LEADER -- The Elite business writer

Writing more than $120 million in loans per year, Justin Doobov is a heavyweight in the mortgage broking world. Earlier this month, he gave Real Estate Business some insight into his success

Justin Doobov isn’t just a numbers man.

It takes a lot more than that to be the number one residential mortgage broker in Australia. According to the man himself – who topped the 2011 Elite Business Writers ranking of Real Estate Business’ sister publication, The Adviser – it takes attention to detail, persistence (but not aggression), compassion and being able to deliver to make it big in the broking world.

With finance and accounting, engineering and project management degrees under his belt, his career path could have taken him in any one of a number of directions. He says, however, that he just “fell” into mortgage broking.

Adding value
After a stint in an accountancy firm, Mr Doobov realised he didn’t have the personality to be an accountant. He wanted to get his hands dirty helping clients rather than just being a “score keeper”.

“I found with accounting you are just basically keeping score, just checking things, as opposed to adding value to the transaction,” he says.

“That’s one of the things I love about mortgage broking: I can help clients. A client comes to you and they’ve got problems and we come up with the solution.”

With 10 years in the industry, including eight and half as owner of his own company, Intelligent Finance, Mr Doobov boasts several number one awards, including Best Residential Broker of the Year at the 2011 Australian Broking Awards, and the coveted number one spot in The Adviser’s Elite Business Writers list.

That track record makes him one of the top finance experts in the country.

It is his dedication to his customers that sets him apart from the rest, however. “It’s like MasterChef, where you’ve got three eggs, some flour and some sugar and a couple other ingredients,” he says. “One person just makes scrambled eggs and someone else makes a whole three course meal out of it.

“Using the same ingredients we are able to come out with a much more favorable result for our client.”

According to Mr Doobov, that is the difference between a mortgage broker who brings in $20 million per year and one who brings in $120 million per year.

“The difference is effectively delivering on what you promise,” he says. “It is knowing what to promise, and when not to promise things that are outside what you can actually deliver.

“I’ve built a very good support team around me – four guys that support the promises I make to my clients. They help deliver it.

“We have won many awards for being the best service provider in the industry and we pride ourselves on that.

“We will arrange a loan and then the client gets service for life. We will personally [address] any problems they may have post-settlement, as opposed to just saying, ‘Call the 1300 number to get that fixed’.”

Not accepting ‘no’
In 2011, Mr Doobov put over 150 people into their new homes while more than double that refinanced their existing home loan with Intelligent Finance.

“A lot of clients we find may have chosen the wrong loan structure or wrong lender because at the time the client was very price-driven and now they want to turn it into an investment or they want to consolidate debts,” he says.

“More than 50 per cent of our business is restructuring existing clients’ loan facilities to make it more tax efficient and to help them pay it off faster.”

Throughout his career, Mr Doobov has worked on deals worth upward of $150 million in the commercial sector, even though the largest deal he has brokered in the residential space sits at around the $20 million mark.

“The average sorts of loans we write are worth between $750,000 and $2 million. We do a lot of smaller ones for first home buyers. They love us because we take the time with them to explain everything.

“We also do a lot of high net worth clients, like medical professionals, who buy properties valued at between $2 million and $10 million.”

Even with Mr Doobov’s accomplished track record of delivering great service and results for his client, he is still on occasions told ‘no’ – and it’s his least favourite word.

“I don’t like the word ‘no’; I see the word no as being negotiable,” he says.

“If a lender says no, they won’t lend my client $1 million, I say, ‘Don’t tell me you won’t lend him money, tell me you won’t lend him $1 million. You’ll give the guy $10, won’t you?’ and the lender will say, ‘Yes, we’ll lend the guy $10.’

“So, they may not want to lend him $1 million but they’ll lend him $10. So somewhere between $10 and $1 million is the amount they are prepared to lend.

“We very much push the lender and say, ‘Don’t tell me no. Tell me how much you will lend’ because at least we can go back to the client and say, well, we can’t get you $1 million but we can get you $950,000, and their response might be, ‘That is perfect, I can get $50,000 from family’.

“Instead of hard and fast yes and no answers, we like to come up with a solution.”

This approach and winning strategy are now firmly bedded down as part of Intelligent Finance’s culture. So, where to for the firm from here?

“Ideally, we will grow organically,” Mr Doobov says. “We are looking at putting on more staff and basically growing fast enough to get a lot more business in the door, but slow enough to still maintain a family environment with clients.

“I don’t want Intelligent Finance to ever be a factory, where we just churn out deals. I always want it to be ‘high touch’ service for our clients.”

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