Belinda Sugars championing women in broking
With banking experience spanning over a decade, Belinda saw mortgage broking as an opportunity to “treat my customers in the way I wanted to”.
“Working in the major banks, I found there was always an element of time pressure. Customers weren’t given enough time to speak with loan consultants, and there was no means of delivering after-hours support to customers,” recalls Belinda. “I met with a lot of brokers through my banking role, and I could see they were looking after their customers better, and enjoying tremendous achievements within their own businesses.”
Belinda admits it was a “big leap of faith” to go out on her own. But she researched the different options widely, spending time speaking with a variety of aggregators and established brokers.
“It was the security of the brand and the level of support given to brokers that really drew me to Mortgage Choice,” says Belinda. Mortgage Choice in Parkside opened its doors, and she has never looked back.
Rapid growth through networking
Initially starting from a home office, Belinda’s business grew rapidly. Within 18 months she had hired an admin assistant, and several months later she expanded into a shop front, later going on to invest in her own premises. As the business continued to grow, Belinda was once again looking to expand her team, this time taking on a loan writer.
Belinda attributes much of her early success to “following the advice of Mortgage Choice” and listening to the network’s more experienced brokers who mentored her. She developed a plan of action, informed everyone she knew that she was in business as a broker (“I sent out about 120 letters!”), and built referral partnerships by starting her own networking group.
“I really tapped into the experience of other Mortgage Choice brokers to discover what worked for them, and they all emphasised networking,” recalls Belinda.
“At one stage I was speaking with a conveyancer, and we decided to catch up once a month. Word got around, and we soon had a network group of 35 attendees comprised of real estate agents, conveyancers, and solicitors – almost all women.”
“Women are good at building relationships”
As a new broker, Belinda also drew on her experience in the banking industry. “A lot of past learning was valuable to me,” she says. “Like knowing how to manage people – and my time, developing systems and processes, and implementing key performance incentives for my staff.”
Fast forward to 2020, and Belinda captains an all-female team that includes two loan writers. She is convinced that women are particularly well-suited to mortgage broking.
“Women are good at building relationships in general. From the customer’s perspective we understand that women love owning their home, so we truly share each customer’s joy when we make that happen,” says Belinda.
“Our strength with relationships also means women make excellent referral partners. I refer my clients to a number of female real estate agents and conveyancers because I trust them. That same sense of trust is why they refer clients to me.”
Achieving the right blend of people
While Belinda didn’t intentionally set out to build a female team, she says, “One of the challenges of managing growth is finding the right people, who have the right attitude and who are a good fit for the business.” She adds, “I want my team to follow my processes but still have the freedom to be themselves.”
“Achieving that mix only happens through proper training and following a proven way of doing things. I spend a lot of time training my staff but the reward is seeing these women, many of whom had no prior industry experience, achieve success in mortgage broking.”
A hands-on approach to community support
Belinda also champions the cause of women through her community support. For many years she has donated to Catherine House in Adelaide, which assists women experiencing homelessness. To date, Mortgage Choice in Parkside has contributed over $40,000 to Catherine House, and Belinda takes a very hands-on approach to fundraising.
She explains, “For my last birthday, I asked friends to donate instead of buying gifts, and as part of our get-together we had a big walk to raise funds for the charity. It was a lot of fun, and we raised several thousand dollars.”
Looking ahead, Mortgage Choice in Parkside has plans to kick some big goals. “Each year brings new challenges,” acknowledges Belinda. “But I’m looking forward to an amazing year in which we grow settlements, and continue to be a great place to work.”
Having participated in ANZ’s ‘Doyenne of Women in Broking' program, Belinda also plans to use social media to build the profile of women in broking. “Get on LinkedIn and have a voice,” she urges. “It’s very rewarding.”
“Acceptance is one of my favourite words and I embrace it. It is such a great feeling knowing whatever challenge is next we accept it and champion it.”