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IWD2022: Top tips on running a successful mortgage business

Publication Date: Tuesday, 8 March 2022
This article originally appeared in Mortgage Business

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked female industry leaders for their top tips on running a successful mortgage business.

Today (8 March) is International Women’s Day – a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

To mark the occasion, we asked female leaders in the mortgages space for their top career advice and for pearls of wisdom for other female leaders on running a smooth operation.

Here’s what they had to say… 

Broker perspective

Marissa Schulze, broker and director of Rise High Financial Solutions, said: “Just back yourself.

“I think, too often, females do lack that confidence to just go for it. But really we need to back ourselves even if it feels a little bit scary, we just need to know that we can do it and go after what we want.

“When you push yourself to your outer limit (or what you perceive to be your outer limit) that is where the opportunity is for you to grow. And those are the opportunities where you’ll start to shine and confidence building will come naturally from that. 

“I’m a firm believer that you need to actually push yourself and test yourself to experience those outer limits and push yourself beyond where you think you’re capable of going to. If you do, I think we surprise themselves because I think we’re all capable of more than we give ourselves credit for, especially females.”

Similarly, speaking at the recent LendEd “Stronger Together” webinar to celebrate International Women’s Day, asset finance broker Mhairi Macleod from Astute Ability Finance Group gave the following advice: “It comes down to how you network, how you portray yourself to others and what you need to get back from all that effort. 

“A lot of brokers think it’s just networking within our own industry [but] I’d probably spend about 15 to 20 hours a week, outside of this industry, networking. 

“If you have value in what you say and you leave yourself open for conversation, there’s a whole new array of customers out there for you. So networking needs to be also thinking a little bit beyond your office and your industry.”

Aggregator perspective

As the only female owner of an Australian aggregation company, outsource Financial’s chief executive Tanya Sale offered leadership advice to other female leaders in industry: “Clean out your backyard” – do this quarterly.

“What I mean by this is, you need to review your business on a regular basis. Assess what is working, what isn’t working and set time aside to make the necessary tweaks, and implement the changes needed, to allow your business to let new growth thrive.”

Ms Sale added that there were three key things needed to run a smooth operation: “Firstly you need to have strong processes and systems in place to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. 

“You also need to ensure you actively listen and empower your team. A team that feels valued is a team that is loyal, productive and come up with fantastic initiatives.

“Finally, you need to ensure you have the right people around you, both internally and externally – they are your support system and it needs to be sturdy for your business to run effectively, efficiently and successfully.”

Andrea McNaughton, managing director of aggregation group Loan Market said the best piece of advice she’d ever received was: “Don’t work for someone or something you don’t believe in. Get clear on what you want and go for it. Lead the change you want to see.”

For top tips on leading a mortgage business, Ms McNaughton said that her advice included: “Hire great people: don’t always look at what you pay them – look at what they make you; find a mentor or group of fellow business owners to be a sounding board; define an operating rhythm for your team that supports your structure, systems and strategy. 

“Invest in an expert to help you get this done to ensure your team can make the best use of their time each week; and invest in systems, training and leadership development for your people. Broking is a tough business and the market is booming. What are you doing to attract and retain staff that want to progress their skills?”

Speaking at LendEd “Stronger Together” webinar, the aggregation platform’s head of third party, Donelle Brooks, said one of her biggest learnings was from a male colleague who told her not to lose confidence in herself.

“Don’t allow someone to call you a ballbreaker or label you because you are a confident, knowledgeable – but most of all interested – person,” he said. “Sometimes all you need to do is stop to give yourself the ability to respond, rather than react,” Ms Brooks said.

“That changed my world and it changed me from being a transactional leader into a transformational leader.

“One of the biggest things about being a transformational leader is the ability to embrace change… And it also had a real impact on my personal life as well.”

Lender perspective

Several female heads of third party in the mortgages space also offered their advice for running large teams and a smooth operation.

Nicole Triandos, head of strategic partnerships, broker distribution at NAB, revealed that she had attended a Women in Leadership course early in her career that gave her a piece of advice she still follows to this day: “Be the CEO of you”.

She explained: “You are in control of your brand and what you do in your career. But as CEO, you need to build a board filled with the key people that can provide you with the right support, advice and encouragement for every part of your career journey, whether it’s emotional, career advice, financial, or personal. 

“As a leader, you’re not meant to know everything. So make sure you create the environment to allow people to speak up.

“But, like any organisation, the board needs to be refreshed; so I’d suggest refreshing your board every six months with mixture of male and female and all diversities and ages.” 

Anita Hyde, head of specialised and private, commercial broker at NAB, added that she had learned that being a strong leader sometimes meant being vulnerable.

Ms Hyde said: “I think that sometimes, female leaders try to put this wall up and [seem as if] we’re invincible. But actually, what we want to do is just be vulnerable and authentic and then you can relate to your team better…  

“I think that actually creates this psychological safety with your team. It creates an environment where they feel safe, and in turn, they can be honest, and there’s no fear of repercussions if they really open up and tell you how they’re feeling. 

“So it’s just about relating, fundamentally being yourself, and making sure that people really understand that they can speak up and share their opinions freely.”

Natalie Sheehan, head of distribution at Brighten Home Loans, said that her best advice was to “believe in yourself”.

I truly believe that success comes down to confidence in your own capabilities,” she said.

“External validation will not always be there, in fact there will be times that you will feel invisible, you will be talked over, or you may find yourself in a toxic culture. You need confidence to put yourself forward for opportunities, a thick skin, mental toughness, perseverance and to recognise that not all working environments are the right place for you.  

“When that happens, seek out an organisation that recognises the importance of gender diversity and provides access to female role models and mentors.”

Victoria Coster, CEO of Credit Fix Solutions, told the LendEd webinar that a question leaders should ask themselves that can improve operations is: “If I had to sell my business tomorrow would it be saleable?”

“This forces you to look at all aspects of your business; from your lead funnels, to how you treat your clients during the process, to where your systems are at, do you have training manuals, can you improve those? All the way through to settlement service. 

“I did this recently and it was really interesting exercise because I found that although I did have systems for training, they’re all over the place. So getting them centralized into one central point where everyone can access them just made everything flow and run a lot easier.”

Coaches and women’s network group perspective

With more female networking groups and female-run business coaching services in the industry, we asked the leaders of these businesses to pull from their experience to reveal what their top advice was.

Speaking at the recent LendEd “Stronger Together” webinar to celebrate International Women’s Day, Cathy Dimarchos, CEO of Solutions2You, proffered: “My greatest advice is to reflect and really understand that there are so many differences [between people and cultures]. That acceptance of difference is actually a really big challenge because there’s so much subconscious bias that actually happens. We have to catch ourselves before we actually respond, to ensure that we’re actually honoring ourselves and those who were actually in the presence of.”

Similarly, Therese O’Neill, business coach and mentor at Therese.Co oultlined the power of social media in building a brand and winning more business. 

“The great thing about living in this decade is media is democratized. Everybody has access to it,” she told the LendED Stronger Together webinar.

“You write your own story. Don’t wait for the press. Don’t wait for somebody else. Take control, do it yourself, and double down and do it enough… Own your own space and be you. Now that means different things to different people, but to make it’s being colorful and being loud because that’s who I am… I would say to that, make an impact. If you’re going to put something out on social media, don’t make it beige. Make it killer. You want to be the one where [the] people stop in your feed and actually pause to have a look.”

Jane Counsel, leadership and career coach and the co-founder of Thrive4women, said the best piece of career advice she’d ever received was to “always believe in myself and back myself no matter what”.

“My advice for female business leaders in managing/running smooth business operation is to always take a business-owner mindset to everything they do and to never ever under-estimate their own worth,” Ms Counsel said.

For Yasmine Shah, chief of tribe at the Women’s Commercial Finance Forum, speaking to others and challenging your own thoughts was key.

Ms Shah said: “The secret is in perspective; how we perceive things influences our frame of reference around what we understand about ourselves and our businesses. My advice is to challenge your perspective.

“Increase the frequency and innovate how you communicate with your staff and customers.

“Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of receiving negative answers; these are secret sauces that will inspire your growth and deepen the bonds you share with the closest allies in your community.”