We chat with Stephen Mitchell about his journey from working in hospitality, to becoming a mortgage broker at only 20 years old, to now running two successful financial services firms. Plus, hear what Stephen predicts for the future of mortgage broking.
Tell us about the journey you’ve taken in your career.
After I left school I got a job at Latrobe Financial in Traralgon and I worked there until I was 20. I was an underwriter and dealt with the broker sales team. It gave me a good feel for the industry.
Eventually I got approached to become a mortgage broker. I worked for a short period of time with a group and then decided it was time to go out on my own as a broker.
I initially started in the mortgage management space. I set up Resicom Financial in 2006 to operate in the non-conforming lending space. The prime mortgage management space became difficult and expensive after the GFC, and I’ve continued to grow Resicom Financial to what it is today – a non-conforming 2nd tier lending specialist Australia-wide. We have strong relationships with a number of aggregation panels.
While building up Resicom Financial, I met my current business partner. We set up a private mortgage fund together in 2013 called Oak Capital.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your career, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest initial challenge I faced was when I became a self-employed broker at 20 years old. It was difficult for clients to accept my age. As a way of overcoming this, I generally did most client work over the phone and via email. I seldom met clients face to face, which allowed me to get around that problem. If you sound old enough, you are old enough, in my experience. And, if you follow through with what you promise, clients have no reason to question you. To prove that age isn’t an issue, I would often have to act as though I had the answers to clients’ questions, and then work hard to go out and find the answers to follow through.
That’s been the biggest challenge in my career to date. However, it has also obviously been a challenge managing and growing a team of professionals in a specialised niche market. We’ve learned a lot and grown as a team.
What do you love about what you do?
From day one, the main thing I’ve loved about my job is the feeling of achieving a ‘win’. I’ve experienced this through both of my businesses. Getting a deal across the line or getting a client out of trouble is a great feeling. Getting a good, secure return for investors gives you a lot of satisfaction as well.
We also do a lot of work with charities, which is a big aspect of why I do what I do. A driving force behind our business is to be a driving force behind our community. It’s great that we’re able to do that.
I also love being able to build a good team – we have a great culture in the businesses. Coming to work every day shouldn’t be a slog, and I say to our staff that you spend more time with your colleagues than you do with your family – that’s why it’s important to be around good people.
When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a really young child I wanted to be a police officer.
I worked in hospitality when I was 14, and weighed up becoming a chef and dropping out of school (which I didn’t end up doing).
I then worked at a fast food store, where I learned a lot about service. Hospitality relates a lot to our business. The fast pace, upsell and high level of service ingrained into me at that age continued into my business career. I ended up giving up on the hospitality/fast food scene because I didn’t want to work night shifts anymore!
What are your top 3 tips for other people wanting to build a successful career in mortgage broking?
1. Be different, and sell something niche
So many people want to get into finance and think it’s an easy ride. But working in finance is challenging because you need to set yourself apart from the rest and have a unique offering.
2. You can’t be everything to everybody
If you’re going to do something you have to be niche. Know what you do well, know what you want to do, and know that you don’t need to satisfy everybody at once.
3. There is no substitute for hard work
It goes without saying – you need to work hard to be successful in this space.
What is standing out for you in the industry at the moment?
While there’s nothing overly exciting happening in our industry at the moment, a big topic of discussion is concerns with the Royal Commission and Artificial Intelligence coming into the underwriting and approving of loans.
The prime mortgage space will become extremely difficult over the coming years. With advances in technology and online security, mum and dads will be able to log onto a computer and get a loan in a few minutes.
As a business, you need to have something special that a computer can’t offer. It’s going to get to the stage that it is faster and cheaper to get a loan online. Computers can answer questions in a few seconds, faster than mortgage brokers can face to face.
We need to be creative during this time. While mum and dad loans are probably going to transition into predominantly an online space, it’s a great time to offer something special and niche. Top tier clients will always need a solution that’s second to none – something a computer can’t offer. If they have difficult structures or are self-employed – this market can still be serviced exceptionally by brokers.
I’m not sure how mortgage brokers are going to offer cheap mum and dad loans in future, unless they offer a suite of services around this. I think focusing on what the Banks and AI cannot do is the future in our game.