this. So I decided that it was time to leave the banking world.”
In 2014, Sun took a six-month break to plan his next move. He knew what he was good at, and he knew becoming a broker would be the right move. The only thing left to do was take the leap of faith. Midway through the year, he was the sole loan writer at AUSUN Finance.
Despite stepping out on his own, Sun knew that the venture’s success would hinge on the people he hired and that building a team that shared his passion and vision for the industry was the first step.
Today, he employs a team of 11 credit licence holders and nine support staff. However, the growth has been calculated. Sun notes that it takes time to find someone with a similar passion and to train them to understand company values, but that’s what it takes to satisfy clients.
“I don’t want to rapidly increase my team; instead, I restrict myself to hiring four people per year,” he says.
The steady and strong build-up has resulted in the company’s recent move to a bigger new office in Camberwell, Melbourne, which has more than doubled the business’s floor space. The team now has a dedicated function room where every fortnight, clients – along with their friends and families – are invited to discuss the latest news and trends.
“We want to update them on the market situation, explain to them what assets the lenders prefer and which ones they don’t really like,” Sun says.
“This is our way of increasing engagement, spreading brand awareness and making sure the business continues to grow.”
Steps to success
With the basics in place, Sun’s next job was to find his market niche. During his time at Westpac, he worked closely with high-net-worth Chinese customers who were visiting Australia for investment purposes.
There were times when his clients needed to invest a minimum of $5m in the country, either in government bonds or other assets. Sun, quick on his toes, learned the trade of dealing with such customers and tried to give them the best possible options to meet their needs.
“When I started AUSUN Finance, I tried to analyse what I’m good at. There were two options to choose from – I could either jump into the wider market like everybody else or specialise in a particular niche,” he says.
“Given my background and the expertise that I gained at the bank, I knew I could focus on forming an Asian clientele since I already knew the ins and outs of working with the community.”
Sun was aware that this niche would give him an edge over other businesses. Today, 90% of his clients are Asian – many with high purchasing power – and the rest are generally referrals from these clients.
“We share the same cultural background, and I speak Mandarin, which puts me in a unique position to explain to my clients the difference between the products and services offered here in Australia and those in China,” he says.
Although AUSUN Finance has a focused clientele, its services range far and wide. Around half of the business is derived from residential loans, and the remainder is split between commercial and SMSF lending. Auto and development finance round out the portfolio.
In business, success is usually measured by the bottom line. However, Sun has three pillars by which he gauges success, and each one comes back to the motto at the heart of his business: create happy clients.
“Personal accomplishment, building a strong team and getting the brand name recognised are very important to succeed as a business,” he says.
“I think I’ve done well on a personal level, and I’ve been acknowledged by the industry through several awards.”
With 10 years of industry experience under his belt, Sun dedicates one afternoon every week to mentoring and training team members on new skills, difficult deals and key elements of his strategy.
“You’re too weak if you’re working on your own,” he explains.
“Every Wednesday afternoon, we lock up for two hours for a knowledge share – what problems the team has come across, what difficulties they’ve faced in the past week.
“This way, those in a similar dilemma can learn the solutions at the same time. The trainings help us to make sure everyone is on the same page – the quality of our conversations helps us dictate how we deal with our clients.”
Having a strong and happy team is so important to Sun that he takes a ‘family first’ approach to his employees – staff are supported to deal with personal matters before work. He has also developed a buddy system in the office so that no individual is ever working alone.
“Everyone on the team is paired up with someone in a similar role. So, if someone goes on leave or has a personal emergency, a second person can take over,” he explains.
“When both individuals are away, I then personally step in to take on their portfolios. I know one thing for certain: if you’re not happy in your personal life, you can’t be happy or motivated at your workplace either.”
Sun also makes sure to give back to the Chinese community that helped get his company off the ground. In 2018, he established an informal social media group, which now boasts 44 members who share knowledge, debate solutions and discuss lender appetite for different types of deals.
“Everyone has financial needs, and people in Australia know that you need loans to support either a home purchase or a business, for example,” Sun says.
“At AUSUN, we provide a professional service and support our clients to choose the best possible option for them.”
A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR
As a premium wealth manager, La Trobe Financial has long embraced diversification as core to our strategy. We have one of the broadest loan product suites in the market, supported by one of the broadest funding profiles of any non-bank.
We strongly believe diversification to be one of the most important fundamentals for any investment, and a finance broking business is just that – an investment. Therefore, a strategy to diversify should be seriously considered in order to safeguard a broker’s business.
We like to focus on the benefits that can accrue from sensible and measured diversification in our discussions with brokers. The addition of commercial lending to a predominantly residential broking business can open new revenue lines that increase profitability and market share, for example. Other markets that should be explored include SMSF loans, development finance, and specialist and non-resident loans.
Chief lending officer,
La Trobe Financial