Man with a plan

By Nick Gardner

If Serge Scekic hadn’t become one of Aussie’s most prolific mortgage brokers, he would no doubt have made his fortune in marketing or hospitality because he has a remarkable talent for both.

Scekic used to be part of the management team at the Coogee Bay Hotel in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs – an extremely popular beach-side bar well known for its occasional rowdy customers, yet the charmingly persuasive Scekic says he never had to call security when situations became heated.

“I would always go over, put my arm around the guy, explain how things were, and we’d end it with a handshake, whether he had to leave the premises or not,” he says. “There’s a way of reasoning with people even if they’re worse for wear. They can always hear sense.”

Despite very bright prospects at the hotel and generous offers to stay, Scekic decided to move into mortgage broking, prompted by pressure to up his income quickly with two young children to support. And it was after he joined Aussie that his inter-personal skills and sharp marketing acumen really paid off.

Scekic opened his first franchise 2007 in Dee Why in Sydney’s northern beaches and then expanded to Balgowlah in 2009. Success came quickly because Scekic targeted his clients with precision and followed up with some thoughtful touches to keep them loyal and prompt referrals.

“My ethnic background is Serbian so I started advertising in a Serbian newspaper and began getting a good deal of leads from there,” he says. “Then word of mouth referrals meant that, after a while, nearly every Serbian homebuyer on the beaches would come to me about their mortgage.”

“But I soon realised that not only do you have to make people feel special when you’re walking them through the process, you need to make them feel special after you’ve completed the deal. That is a key difference in my approach and results in many clients recommending us to several friends and family members.”

Scekic started by sending settlement gifts and then expanded birthday gifts. “Nothing too fancy,” he says, “but after settlement we send clients a nice, good quality bamboo chopping board that has the Aussie branding on it. People really like it, it’s genuinely useful, looks great and keeps Aussie in their minds.

“Then three months later we send them a folder with a fridge magnet to keep all of their mortgage and household-related paperwork. Again, it’s branded, and is genuinely functional. And of course, when they look up their mortgage details they’re reminded of Aussie again. Aussie actually expanded the chopping board idea on a national level when they saw what a success it had become.”

Scekic's keen business sense is backed by a deep empathy with his clients, something he says is essential to his success.

“I get enormous satisfaction from helping people make great decisions that enrich their futures. I have some clients where I have helped three generations of the same family. One couple I know I helped persuade them to take the leap and buy a property and now they’ve traded up and traded up again to the point where they have about $700k of equity in their property. And they thank me for giving them the confidence to get to that position. I just love hearing feedback like that, and it’s why I don’t think I’ll ever walk away from mortgage broking completely. I just love it too much.”

Scekic is a bottomless pit of wise words and sound advice. “I tell younger brokers, you need to listen to clients like they’re the only people in the world and that making them happy is your only goal.

“Don’t ever let them leave the meeting with any questions because if they do, the person that answers them will get their business.”

However, at the same time, managing expectations is critical.

“There are problems sometimes with getting mortgages sorted and we know some banks are worse than others. So we tell people up front, if they go with this lender it may take a little longer or there can be issues of one kind or another, and then if it happens, they know we told them first. I always encourage them to come back to me if there are any issues with the lender because we can normally sort them more easily than they can. It’s all about making the process as stress free for the client as possible.”

As for his own future, Scekic does have plans. He says that within two years he should have a loan book of $500m, and at that point, he wants to slow down – and open a bakery.

“I already have a good work/life balance, which I think is incredibly important to keep focused. I work four or five hours a day, which doesn’t sound much but they are very intense hours, and then I have time to spend with my family.

“But when we hit $500m I’m going to help my wife open a bakery. She’s currently doing the admin in my office, but she is a qualified pastry chef and I’d love to help her realise that dream and take life a little bit more easy when we reach that milestone.”

But could Scekic retire altogether?

“Not yet,” he admits. “I love the business and I love the life too much.”

Published on: 1 December 2014.

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