With borrowers for the long haul
Starting a new business in the middle of a global pandemic might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but that is exactly what Blue Owl Finance owner Aidan Hartley did.
After he began working as a mortgage broker’s assistant around six years ago, he says he was “hooked” and knew broking was something he wanted to do himself. Helping to write around $400m a year in home loans at that brokerage, he later joined St. George Bank as a senior home lending manager and helped more than 500 Australians into their own homes.
“I’m not just here to do your refinance or your purchase... Whatever it is, I want to be the guy that you turn to”
At the start of this financial year, Hartley founded Blue Owl Finance, and he says he has loved working in the business over the past few months.
One of the challenges he has to get used to is learning the different lender policies: where there was just the one policy to know at St. George, he now has to understand numerous lender policies and niches so he can decide which will best fit his clients.
While Hartley is just a one-man band at the moment, his fiancée is helping out as he builds the brand and business – something many business owners will recognise from their early days. One of the tasks she oversees is the sending out of gifts to clients at settlement. Hartley says he does this because to him it’s all about the relationship.
“My whole business is based on word of mouth, client referrals. Unhappy clients don’t refer to you; only happy clients refer their friends and family to you,” he says.
“If I’m not providing a good service and getting results, I don’t get any new business. I spend zero on marketing, so I’m just relying on those relationships to help me bring in new clients and keep them on as existing customers.
“In every conversation I say, ‘I want to be your broker for the next 15 years’. That’s how I start a lot of conversations: that I’m not just here to do your refinance or your purchase; I’m here when you want to fix your loan, when you want to change your repayments, when you downsize, or upsize. Whatever it is, I want to be the guy that you turn to.
“I’m trying to be great at what I’m already good at as opposed to being pretty good at everything”
“I’d rather have 50 loyal clients than 200 that come in and then go out the door.”
The clients Hartley deals with at the moment include word-of-mouth referrals and many friends and former colleagues. He adds that the loans he has written have been predominantly for owner-occupiers and a lot of first home buyers.
One of the biggest trends he has seen over the last few months is the number of clients coming to him who understand the value of buying over renting.
“We’ve got a good portion of those who are actually saving money from owning a property versus renting week-on-week,” he says. “Sometimes it is cheaper, and that is because the rates are so low.”
Hartley remains cautious that the first home buyer market may not be so prevalent for much longer, as responsible lending changes may come into play in March next year. If lending rules are relaxed, more people will be able to borrow more, he says, and “I only see this driving up prices, bringing back investors and in turn potentially pushing out first home buyers”.
While it is difficult to know where the next year will take the world, Hartley is focusing on Blue Owl Finance and “helping as many Australians into homes as possible”. With the business continuing to grow, he says he will concentrate on providing the best service in mortgage lending rather than trying to diversify and be a “jack of all trades”.
“I’m trying to be great at what I’m already good at as opposed to being pretty good at everything,” he says.
“They’re probably my favourite type of loans; they stay with you for longer, and it’s a great feeling helping someone into their home rather than helping someone getting their fifth investment property. It makes your day that bit brighter.”
December 3, 2020