This edition of Prospa’s Long Road – Tales of Regional Brokers focuses on MFAA Regional Excellence Award winning broker Aaron Vogt of Preferred Finance in Mount Barker, South Australia.
Since setting up his business in the small traditional farming town 14 years ago, Aaron has become a linchpin of the community, supporting multiple sporting clubs, charities and pitching in with the local Country Fire Service.
Throughout 2020 Aaron has provided vital support for his community as COVID-19 saw a rush of clients seeking assistance to pause loan repayments and respond to financial hardship.
Now, as business gets back on track, he has plans for expansion and to continue assisting a new generation of South Australians moving into the rapidly expanding Mount Barker region.
MFAA: Aaron how long have you been based in Mount Barker, South Australia?
Aaron Vogt (AV): I established the business in 2006, and I purchased commercial property this year and moved into that a few months ago. Mount Barker has always been earmarked for expansion, which is happening quite rapidly now thanks to Government stimulus including the HomeBuilder grant of $25,000, and the First Home Buyer grant of $15,000. So, suddenly there are a lot of opportunities here in Mount Barker which has always been one of Adelaide’s expansion zones or land banks. There is a lot of farm land here that has been repurposed for residential property, and only about 15% of that land has been developed. In the years ahead, Mount Barker’s population is expected to grow to about 65,000 and become a regional city. So, there is a lot left to do, and we plan to be here to help make it all happen.
MFAA: And what’s life and business like in Mount Barker?
AV: It’s a bit greener. When I started here in 2006 most people were heading down the hill towards Adelaide for work. There’s still too many people driving down the hill for work, but now there’s a lot more businesses here which has created more employment opportunities.
MFAA: And how have things been for you and your clients in 2020, particularly responding to the COVID-19?
AV: The immediate impact at the time was a lot of phone calls from people wanting to put their repayments on hold. We ended up putting instructions on our Facebook page about how to do that, which helped a lot of people. Thankfully that all eased off after a month or so. Usually, what I found was that people were trying to be pre-emptive, not that they didn’t have the capacity to make their repayments, it was more that they were concerned that things could go really badly, and they wanted to conserve their cash in case they wound up in a bad position. That was coupled with the people who were in the process of buying, but because of the uncertainty decided to hold off. So, things got pretty quiet there for a couple of months, but then once the Government stimulus came through, we were flat-out with demand.
MFAA: You’re an MFAA SA/NT Regional Excellence Award winning broker, and Community Champion Award finalist. Can you tell us a bit about your community work and how important it is for you and your business to be involved in the community?
AV: When you are in a regional community it is more important than ever to be a positive contributor. So, we sponsor a number of sporting clubs including the Mount Barker footy club, the Port Noarlunga footy club, the Hills Hawks soccer club, and the Noarlunga cricket club. I’m in the Country Fire Service at Kangarilla. I did do a lot of time in the neighbourhood watch and I’ve been doing some work with a charity this year as well. I’m doing the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program, which is a one-year course through the Leaders Institute of South Australia. As part of that I’ve been working with a local Adelaide charity called Treasure Boxes, which provides vital essentials to newborns, babies and children living in disadvantage within our community.
MFAA: And what’s the best and the worst part of working outside of a big city?
AV: Well, we can get into Adelaide outside of peak hour in about 35 minutes. But we try to avoid heading down there because it’s nice not having traffic lights. When I drive to work, I’m in the car for about 20 minutes. There’s no traffic lights and about five intersections, so it’s quite a nice drive. Also, I’ve been in Mount Barker for 14 years and I’m now helping the children of people who moved here when I did secure loans, which is really nice. There’s six of us working in the business now, which is more employees than I’ve ever had and it’s working really well.
MFAA: And what’s on the horizon for you and Preferred Finance?
AV: We’ve got to get through all these construction loans and will look at getting another finance broker on board next year. I’ve also got a satellite office in Victor Harbor and we’re trying to attract business owners down there. The downside of being in regional areas is the property values are lower, but it’s a trade-off, and we love being part of the community.