Rise to the top

By Nick Gardner

It’s typical of Donald Tang’s opportunistic nature that his first job in mortgage finance came from the broker that helped him buy his first property.

“She was so helpful, and explained so many interesting things about mortgage finance that really helped me out, that I asked her straight away if she was hiring anybody,” Tang explains. “That was four years ago and now she’s my business partner.”

He was working in hospitality for a hotel group at the time but the intellectual stimulation of broking held far more allure for this ambitious young man.

Tang had studied at finance college in China before he arrived in Australia so he had a head for numbers. But more importantly, entrepreneurialism is in his blood.

“I used to sell pens and pencils to friends and neighbours when I was 13,” he says. “And I started my first business as an education agent in China when I started university. But I was really intrigued by Australia’s mortgage market when I started hearing about it because it is so different from China’s.”

For a start, he says, buyers in China can get a maximum of 70% LVR for their fist property, falling to 50% for their second, but no mortgage at all for their third.

“Second, the more you borrow in China, the higher the interest rate,” he says. “The way the banks see it, the more you borrow the higher the risk they are taking. Whereas here in Australia it’s the other way around.”

Tang says that perhaps what is most surprising is that borrowers cannot refinance or use their property as security until they have paid the mortgage off in full.

“In fact, they can’t sell the property at all until they have paid off the mortgage. Many people need to borrow from family and friends in order to be able to sell their property. I love my country, but Australia has a far more advanced mortgage and property market than China.”

He and his partners set up Alliance Mortgage Solutions at the end of 2012 and began trading in early 2013. Yet his success has been meteoric, writing almost $163 million of business last year.

One of Tang’s major sources of business comes from his regular trips back to China to companies with whom he has formed relationships, and where he sets up little exhibitions to show the benefits of investing in Australian property.

“When they hear about the more relaxed regulations we always get many inquiries and clients from these presentations. They don’t even have offset accounts in China so when you explain the benefits of these to a Chinese investor it’s a very tempting proposition.”

However, Tang has developed a series of other productive relationships to build his business.

One is to partner up with firms selling properties off plan.

“The people selling do not know about mortgages and so we offer them free training so that they have a basic understanding which helps them sell to potential customers. In return, they refer clients to me. It’s working really well,” he says.

Another successful tactic is to attend open houses to assist agents with the swarm of potential buyers.

“There is quite often 20 or 30 people at an open house and usually the agent has to pay somebody $150 or so to stand around and help gather names and contact details. So I offered to do this for nothing, and in return they allow us free access to all of these potential buyers.

“We speak to everybody that attends the open house and ask if they have a mortgage broker, and offer to assist them in preparing their finances so they are in the best position to move quickly when they find a property that they like. By our latest calculations, 40% of the people who come to these open houses end up as our clients.”

This unwavering enthusiasm means Tang sees opportunities where others may not.

When the deal is done, he calls all parties – the buyer, the solicitor and the agent, and congratulates everybody. He then asks the agent and solicitor if they have a broker partner. If they haven’t, he does a deal. If they do, he asks them to compare their propositions, or he offers to stand in as their partner when their usual broker is on holiday. He simply doesn’t miss a trick.

“People like being prepared for all eventualities. Most people don’t consider holiday cover but it is a real help if they have a broker to turn to when their usual broker is away. It means they don’t risk losing business.”

Tang says brokers should never treat a client as just one customer.

“They are five or six or even 10 clients if you treat them right. They have friends, family, colleagues and classmates. About 70% of our customers refer somebody to us, so its vital that customer service is right,” he says.

This is clearly a recipe for success. Tang is planning to expand his business from his two Sydney offices (in CBD and Hurstville) to an office in Melbourne and then other locations in Australia.

While much of his business stems from the Chinese and Taiwanese communities, he is growing rapidly in popularity with native Australians who love his attention to detail and customer-focused approach.

This is evidenced by the plethora of awards he has won in his short career, including high rankings in various young broker and top broker lists.

“It’s a real privilege to win these accolades for something that I enjoy so much,” he says. “I hope we can continue and expand so that we can help more people fulfill their property dreams.”

Published on: 16 March 2015.

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