The structure-focused broker

By Nick Gardner

Perhaps it’s because Justin Doobov studied engineering as a student that he has developed such a focus on the “structure” of his clients’ mortgages – an approach he says is lacking with most advisers when assessing which loan strategy is most appropriate.

Doobov, who set up Intelligent Finance in Sydney’s Bondi Junction in 2003, says that the broking industry is still too focused on sales and should concentrate more on a broader financial-planning style assessment which takes into consideration future changes in circumstance and ambitions.

“When I started broking I could see that the way I looked at things was different,” he says. “Most people respond to clients asking for the cheapest rate by simply giving them the lowest rate they can find, but that is not always the best solution. A good broker should not be afraid to pose different solutions and explain why they may be better suited, even if they might cost a little more.

“However, that can put sales at risk so it puts people off. It also requires more work and time-consuming conversations which many sales-driven brokers simply do not want to get involved in.”

This issue, which Doobov describes as the “real-estate agent syndrome”, is what he believes is the biggest issue facing the broking industry today.

“It means we’re getting too many salespeople in the industry and not enough strategic thinkers who think beyond today,” he says. “We need the right balance between regulation and freedom because remember we are lending people money where as financial planners are taking peoples money. But better training might be required because I have had so many clients come to me with loans that I think they should never have been given, and I know that if I had been giving them advice a few years ago they would be have been in a far better financial situation today than they actually were.”

For example, Doobov says he might focus on the best split between fixed and variable, or how to structure loans to maximise tax efficiency. Which loans should be lines of credit and which definitely should not be.

“You need to really analyse somebody’s future plans. Might they rent the property out at some point in the future? In which case an offset account might be a better approach because it keeps the mortgage balance high and maximises tax deductions. Are they likely to get a cash windfall at some stage, either through work or through an inheritance? How long do they intend to own the property?

“The answers to these questions define which lender and which loan would be best suited. But like I say this all takes time and requires patience, not to mention a methodical, analytical approach. I would say this means I focus 90% of my time on service and only about 10% on the sales process.”

Certainly, these tactics have served Doobov well. From starting his business in his parents’ garage in Bondi Beach at the age of 30, Doobov has developed an award-winning business without ever advertising or marketing – or even forming formal referral partnerships with estate agents or accountants.

“All my business comes from client referrals,” he says. “From my engineering work and background I had a few good contacts who needed mortgages when I started out, and basically it all started from my very first deal. That led to a recommendation to somebody else and I have never looked back.”

Extraordinary, then, to think that Doobov completed $480 million of loans last year, $235 million of which were residential. Those figures won him broker of the year at the Australian Mortgage Awards and given he is the only broker in the firm, that is some achievement.

So where from here? Doobov admits he could probably work his database a little better.

“I do keep in touch with clients but it isn’t my strongest point and I’m sure I could mine the database a little more efficiently to get more business,” he says. “But our clients know I am always here whenever they need me. I always make sure they know that.”

Beyond that, Doobov says he is fortunate enough to be financially secure but might consider a sale if a great offer came along.

“I wouldn’t rule that out if the price was right,” he says. “But that’s not my base case. I really enjoy my job, I love getting people the right solutions and making them feel more secure financially, and that is what drives me day to day.”

Published on: 21 January 2015.

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