PROSPA GROUNDBREAKERS: Deslie Taylor, on the pleasures of community broking and the advantages of having a ’powerhouse’ all-female team.

Drowning in busy work and unreturned phone calls, Deslie Taylor made a life changing decision back in 2007 to become a mortgage broker. She hasn’t looked back.

With a burning passion for customer service, Deslie saw high staff turnover at the bank, coupled with dwindling customer numbers coming through the doors, as the writing on the wall, but more importantly, an opportunity to spread her wings and do what she loved.

Today, Deslie is the owner and principal of Mortgage Choice Ormeau in South East Queensland, where she and her powerhouse all-female team take a refreshingly simple yet effective approach to keeping their clients happy; and the bottom line, Deslie says, takes care of itself.

Deslie has since built an industry-wide recognition for herself, taking home awards from the Women in Finance Awards, The Adviser Better Business Awards, and the MFAA QLD State Excellence Awards.

MFAA: Hi Deslie, so to start, please tell me your story, how did you become a broker?  

Deslie Taylor [DT]: I worked at a bank for approximately 12 years. I started off as a teller and then progressed to a consultant role which consisted of personalised credit cards, car loans, and the like That was my introduction into the banking world. 

I then had an opportunity to move into either a financial planning role or a lending role and because customer service was a passion of mine, I chose to move into the lending role. I was at the same branch for the whole time I was with Suncorp, and that enabled me to build strong relationships and connections with my clients.

It got to a point that I was so busy because in the banking world they were so focused on referrals and the bottom line, and to me I wasn't able to focus on the primary reason I was there, and that was the customer. There were times that the customers would call me at 9:00am and I literally wouldn’t have any time in my day to call them back until 5:00pm. Now when a customer's calling you two, three, four, five times a day leaving messages, that's not good customer service. That’s when I started to look at other options.

I loved what I did so I started looking at becoming a broker.

After about six months of research, I looked for what was probably the best platform that I wanted to move to, the best aggregator for me, what I wanted my business to look like, etc. At the time I looked at Wizard, I looked at Aussie, I looked at Rams, I looked at a lot of options. But the reason that Mortgage Choice shone through for me was the ‘paid the same’ policy that Mortgage Choice has. It wasn't about the money for me, it was about the customer service experience, and I wanted to be totally transparent to my client. With the ‘paid the same’ policy that the brokers have with Mortgage Choice, I could sit in front of a client and honestly offer them the most appropriate option I had for them, without having the concern that they might think I was maybe getting paid more for it.

MFAA: How did Mortgage Choice Ormeau come about?   

DT: Yes, at the end of the day, Mortgage Choice came about just when I was doing the research in regard to how comfortable I was with the proposition for the client. I was going from working for a bank to running my own business and I wanted it to be as transparent for my clients as possible, plus I wanted a bit of ease and convenience, and I really liked the ‘paid the same’ policy because I wasn't, and I'm still not, driven by money. I feel that when you provide the right customer service and you honour your customer service promise time in and time out and you deliver that same customer service experience to every client that you see, those clients will refer you to others and then the money comes anyway. My clients are my biggest advocates. My clients refer to me about 82 percent of my business, so when your referrals and your repeat business is that high, ultimately, you've got to be doing something right.

MFAA: In your 11 years of experience, what do you think have been your biggest hurdles and how did you overcome them?

DT: My biggest obstacle, to be honest, and I don't know if you would even consider it an obstacle, is making sure that I maintain a level life balance by staying ‘present’ with my family and that I'm present in every facet of my life, because what happens is we become so busy in work and tend to forget about the people that are most important. It’s staying present with my staff.  What I have to do all the time is to stop, sit away from my computer, pull myself away from my keyboard, and then just look my staff in the eye and listen to every word they say. It's exactly the same with a client sometimes, so my biggest obstacle is staying ‘present’. Also, I am trying not to multi-task as much as I used to, which may sound contradictory to the way we are raised as successful corporate women, who can do anything, because we can. I think it's important for me personally to stop and just get one thing done at a time, check it off my list, move on, and I find at the end of the day I feel far more accomplished. I've got far more done when I focus on one task at a time.

MFAA: In your opinion, what do you think is the most rewarding part about being a broker?

DT: I am now doing home loans for clients that I knew as newborn babies. So, when I was at Suncorp my clients were having these beautiful little babies and I'm now doing home loans for them. That to me is so rewarding to see these toddlers who were once crawling around my office. They are now adults having babies and buying their own homes. It’s also so rewarding to know that I've maintained beautiful relationships with my clients for them to trust me to look after their children the way I have looked after them.

The second rewarding thing from a business perspective is watching my client’s ‘light bulbs’ go on whilst I'm talking to them about exactly what their mortgage is, what they've got, what it does, what they can do, what they can't do, educating my client and giving them some financial knowledge that they didn’t previously have. Many people you talk to turn around and say, “I know my loan is with Westpac”, but that's about it, they don't know what their rates are, what product they're on, or how to make it work for them. So, educating them, that their mortgage doesn’t have to be a noose tied around their neck for the next 30 years, feels great.

I also love watching my staff grow, learn and just blossom into these amazing women, because I've got all women working for me. Not just grow from a business perspective, but to grow personally as women. If they can do something tomorrow better than they did it yesterday, whatever it is, then that’s what I want from them.

MFAA: I know from your Facebook and Instagram accounts that you give back to the community through your business. Can you tell us about that?

DT: I work a lot with children’s sporting teams, the kid’s soccer teams, the kid’s netball teams, the kid’s rugby league, the kid’s tennis, and also the children’s elite gymnastics club. It’s because we're all putting our children into sport which is very expensive, and these little sporting clubs are doing fundraisers, they're doing everything they possibly can to get new jerseys, sports bags and everything else. It shouldn't be so difficult for them. That's why I do support the local sporting clubs for the children.

MFAA: You’ve been based in Ormeau [south east of Brisbane] for a while now. Has that helped with your business?

DT: Yes, so much because that’s the same area that I worked in with Suncorp and it’s the same area that I bought the business. So, I've actually physically been in this same area now for 23 years; not only that my kids went to school here. I live in the area, so I'm a member of the local community. The thing is, I need to go to bed at night knowing I've done the right thing by my community, because when I'm doing my groceries on a Sunday afternoon, I want to be able to hold my head up high and if I bump into one of my clients I know that I've done the right thing by them.

MFAA: What are your tips for other brokers to get a little bit more community-minded and involved in things they're passionate about?

DT: Just give back. My clients are my biggest advocates, so the least I can do is give back to them. I don't give settlement gifts, I don't give referral gifts, I don't give any of that. Instead I give back to my clients, who refer me business, purely by giving the person who’s referred to me exactly the same service they received, and I give back to the community as a whole by the donations that I give to the sporting clubs.

MFAA: We’ve heard your team is a female powerhouse team. How do you think brokers can attract more female talent into the business?

DT: I find a lot of women actually want to come to me because they feel much more comfortable. They feel like they can open up to me without being judged, and I'm not saying men judge, but I do know that there's a level of comfort that people have with women as opposed to men. Also, I can tell you that I find from personal experience that the females I've dealt with, their attention to detail is a lot more precise than some of the men out there. I like that about women.

All my girls are very customer service focussed and they have a lot of empathy, they have a lot of compassion, and I'm not saying that men don't, but I find that that's an easier trait to find in women.

I've even had a lot of men call me and book in because ultimately, they don't feel as judged, especially men that are going through a hard time either financially or from a personal perspective. They feel they probably can open-up a little bit more with women without feeling emasculated. I had one man ring me and tell me that he looked at the top ten brokers and the first female that he found he was going to go with her, which was me. You know I've cried with my clients, and I still do, depending on the situations they're in, and I know my staff have done the same, and that breaks down all barriers because these people know that you've got their back.

MFAA: Are there any areas of the industry you think can be improved?

DT: Well, I think it's up to you as an individual to take it upon yourself because I constantly follow up with my clients, I mean I'm being paid a trail for a reason, and that trail is to give ongoing service. The bank does not have the resources, so I have a full-time staff member here and her primary role is to look after all of our existing clients, and do all of their pricing, do any variations, and switches that need to be done, and look after clients post settlement. I also call each one of my clients individually every six months, without fail, to check in and make sure everything's going OK and whether or not they would like us to review their current rate with their current bank. At the end of the day if I'm going to top up the bucket while everything else is flowing out from the bottom because I'm not looking after what I've got in the middle, then that’s on me.

MFAA: I also wanted to congratulate you on your recent award wins. I know you've got the recent QLD State Excellence Broker of the Year and Women in Finance awards two years in a row.

DT: Yes, I was actually really shocked to receive that one because there are so many amazing women in our industry, so I was very surprised. But I don’t make a fuss. I’ll tell my staff, and I let my clients know what we've achieved, and then I just move on.

MFAA: What do you think it takes to run a successful business in this industry?

DT: Passion. Having a love of what you do. If you don't love it, don't do it, because it can be really hard. Time management also. I'm telling you because if you don't manage your time you can become overwhelmed very quickly.

MFAA: Where do you see the future of the industry heading?

DT: Look as far as I'm concerned, I think mortgage broking is probably contrary to what's happening with the Royal Commission, I think it's the way of the future. You know all of the young ones that are coming up now they don't want to have to do research on their own. They want to be able to call a broker and get the right information on hand. They want a broker to be able to give them the answers, who’s got the great home loan offers, what interest rate they're going to be paying, because ultimately, if they go to a lender’s website they may not be the interest rates they can get. They are looking to make informed decisions, so I don't think the industry's going anywhere. The main thing at the end of the day is to do right by these people.