Bankers to brokers share plans to scale brokerage

Attracting strong colleagues motivates pair

Bankers to brokers share plans to scale brokerage


By Ryan Johnson

Two former bankers turned brokers have revealed their plan to scale their brokerage, Lending Hub Co., from the ground up and incentivise other brokers to join in on their rapid rise.

Lending Hub Co. was established in early 2022 by Pearl Tran (pictured above left) and Kim Bui (pictured above right), two former Westpac bankers with a shared vision of building a brokerage that goes beyond just loans.

“While we love lending and helping clients, building a strong, united team is my ultimate passion,” said Tran. “I want to foster a family-like atmosphere, where brokers feel supported, valued, and empowered to reach their full potential.”

And it seems to be working.

In just two years, Lending Hub Co has gone from a fledgling startup to a finalist for New Brokerage of the Year at the Australian Mortgage Awards 2023. Tran herself was a finalist for the Adelaide Bank Young Gun of the Year in her first year, and Bui took home the award the following year.

So, what's their secret?

Tran said there was one question that founders of new brokerages needed to ask themselves: Why would a broker want to join your brokerage instead of starting their own?

“I've observed many brokers join a brokerage only to leave shortly afterward,” Tran said.  "Many brokers prefer doing it themselves and avoid the commission splits.”

"I've learned from that and wanted to build a more sustainable brokerage where Lending Hub Co. has a lot to offer - where brokers feel at home and want to grow with us for many years to come." 

Why bankers become brokers

Both Bui and Tran understand this desire to build something from scratch rather from within an existing business.

While each had close to a decade of experience in banking and lending before starting Lending Hub Co., their paths to get there were quite different.

Tran joked that while Bui had only one love, Westpac, she had “many loves of her life” working for ANZ, St. George, and Westpac across internal, residential, commercial and leadership roles.

“We had a blast helping clients fulfill their homeownership dream through the support of the big bank,” Tran said. “But when I left banking, I craved something more sustainable. Something like family, you know? Building something for myself and Kim, setting our own direction and legacy.”

“Working for a big bank is amazing and it’s the right career choice for so many people, but you are working under a corporate umbrella. Lending Hub Co. was truly for us, not anyone else.”

The newly formed business partners then went through the usual struggles of going from banker to broker: the loss of steady income, lack of support, countless late nights, and endless strategizing.

“That burning desire to build something truly ours, you know, something for Pearl and me, that's what kept me going through the crazy challenges. It wasn't easy, switching from bank to broker, facing all those hurdles,” Bui said.

“So, when I zoom out and see the bigger picture, the best part about building this business? It's having Pearl by my side. I'm sure she feels the same. Maybe we don't always read each other's minds, but her unwavering support makes us stronger. Brick by brick, we rise together.”

Building a large brokerage: Walking before you can run

While the brokerage may have launched, the Lending Hub Co. team now faced the challenges of running a small brokerage.

Like 61% of the mortgage broker industry, Lending Hub Co. had less than two loan writers in the business.

“Initially, it was just Kim and me. To build a team, we need to make sure the business can fit us in first,” Tran said. “We needed to have a stable income coming for me and for Kim first, before we grew. You can’t run before you can walk.”

The pair prioritised business stability, focusing on the fundamentals: generating business and writing loans. After a year of steady book building, the pair strategised for the future.

“Many small brokerages are just one or two people until retirement. It's a common model, and there's nothing wrong with it. But building a bigger, family brokerage; a lending hub is more complex,” Tran said.

So, they both questioned what they wanted.

“Do we keep doing what we're doing, each with an admin assistant, comfortably writing $80-100 million each year? Or do we dream bigger?” said Tran.

“Do we want to leave a legacy, with new generations of brokers building on our success? Do we want Lending Hub Co. to keep growing? We need to decide now. We can't just drift.”

In the end, they chose growth.

Why brokers stay: Building a family, not a factory

With growth in mind, Bui and Tran could scale Lending Hub Co. at breakneck speed. Add more brokers, open new offices, chase bigger numbers. But that's not who they are, according to Tran.

“We've seen the pitfalls of rapid growth firsthand, the impersonal cultures and lost connections that come with it. We're not building a factory; we're building a family,” said Tran.

That’s why Lending Hub Co. has taken a deliberate approach carefully selecting two new brokers – both former bankers – throughout 2023.

“We already have an emotional connection with them, a shared sense of belonging that's invaluable. They know they're not just another number, they're part of something bigger,” said Bui.

While limiting team size in a period of growth might seem counterintuitive, Tran said it’s key to preserving the incentive for Lending Hub Co. brokers.

“We envision a max of 8-10 brokers, maybe even fewer. This allows us to know each other, to truly support and celebrate one another's successes. No middle managers, no impersonal hierarchies. Just open communication, collaboration, and genuine care,” Tran said.

And this approach isn’t just sentimental; it makes business sense in an industry that is a level field – where 19,000 brokers compete against each other.

In that environment, why would a broker join a brokerage and not build something themselves?

“The value we can offer them is a constant concern for me. I think about what Kim and I can provide, along with our family culture and support. It's crucial to identify the unique skills and knowledge we can impart that other broker firms may lack,” Tran said.

“It’s about the systems; the education; the support; and, above all, the culture of a brokerage that makes brokers stay. And at Lending Hub Co., we will provide that for our brokers and scale our business together as a family.”

What do you think about Lending Hub Co’s approach to scaling a brokerage? Comment below.

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