The secret of First Choice Mortgage Brokers' success

If the future is working remotely, then the future happened 15 years ago for us, says Tony Bice.

The director of Finance Made Easy and First Choice Mortgage Brokers says the pandemic hasn’t changed the way his business operates at all – a fact that speaks volumes when you look at his book.

MPA spoke to Bice about how he got started in the industry and why he only employs women.

A career change at 40

After working at CBA for 20 years, Bice joined the broking space in a management role at Lawfund before branching out on his own.

“I started to talk to a lot of the more experienced and really good mortgage brokers and I got to understand how their businesses worked.”

“It was only a matter of time before I decided, you know what, I think I’m going to change my lifestyle round at the age of 40 and I’m going to become a mortgage broker.”

About 15 years ago, he became attracted to the model that Finsure offered and made the switch.

Financial planning in the GFC

Bice was drawn to financial planning during the GFC, when upfront commissions were trimmed by the majors.

“They took 20 points off our upfronts with the stroke of a pen – just like that.”

“I put my head down with another mate of mine and we became financial planners.”

“So, the challenge that I experienced as a result of the reduction in income post GFC was sought of offset by the fact that I became a financial planner.”

Despite having been through the GFC, Bice says the biggest challenge has actually been the pandemic.

“Even though nothing has changed for us, these are still challenging times economically.”

Well-equipped to handle lockdown

While most brokers have had to navigate remote staffing and changes to the way they verify ID, Bice says his business was already well equipped to handle the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I’ve got an unusual model.”

“I’ve got eight staff and every one of my staff works from their own homes.”

“We write a lot of business – and the reason I can write so much business is because I’ve got my team based where they want to be, at home, with their kids, working hours they want to work.”

He says this has been central to the company’s success – as has the fact that he only employs women.

“I don’t care what any bloke says – women are smarter than men.”

“They can multitask. They have a different brain when it comes to being able to process things, structure things, put together a deal and then process a deal.”

When recruiting, he looks for women who have been in the industry before having children and offers them the sort of work/life balance that many mothers struggle to find in the world of finance.

“They don’t want to jump on the train, go to the city, have 45 minutes for lunch and then try and find some way to go back and pick their kids up from day care.”

He says his staff are happy with this arrangement; two of his loan writers now with the company for 10 years.

Remote staffing is not the only thing that makes him ahead of the game. Bice says they have also been IDing clients remotely for 15 years.

“If it’s the way of the future, the future hit our business 15 years ago.”