In this Part 2 of Michael Arbon’s Groundbreakers (read Part 1 here), the Adelaide broker offers further insight into his personal and professional ethos, what has helped him achieve success, and if he had his time again, what he would do differently.
Before continuing in his attempts to convince the wife and kids to allow the realisation of his Clark Griswold fantasy (not the part involving a red Ferrari) to drive across the United States of America, Michael Arbon has a big year ahead.
Amongst mentoring the next generation of brokers, advocating on behalf of the industry, or collaborating with colleagues, Michael is committed to prioritising his current clients and providing them with ongoing service and advice.
It’s the simple things that work, he says. And it’s helping his clients secure credit to achieve their goals, that keeps this Adelaide broker as happy as Clark Griswold on a midnight swim.
MFAA: Michael, if you could go back in time to when you first started broking, is there anything you would do differently in the lead up to becoming a broker?
Michael Arbon (MA): Start earlier. Honestly like most people it took me a reasonable number of years of my working life to find the career that best suited my skill set. I love the daily challenges that this job presents, and the sense of satisfaction you get. You make a difference in people’s lives. It does have its tough days and it can be incredibly frustrating at times, but overall I could not think of a better fit for me in terms of an occupation. The roles before this prepared me with the skills I needed, running my own business, working in personal training, you’ve got to learn to talk to people for 12 hours a day. Obviously being a farmer previously means that I can relate really well to the agricultural parts of it, so no, I wouldn’t do anything differently, but I would’ve liked to have started a couple of years earlier.
MFAA: From your experience and expertise on the MFAA Young Professionals panel, in what areas do you think younger brokers need more support?
MA: Mortgage broking, it’s a tough job and I think new brokers really need to be aware of the reality of the industry. Like most brokers, I earned no income for the first six months that I commenced in this role, and I had to work two full-time equivalent roles for the first two years while I was a broker to ensure I was able to both support my family and create a career in mortgage broking.
After I completed my studies, I spent my early days learning everything I could from the other brokers in my office space. We have an office here in Adelaide at Keylend where we have in excess of 25 mortgage brokers sharing the one space. We are all self-employed and utilise the infrastructure, the licensing and compliance systems of Keylend, but we do work for ourselves in exchange for a split of revenue to Keylend. So that works really well. But the best thing about the environment is the collaborative nature and I think that is very unique to the broker space.
I think this environment which I’m in allowed me to accelerate my learning so much faster - to become confident with both commercial and residential lending in a rather short space of time. So I think we’re kind of like a mini co-op and we all work together for the one common goal.
I currently mentor a couple of brokers myself. I find it really rewarding and I think that by teaching others what you do, you actually learn a lot about yourself at the same time.
Also, we operate in a very complex and challenging environment at the moment and it is absolutely imperative that all brokers continue their lifelong learning. But I think you need more than one person to learn from. You need to learn from multiple sources.
MFAA: From your experience, how do you primarily generate your business and keep people coming back?
MA: It’s the simple things that work for me. Do a good job. Make sure your customers know that you build your business by word of mouth and ask them to be your advocates. Don’t be scared to ask them to refer you to their friends. I think if you communicate to your customers and put their interests first you really can’t go wrong.
"Make sure your customers know that you build your business by word of mouth and ask them to be your advocates. Don’t be scared to ask them to refer you to their friends."
The marketing campaigns that we do are very simple. We provide cards on settlement and a small gift which is relevant to the customer. We encourage them to review us on social media. Annually, we go out with a Christmas card that is hand written. Remember the names of your client’s children, their dog’s names. These things really matter. On the other side, what works for us really well is actively re-pricing our existing customers and helping them remain on a competitive rate for the long term. We recently re-priced about two hundred customers and we would have saved them tens of thousands of dollars per year in interest costs. We spend hours every day working with existing customers, as does our staff member. We process discharges. We do re-pricing. We handle variations. So essentially, we are the one point of contact for their finance and we handle everything right up to the discharge of the property. I think that by handling the whole process we take a lot of stress off the customer which allows us to remain front of mind.
MFAA: What is your advice for young brokers getting into the game?
MA: I think the true value proposition of a mortgage broker is the long-term relationship, the ongoing management of that client. They need a trusted adviser they can rely on when they need some advice or when they need help with their finances, and we fill that void.
Personally, I don’t see this as a sales role, and I’ve never had to try and sell a mortgage at all. All we are is a trusted service provider to assist with every step of the mortgage process. I think the difference between us as mortgage brokers and the banks is our motivation. We exist to act in the customer’s interests and my ethos is simply to keep as little money in the banks’ pockets as possible. Our business model is also simple. It’s retention first, new business second. So if we can look after the clients that we have, new business flows. If you forget about the clients you have, I’m sure your business will dry up.
MFAA: Be it professional or personal, what’s your next crazy idea?
MA: I have a lot of crazy ideas. What am I willing to share? I think personally I love the U.S. and I would love to, at some stage, have an extended holiday over there. I would love to spend a period of time in the U.S. My favourite movies are the National Lampoons series and I see myself as a bit of a modern-day Clark Griswold. What I have to do though is convince my beautiful wife that it would be a good idea to drag her and our two beautiful children under three for a period of time through the U.S. So I might have to put that on hold for a few years.
From a business perspective, I think the reason I love what I do is I can use my knowledge to help people. I help them buy houses, build their businesses, buy investments and I think the sense of achievement I get from working hard and helping people. That’s what gets me out of bed at 6am every morning. The very nature of what we do as brokers is critical to the Australian people and I plan to spend a lot more time, especially in the coming year, ensuring that as many people as possible are educated on the benefits of mortgage brokers and what we do for everyday Australians. I know that’s not crazy, but every broker must be actively educating the general public of the benefits of what we do and how critical it is.