Being a broker the Surf Coast way

Nicola Tucker is not your typical mortgage broker. Not only is the 2020 Young Gun a director at Surf Coast Finance, she is also a volunteer firefighter and a novice beekeeper.

After merging her business with that of local peer Lanie Conquest, the broker has established a partnership and company that epitomises the Surf Coast lifestyle.

MPA spoke with the Young Gun about why she became a broker and the three words that sum up the systems and processes of the business.

Eliminate, automate, delegate

Tucker has found these three words to be an effective way of streamlining the company’s systems and processes.

“It’s about always looking at how can we improve our processes and how can we get quicker. The fastest time to yes is always what we’re looking for,” she says.

Every three months the team gets together to look at the processes of the business and cuts out anything that is holding them back.

“Anything that we don’t need in our process, or that we don’t find is adding value to our customers or to speed to approval, we get rid of,” she says.

“Then we automate what we can. We are pretty much 100% digital, other than for lenders that require lending docs to be signed.”

They then delegate what they can to one of the girls in their team or to BSU, which is a support product that Loan Market offers for processing applications.

“The girls that work for us all work from home, and we just get together once a week,” she says, explaining the COVID-19 environment didn’t change much for them in the way they ran their business.

She says staff members are assigned daily tasks through the Loan Market CRM and connect every Tuesday and Thursday for a team meeting. Before COVID-19, they would work together for a few hours each week at a co-working space or at Tucker or Conquest’s house.

Traditionally they would meet clients at their place of work, their home, or a café, but now the meetings are held virtually via Zoom.

Breaking into the broking space

Like many brokers, Tucker moved into the role after feeling limited by what she could offer while working at a bank. She decided to become a broker in March 2018.

“I’d worked in banks pretty much my whole career prior to that and I’d just gotten to a point where I didn’t feel like my clients had choice,” she explains.

“From a career point of view, if I wanted to progress in banking it would have meant travelling to Melbourne every day. Starting a business was really the option that felt most compelling to me.”

After starting out as a franchisee under the Loan Market brand, Tucker joined forces with Conquest to create a new business under the Torquay broker’s existing name, Surf Coast.

“I wanted to be a part of that Surf Coast lifestyle,” she says. “It is quite casual. A lot of people down here work for themselves or from home a few days a week.

“I saw her as my only real competition down here, so to speak, and we just hit it off. We started working together, still running our own brands for about six months. Then we decided to join forces.”

Doing the right thing

While Tucker admits it was pretty daunting to start out as a new broker against the backdrop of the Royal Commission, the regulatory scrutiny of the period didn’t really make a difference to the way she did things.

“My biggest belief is that if you do the right thing by your customer, they’ll continue to come back regardless of what that model looks like,” she says.

“So, that’s what I did, and my business continued to grow throughout that period, and even throughout COVID-19 as well.”

As a volunteer firefighter and the treasurer for Bellbrae CFA, Tucker gains a lot of satisfaction from being part of the local community. She became a volunteer firefighter after seeing firsthand how devastating the impact of fire can be.

“My best friend was caught in a fire when she was running an ultra-marathon about eight years ago. And I just saw the effects of what burns do to a person and that was my reason for joining,” she says.

Always learning new skills through her volunteer work, she is currently learning how to drive a fire truck.

As a novice beekeeper and sustainability champion, Tucker also enjoys hiking and exploring the Surf Coast as much as possible.