James Algar on 20 years of broking

Moving from the UK to Australia came with an added challenge for James Algar. The Mortgage Choice broker had to learn the customs of a whole new country – and a different finance industry, before he could move on to start his own business. MPA spoke with Algar about the differences he encountered and why he thinks broking is not for the faint hearted.

From banking to broking

Algar took a job at a bank before jumping the fence to broking about 20 years ago.

“I was a manager for a bank in the UK and I had a mystery shopper come in to talk to me.”

“This mystery shopper turned out to run a mortgage broking business and was mystery shopping other people about mortgages to try and find people to recruit.”

Fed up from saying no to so many customers who came in for a home loan, Algar accepted the position and never looked back.

He moved to Australia in September 2014 and nabbed a job as a loan writer for his local Mortgage Choice, before sitting his exams and purchasing his own franchise.

Two different industries

One of the biggest challenges he faced in his career was getting used to the mortgage system in Australia – one that seemed fairly outdated compared with what he was used to in the UK.

“It was like going back in time, coming to Australia.”

In the UK, Algar could access as many as 160 lenders and best interests duty had been in place from about 2006.

The loan application process was much more manual in Australia than it was in the UK.

“Systems and processes here were much, much less developed and actually there was lots of opportunity. A lot of people didn’t realise that a broker could do what they could do.”

Another major difference was that UK brokers didn’t earn trail and had a fee for service model.

He overcame this challenge by getting on with it and putting in a lot of hard work – something he says is essential in the industry for those who want to be successful.

“In the main, the successful brokers I know and work with are all full-time, crazy workaholics – and that’s why they’re successful. And I’m one of them, unfortunately.”

You only get out what you put in

To new to industry brokers, he says the job is not for the faint hearted.

“What you can make of this industry is in direct correlation to the effort you put in.”

“If you’re thinking it’s going to be part-time and you want to do it around the kids or another job, or you’d just fancy a go at getting out of the corporate rat race, don’t think for a second it’s going to be easy.”

“But if you’re prepared to work hard and back yourself you can do really well.”

He says choosing an aggregator that can deliver brand awareness and good support is key.

“If you’ve got a leg up by working with a brand or organisation that’s already got a good reputation it can open a lot more doors more quickly.”

“People told me you needed to have two years of cash in the bank when you’re signing up to be a self-employed broker.”

“But, I think any broker that thinks that’s the case is not backing themselves.”

“I don’t know anyone who’s doing a good job that wasn’t cash flow positive within five or six months. It doesn’t have to be two years, you’ve just got to jump in, work hard and back yourself.”