As originally written and published in Australian Broker Magazine
Brisbane’s Tracy Kearey tells Australian Broker why it’s so important to support the brokers in your business, and how Home Loan Connexion is making a difference in the mortgage market.
In 1998, a friend of Tracy Kearey’s who was working at an Aussie branch in Brisbane made the comment that Kearey would make a good mortgage broker. Shortly thereafter, with no prior experience working in finance, Kearey began working at Aussie, marking the start of a career in the mortgage industry that has only soared in the 18 years since.
From humble beginnings as a mother of a three-year-old, when she was looking for new opportunities and a way to pay her mortgage, Kearey is now three years into a business partnership with Ian Cain, her co-director at Home Loan Connexion.
When Cain and his original business partner started Home Loan Connexion in 2001, the business consisted of the two of them, Kearey and a couple of other brokers. Today, it comprises 34 brokers. Cain and Kearey have recently onboarded brokers in both Sydney and Melbourne, and the brand has taken out multiple awards over the years with aggregator AFG. Home Loan Connexion is considered one of Queensland’s best brokerages, but the pair have their sights set on an even bigger picture.
“We’d like to grow the business into the other states,” Kearey tells Australian Broker. “But for me, it’s also about my brokers being successful; to see them grow and build their own businesses within our business.”
Kearey’s passion for supporting brokers in growing their businesses is perhaps a result of her own successful mentor–mentee relationship with Cain when she started as a broker.
“[Having a mentor] was great because I guess, for me, [Cain] had a lot of contacts; he had already experienced what the industry was like then, and … he was very good at what he did. He was the number one Australia-wide for Aussie Home Loans, so I was fortunate to work with him, and we just formed a really good friendship. … we’ve been on a very big journey over 18 years,” she says.
Consequently, there was no hesitation on Kearey’s part as to whether or not she should follow Cain when he left Aussie to launch Home Loan Connexion. The years that followed saw Kearey rapidly progress in her career, and in 2013 she bought out Cain’s business partner and hasn’t looked back.
After close to two decades in the industry, Kearey is in a position to pass pearls of wisdom on to the next generation of Home Loan Connexion brokers, and supporting them to build their businesses is one of her own, and the brand’s, biggest priorities.
“Recently, we’ve taken on a model where I’m mentoring new-to-industry brokers. So now we’ve got a lot of new brokers that have never been in finance before, which is really interesting because that was my background,” she says.
Kearey is undoubtedly proud of the business she and Cain have built together, but aside from the success that can be measured by awards and loan values (EOFY $221,928,143,to be precise), she and Cain are passionate about creating and adhering to a collaborative and nurturing culture at Home Loan Connexion.
To this end, they hold monthly meetings with lenders to educate brokers on new products and policies, as well as to encourage sharing situations and insights with each other. This is particularly important for the new brokers, according to Kearey.
“I think that’s very important. Even though we’ve got a lot of experienced brokers, it’s great for our newer guys because they need that extra support. I’ve also recently started encouraging some of our BDMs coming in and just doing little workshops with some of the new guys because I do remember when I was new to the industry and I knew nothing! … I felt very intimidated because there were people that knew everything. … so they’ll come in and do training just with the newer people, and we’ll work on particular scenarios and maybe what they’re coming up against and how we can find a solution for them.”
In addition to workshops and case studies like this, Kearey says, “Ian and I are also always available on the phone if one of our brokers needs some assistance because we both still actively write home loans. So for me, I believe we need to do that to understand what the challenges are as a broker [currently].”
To encourage more brokers into the industry and into the Home Loan Connexion brand, Kearey says she and Cain are “aggressively onboarding new-to-industry brokers, which I’m extremely passionate about. I don’t have any formal training, but with all the experience I have, mentoring somebody and watching them succeed is just such a great privilege. And Ian backs me. I’m fortunate that my business partner backs the decisions I’ve made.
Bringing new people to the industry, men and women, it’s just great to watch them succeed”.
A winning model
Home Loan Connexion’s model is particularly unique. Although there are multiple offices, the brand does not operate as a franchise model; in Kearey’s words it is “more like a co-op”.
“You can operate under the Home Loan Connexion brand, or you can be your own brand, but you’re a part of our group. So you are self-employed, it’s up to you, but we will also give you the tools and wherever you need support to help you grow your business,” she says.
Kearey elaborates that rather than just having individual silos of brokers aggregating under a group, from the beginning Cain could see the benefit of pooling their talent under a broader business umbrella.
“They thought, why don’t we leverage and have a group of [brokers], and [Home Loan Connexion] would be the master agency?”
Kearey is a big believer in this model, having achieved outstanding success as a broker herself within the brand, while still operating her own business before she became a co-director.
“I had my own business within their business; I had an office in Cleveland [and] my own staff. I was their number one broker; I had achieved success, I guess, myself.”
Keary and Cain seem to pride themselves on the calibre and experience of Home Loan Connexion’s brokers, and Kearey believes this is a point of difference in the competitive mortgage market.
“We have a lot of experienced brokers … we’ve got some brokers that have been with us from conception.
“I think what makes us a bit different is we’ve got experience, but we’ve also got diversity. We’ve got young people, we’ve got different cultures, we’ve got women as well as men, all different ages, and we attract all different styles of people. What might be my sort of client may not be one of my colleague’s clients. So we can offer a lot of different styles of people, and people are what make people want to use your service,” Kearey tells Australian Broker.
“And we have a lot of fun. We’re all about being ourselves, having fun, and wanting to come up with a solution for the client, and understanding the client’s needs.”
Another standout thing about Home Loan Connexion is that the business has brokers who specialise in particular areas, which means no stone is left unturned when a client approaches a Home Loan Connexion broker with a financial dilemma.
“We’ve got a guy, Brendan Turnbull, who’s a finalist for MFAA as a young gun and he specialises in commercial business. So the great thing about our group as well is we have someone that specialises in commercial transactions … he is fantastic at commercial and complex structures.”
In addition to its residential and commercial loan proposition, Home Loan Connexion also has a financial planning arm, and brokers who specialise in equipment and self-managed super funds.
“We pretty much assist anyone with any type of different finance structure. “I think that’s what’s great about a group. Because sometimes when you’re on your own, if you only know residential mortgages you might be missing out on opportunities, whereas when you know that you could ring somebody else or contact someone else in the group … you can look after your client and give them a solution.”
This model means that while the original broker retains their client, they also know that there’s somebody that can look after their client’s other needs.
“We’re also aggressively looking for partners to refer to our brokers to build referral relationships … and we work with them to grow their business and look at how their model would work – if they want to work with accountants or planners. We develop their business around that model for them,” adds Kearey.
Adding a mobile service option is another small but effective strategy Home Loan Connexion uses to earn the trust and loyalty of clients.
“I believe that in this industry you do have to be giving something different; you need to be available, within reason, for your client – maybe after or during hours, at a time and place that maybe works for them and for you. And being flexible can obviously help you grow your business.
“One of our brokers recently just flew to Newcastle on the weekend to meet a client, so … it depends what you’re prepared to do,” Kearey says.
The lucky country
For all Home Loan Connexion’s success, Cain and Kearey’s humbleness and gratitude is palpable, as is their passion for the industry as a whole.
“I think we’re so fortunate in that we get to sit in front of someone and they tell us everything. It’s a privilege. And I think sometimes [brokers] take that for granted. So when I’m working with my new brokers, I’m really passionate about them and understand this is about the client. Walk a day in their shoes. As much as it can be frustrating, and sometimes very difficult, to come up with a solution for a client and to help them out of either a financial situation or a negative situation, or to get them to their first home, it’s just an amazing feeling … I think we sometimes lose sight of that. So for me, it’s really important that we understand exactly what role we’re playing in creating the wealth for our clients,” says Kearey.
“You know what? It is about seeing men and women, young people, coming into the industry and just being successful.”
While Queenslanders have enjoyed dedication and enthusiasm like this for 15 years, the rest of Australia has this to look forward to when Home Loan Connexion further expands its footprint.
In the meantime, Cain and Kearey are along for the ride and enjoying every minute.