Just do it

By Nick Gardner

If ever there ever was an advert for the quality of life afforded by the mortgage broking industry, Renee Robins would surely be the star.

Robins spent years working at that most draining and stressful arena of the finance industry, in a hedge fund in Sydney’s CBD. She worked from early in the morning until late, under unremitting stress and intense pressure.

The ambitious 20-year-old had great visions of a career in finance at the time but five years later, after spending half of her 20s in the hurricane of buy-side/sell-side money-chasing madness, she says she hit a wall.

“It was basically burnout and I just had to get away,” she admits. “It was great money but absolutely no work/life balance. So I packed it all in and went travelling around the world. It was a break I had to have.

It proved to be a great move. And before long she was employed again, as a scuba diving instructor in Thailand.

“I stayed for five years. It was wonderful but after a while I got an itch to come back and I dived straight back into hedge funds in the CBD.”

It seems Robins needed to learn a lesson twice before it sank in. So, after another five years working 12-hour days and hardly seeing friends or her new partner, she decided it was time to find a more rewarding job that left time for a life as well.

“I had been speaking to some people in the broking industry and then I heard about how you can essentially mould the job around your own hours and availability, and that sounded just perfect. I wanted to start a family with my partner so in early 2014 we made the leap and I started with Loan Market, initially in Sydney but now down in Wollongong.”

Robins took to broking like a duck to water, and only 18 months after starting out, in November 2015 she was ranked the 6th highest earner in New South Wales for Loan Market, settling $4.9 million despite no admin staff and still operating a solo franchise from home.

“It’s going fantastically but that month was basically the result of a lot of pipeline stuff from a long way back – off plan purchases from last year, that type of thing – all coming through in the one month,” she says.

Robins now has a 16-month-old baby with her partner and is able to work the job around her as she needs to, but she is cutting a swathe through her local market just as she did in Sydney when she started.

Her secret, she says, is to take as holistic approach as possible to people's finances, and offering money-saving solutions to everything from home loans to car finance or business loans.

“The banks are offering such poor value its quite easy for brokers to demonstrate better value, and when I see a client I review all their finances, quite often refinancing their car and business loans as well. So they see me as a one stop shop – somebody who can take care of all of their needs. If you can why would they go anywhere else?”

Robins is generating leads by attending networking events and building a number of referrers such as accountants and property managers. But she is getting world-of-mouth referrals from most clients.

“Not many people tend to get involved in business finance so I’m getting a lot of recommendations from the people I’m helping out,” she says.

“I’ve also got a few investment properties of my own, and I’ve developed properties myself as well, so I can honestly relate to most of my clients no matter what their circumstances. I feel their stress when they’re renovating and I have the experience to reassure them. What they really like is somebody to empathise, as well as advise, and it’s a role I’m happy to play.”

Robins is also active on social media, where she has picked up many leads, especially from contacts on Facebook. And she is exploring other ways to extract more leads from other social media sites.

“It’s an important area to research and get involved in because it’s definitely an essential part of the future,” she says.

Although the 36-year-old has only been in broking for less than two years, she still has a word of advice for people just entering the industry.

“After I had been in it about five months I didn’t think I was getting anywhere and I was really contemplating giving up. I thought I hadn’t cracked it and needed to move on. But when I expressed this to a colleague, they said that when you get to that stage, give it another month or two and you’ll find it starts taking off.

And that’s exactly what happened – within a couple of months I was flying. So my advice is definitely to hang in there, however tough it gets, and it will pay off. It’s a wonderful way to make a living.”

Published on: Wednesday 9 December 2015.

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