Brokerage blazes path to success

by Miklos Bolza03 Nov 2017
Evolution, agility and culture are crucial ingredients behind the success of Smartmove, an award-winning Sydney-based brokerage which recently gained industry recognition.

Simon Orbell, Smartmove’s director of mortgage advice, talked to Australian Broker about why the company won the FBAA Broker of the Year – Independent award at last Friday’s Australian Mortgage Awards in Sydney.

The firm was established in 2003 by managing director David Brell as an independent brokerage and has grown as a business that focuses on both customer and staff, Orbell said.

“The journey for us has really been about building as a business where the customer is at the centre of everything that we do and making sure that as an individual serving those customers that they have a career progression.”

Through a fun, enjoyable work environment, Smartmove retains staff much longer than a couple of years, he said.

“Like a mortgage, we want to look after people for 30 years.”

The business culture is created to appeal to team members and form an excellent customer experience. Smartmove currently has 52 employees. Of these, 19 are brokers while the rest are support staff, including a data entry team and a specialised care team which handles customers post-settlement.

“We’re starting to build a para-broker team. ...We don’t do that on an individual basis, so we don’t have one support team member supporting one broker. We try and create teams to allow us to have a standardised approach across the business.”

The nature of an independent brokerage offers a degree of agility that allows it to evolve with changes in demand, compliance and more, Orbell said.

“As your reputation grows and people want to deal with you more and your referral network grows, you find that you get spread a little bit thin.”

Building scalable systems and processes and evolving the business over time allowed Smartmove to streamline its approach and retain the same levels of customer service as a result.

“We spent a lot of time and energy and invested a lot of money in our processes and in our continuous improvement methodology,” he said.

Being independent also gave the brokerage freedom to be run as management saw fit, he said, an ability which may not be found within a mortgage franchise.

“It feels to me like we can be a little bit more nimble in our approach to change processes that improve the customer experience without having to be dictated to from a head group or franchise group.”

This flexibility extended to creating the right type of culture for the team rather than having to mould the team to a culture set out by the head office, he said.

This agility has been especially important in the past year which Orbell said was the most challenging he’d seen “by a country mile” with the firm’s nimbleness complemented by the right mindset.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to be a lot more positive about it. At the end of the day, the more complicated that the market gets, the more that a customer needs a broker’s advice.”

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