Victorian Partner of the Year 2023, Clare Sainsbury, warns new brokers not to go in "half-baked"

As the founder and director of Bloomfield Financial, Harry Haydon's firsthand knowledge of the challenges of running an SME has helped him become an exemplary commercial broker, which has led to his award as Banjo Loan's NSW Partner of the Year for 2023.
We fired some questions at Harry to find out what makes him tick, and what other brokers can learn from his eight-year trajectory in the industry.

What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in the industry since you started?

Harry Haydon: "The biggest change I've seen is the number of lenders that have come into the market. In the past, we always had a diversified panel, but realistically, I was only using about 12 lenders. Last financial year, I settled deals with 60 unique lenders. It’s incredible to see how many lending options there are now for a business customer.”

Our Banjo Partner of the Year Award recognises your excellent work, but what do you think sets you apart from other brokers?

“I'm a conversationalist, so it allows me to build rapport, trust and, most importantly, get to the heart of what a customer is seeking to solve. A lot of brokers will rush in and focus too much on the application process and forget to add a human element. If you focus on the strength of the conversation, the rest will fall into line.”

What are some of the other key strategies or tactics that have helped you achieve success as a broker?

"Diversifying my product offering. My customer retention is much stronger than it once was, and being able to facilitate multiple transactions through multiple products means I can deal with a smaller group of customers, rather than constantly going back to the well looking for more business. I can service the customers I've got, and still make sure that I've got a really strong pipeline."

What approaches do you have for building and maintaining strong relationships with your clients?

“Acquiring good clients is difficult, so this is a massive one for us. We invest a lot of our time on client relations. A lot of businesses have someone that handles the application, and then someone else handles settlement. We try to keep it with one broker – have that one voice through the process rather than diluting it with multiple voices.”

“We also have a check-in process every couple of months, which includes facility reviews and quarterly email campaigns with industry insights. A new SMS function we're rolling out reminds customers that payments are due, but it also invites them to book in a strategy session with us, and we've seen that work really well.”

What are your biggest tips for other brokers for preparing a successful application?

“Attention to detail and really strong discovery. We've had lengthy chats with lenders as to what they want to see in an application: Does the product suit the client? Does the proposal suit the lender's products? Are all the required documents attached in a clear and concise manner? You’ve also got to have all reasonable questions that may arise on an application review being answered sufficiently for a lender to make a recommendation for approval."

What do you believe are the most important questions brokers should be asking their SME clients?

“The key is understanding the client's ability to repay the debt over the duration of that facility – it's as simple as that, especially in the current market. So, we ask what their payment terms are with their customers: Are you taking daily payments? Monthly? Seasonal? Are all current creditors being paid on time, including the ATO if they have a tax debt? Understanding if it's on a payment plan or that it could potentially be an issue for the long-term health of the business is a really big one at the moment.”

“The business goals over the short-term and long-term are important questions. The wrong finance product could stifle growth rather than aid growth. Lastly, what are the personal goals of the director? Is it to reduce tax via an asset purchase at the end of the financial year, or increase profitability? Those questions not only best serve the client's needs but build a future pipeline of deals for us as the broker to facilitate.”

What are some of the common challenges you face as a broker?

“Adapting to changes in what lenders are looking for has been tough. Industry preference changes have been challenging as well. Road freight during COVID was booming and now it's declined. Construction was also a massive portfolio, and we all know the issues that industry is facing. Having those two portfolios significantly decline in the last 12 months has been very, very challenging.”

How do you stay informed about trends and changes in the market?

“Strong relationships with other industry brokers and regular catchups are fantastic. The good thing about NSW is we've got a strong camaraderie. I'm lucky that some of my best mates are in the industry, so we band together and help each other out rather than seeing each other as competitors.”

What are some of the big opportunities for brokers in NSW moving forward?

“I think, with this question, it's about embracing change. A lot of people don't like embracing change, but brokers need to embrace the changing nature of the lending market. Educating themselves on new lenders and new products will always lead to a lot more opportunity.”

How do you keep a meaningful work-life balance?

“It’s probably a question better directed at my girlfriend! She'd probably say that I'm pretty painful when I get home from work (laughs). It's very challenging, but I'm dealing with this a bit better in the last 12 months than when I launched my business three years ago. I’d say having a ‘work to live’ and not a ‘live to work’ mentality is something that gets me through each week. Being able to decompress with a couple of mates over a beer watching sport and playing the odd round of golf also helps, and it’s important to leave work at work.”

What advice have you got for aspiring brokers?

“Don’t come in half-baked. Have a clear and concise plan of what you're looking to achieve and what your product offering is going to be.”

“Be patient – don't come in and compare yourself to a business that's more established. Stick to your guns, ride the waves of good and bad, and the rewards will follow.”

It's better when you're a Banjo Partner

Start your partner application today

Get Accredited