Broker demystifies homeownership process

Atelier Wealth managing director Aaron Christie-David has featured regularly in MPA’s Top 100 Brokers lists and has just written a book, The Happy Home Loan Handbook, which breaks down the complex process of homebuying into simple steps for those wanting to climb the property ladder. In this interview, Christie-David discusses his career journey from banking to broking, how his brokerage operates as a family business, diversity in the mortgage industry and his involvement in the Sri Lankans in Finance group.

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Anthony Field  00:00:00 

Hi I'm Anthony Field, Editor of Mortgage Professional Australia. My guest today on MPA TV is well known Mortgage Broker Aaron Christie David. Aaron is Managing Director of Atelier Wealth is regularly featured in MPA's Top 100 Brokers. And he's just written a book called The Happy Home Loan Handbook. And is involved in a group called trappings of finance, which is a group for tracking brokers, by Aaron, and thanks for joining us today. 

Aaron Christie-David  00:00:33 

Thanks, Anthony. Appreciate the opportunity, man. 

Anthony Field  00:00:36 

It's great to have you on MPA TV. My first question, I just wanted to ask you about your career to date, how you became a broker and how you set up material wealth back in 2016? 

Aaron Christie-David  00:00:48 

Yeah, thanks very much. I guess reflecting on the journey. This July, we'll celebrate eight years in iteration as Attilio. Well, if people are familiar, my journey two years before that I did have a mortgage choice franchise in Alexandria. And then prior to that I was at Commonwealth Bank working working in the third party channel in a marketing function. And even before that, worked out with at home loans prior to its acquisition by Bazi, again, in a marketing role, so been in finance for quite some time been around mortgage brokers for for a good part of my career as well. And yeah, the transition to broking was very much off the back of do I go down this path of going all in from a corporate career in the Korean market inside a big bank, which was lucrative, which was enjoyable being part of a wonderful brand and a good product as well. But then I was like, from a I won't say lifestyle, but from a aspiration perspective, was gonna get me closer to where I wanted to. And now I'm celebrating 10 years outside the bank. And look, man, it's been a bloody roller coaster, right? 10 years out in broking have seen, you don't think that you've seen it all, because there's still so much to learn. But I feel like I'm far more confident in my ability, far more confident in my own skin and things that used to matter to me don't really matter. And now my role is, look, I've got a good, great relationship with our clients. But now I see myself as that coach, that leader inside our business to go that next budding that next group of talent is where I get a real kick out of and see our younger brokers coming through. You know, they're doing some incredible work going on the journey that I started earlier, which was, you know, potentially losing clients, sweating, the small stuff. But inside a really good supportive culture and environment. That's what I'm really trying to build here tonight. 

Anthony Field  00:02:45 

Right, thanks. Thanks for the parentless interesting video, but I became a project, I wanted to find out a bit more about your brokerage and the services you offer your team, you're basically alone, you work alongside your Wife. Understanding how that dynamic works as a family business? 

Aaron Christie-David  00:03:04 

It works. All of it works perfectly embedded, it will tell you the exact same as well. I think we keep a pretty real Anthony in terms of look at our dynamics as a business. We are added an extra element, which is Bernie's brother, Damien also works with this. And he's you know, he's effectively a director. So he's bought into the business as well. So when I had my brother in law, and my wife and we operate the business together, there is there is blurred lines made, there's no way they shouldn't be coded with family. You know, we've had that tendency in the past, and we speak to each other in a way that we wouldn't speak to a team member in the same way. So now we see each other as, as team members, when we step into the office, naturally, there's some equity in our relationship I we've known each other for a very, very long time. So we can read each other very well. But there's more, there's far more respect for each other. Inside the business going, we can't do what we do without each other. And we often say we're that perfect triangle. In terms of the skill sets, I've got the ideas or the vision, for example, where I want to take the business. Bernie is very much the general manager in terms of operations in terms of execution, give a job to work gets done, and Damien's very much the technician. And we learn off each other, like Daniel will teach me all the technical that I don't know. But he will teach me you know, the implications of a decision when I'm like, overloading the team with new ideas. It's like, well, we've got so many resources and these new ideas exceed our resource capacity as well. And then I can teach them a little bit more about how to I guess, build profile or build brand or build vision as well. And that's why I say we're a really good triangle because maybe 60 degrees each or whatever, you know, the Matthews on it, it adds up to some of our parts and you know, each of us are responsible for a certain pillar inside the business. So when we have that ownership or no accountability within the team, it's made the journey sharing the journey with other people it becomes very, very rewarding as well. I think you mentioned the very start there. It's like how do you run your business with your wife or your partner? It's not a journey for everyone. And first and foremost, we have to put our relationship first. That's it. Like there's, what's the point having business successes, we've got most success in our relationship. And we've got two small kids, maybe two girls that are three, and we have two girls that are three and five. So we've got to think that our role as spouse, our role as parents, and our role as business owners, and our role as brokers and leaders in the business. So when you're shifting gears between that it's, you've got to come home and find a way to switch off which Bernie is very, very good at I've, I've we've, I've gotten better and trying to be present, sometimes can be easier said than done as well.  

Anthony Field  00:03:05 

Thanks. Thanks for that Aaron. It's interesting to hear about how that whole fight family dynamic works and being family first, and I'm sure she set up but it's not for everyone. I want to move on next to talk about your new book, The Happy Home Loan Handbook, which is which has just been published. Tell us about what motivated you to write that. And what's it about? And who's your target audience? 

Aaron Christie-David  00:06:13 

Thanks very much. Your first question, there was what motivated me to write a book, I had no ambitions to be an author, like there wasn't like I just needed a subject. The penny drop moment for me was last year when the SMH producing articles may last year, and it said only one in 10. young Australians believe that they could get into the property market. And that made me a bit angry. But it also sparked me to do something about it. I said to the team, I'm like, This is what we're up against, like this type of media rhetoric. That pedals the fact that only 10% of young assurance actually believe they can get in No, no, I believe 90% of people can get into the property market with the right guidance, the right support the right belief, the right framework, as well. And so I decided to do something about it. And that's what Bernie said, Look, don't complain about it, just do something about it. And that then, kind of set up to a whole chain of events, Anthony, which was, I caught a publisher, I pitched my idea. They liked the idea, idea, writing on a sample couple of chapters, which did. That's a tough process to go from being a mortgage broker to then being a writer. That's not a sort of transferable skill set by any means that what started to come out when I was going through this writing journey, which was made this 10 years of conversations that I've had with people, there's hundreds, if not over 1000 families or friends that I've helped buy a home. So there's clearly some success that we've had. It's how do I translate that into a writing style that takes people on a journey, and that's what the book is. So the book really kind of takes you through three, three key parts. One, how to get your loan approved, because I feel there's a lot of what I call anxiety. So people have a lot of anxiety around getting a loan approved. And I'm like, the decline rates in our business are extremely low across the board, they be extremely low from from really good brokers. There's a way to get into the market with the right loan, the right strategy, and that's unpacking part one. Part two is and how to find the right property. And forgive me, I mean, we've spoken about being down here in the Illawarra make six years ago, I wasn't living in either Laura, my life was Sydney and you know, through a chain of events, having a family radio, one of the stop reinvesting and wanting to buy my own family home. So where I was six years ago on the strategy, then it's very different to where I am now, which is very different in six years time when we want to renovate or knock down our home or where we are. So then you need a bit of a strength property strategy. Okay, how long is this house going to serve you for? How are you going to outgrow it doesn't need renovations? Can you be it in a long term? Is it a stepping stone to buy something bigger, as well, and we go through, you know how to buy an option versus how to negotiate and the nuts and bolts of property negotiation. And the last one is how to get on with life. And I feel it's the most important part where people go, oh, a mortgage is a bit of a death sentence. For example. Not the case. But it was if you want to renovate weapons, you want to start a family, what happens you want to go traveling, what about lifestyle creep, for example, and I kind of cover all that. And that's really my philosophy around home buying, which I feel kind of sets me apart, which is this is my philosophy around home buying and homeownership. And the MS of the writing journey kind of took me a good chunk last year, I went away to Thailand for kind of nearly three weeks and just bunkered down and just wrote as much as I could and got a good chunk of the book done. And then your work to deadlines with the publisher and editing process. And that went to print just before Christmas last year was on shelves, you know, February 2024. And we've just done a function where we've watched the book officially. And it leads to it leads to people picking up the book and then sparking a conversation later when we've got someone that reached out to me. I thought that is, that was the moment for me that that pinch myself going. He's someone who's read my book has connected with the message. And now it's reached out for a chat. Mission accomplished as far as I'm concerned. 

Anthony Field  00:10:11 

And that's great. But it sounds like you know, a huge task but you're writing a book, but you've achieved it. I hope it really goes well, I'm off to get a copy myself and get some. 

Aaron Christie-David  00:10:24 

Oh, absolutely, I put a copy in the mail for you, man or get that across to you. And this one, it is made like it's something tangible that you just fit in, you know, get some tips. That's all it is like you, you might pick up just a couple of pieces here and there or a different idea. But the notion of reading a book, I mean, there's so many videos, there's so many courses, there's so many websites, we're not short on information here. But the book is opt in the book is at your own pace. The book is a tactile medium, and people can kind of stop and doubled down a little bit more as well. And that's where I feel like it has its place. It's not going to solve everyone's problems. It has a place for a certain part certain segments of Australians. And if it means that it's just edging people bit closer on this home buying journey. Again, what I'm coming back to is I don't need to change your Australians lives. There's only a certain part that are in the market that it can be said in time that's going to connect and resonate with my message and my philosophy. Awesome. Let's have a chat. Right. 

Anthony Field  00:11:21 

Thanks. Thanks for that Erin. wanted to move on next to talk about your cultural heritage Sri Lankan background. And you've got a group called Sri Lankans financial understand this for brokers have shrunk, inherited. So tell us a bit about that. And the name of the group.  

Aaron Christie-David  00:11:38 

Yeah, let's let's double down on that. Anthony. So look, if you picked up the phone you spoke to me you probably wouldn't realize that I'm you know, got Srilankan background I'm very fortunate to have grown up in Australia. You know, my name is not Srilankan by nature either. But yeah, look, I'm I am a brown guy. I'm a white guy trapped in a brown body, as I say to my mates. And it wasn't until you know, there's a BDM down in Melbourne Anthony week. A lot of people know him. He's been around for quite some time. So he's got a great relationship with brokers in Melbourne. And he just had a desire to, to bring what he was doing in Melbourne to Sydney and I said, Look, man, if you just kind of put my hand up and wasn't sure what I signed up for. But there are cultural challenges and every culture will have it whether you talk about Vietnamese mortgage brokers or you talk about regional brokers or when he talks about CBD brokers, where they talk about female brokers when he talks about new brokers. There are challenges that are kind of same same but different to all of these subsets in mortgage broking, like I've said on the MF double A women in mortgage broking roundtable for quite a number of years. And we talk about, you know, what are some challenges that female brokers have and one of them is a great community, people that understand what they're going through as mothers they're juggling. They've got different identity, that they're juggling family commitments, they're juggling their own personal commitments, they're juggling the health commitments. They're juggling, you know, social and trying to have a connection with other females as well that understand the demands of mortgage broking as well. And when we're translating that to a cultural event, which is pretty much a large for us to bring your accountants, financial planners, real estate agents, and look, I don't think it's going to be a ginormous, we're not expecting to be a ginormous event. It's very much a casual lunch. Celebrating a little bit of some of the cultural challenges. I'll give you some high blood pressure. Very, very common in Sri Lankan heritage. Yeah. Our diet for example, not enough exercise, mortgage brokers sit do sedentary role which we sit a lot. Another one is marketing. Yeah, I say it's even not even a cultural aspect, but just in broking in general, how do you market yourself without sound like you're beating your own chest, or you have a massive ego. And culturally, Sri Lankans aren't very good at the sell side either. And what we're trying to do is unpack that a little bit to go. How do you find your ideal client? How do you talk to them? How do you solve their problems? And that way, you can build a bit of a marketing message that is on brand with how you like to deliver that. And yet the book for me is, again, just a way to show them that, hey, look, you're sitting on a goldmine of information. And marketing is purely just sharing what you know, rather than sitting on that information yourself and expecting people to come to you. 

Anthony Field  00:14:28 

Thanks, Aaron. It's really interesting to hear about the group and some of the cultural challenges. Obviously, every culture has its own trikes or whatever, but it's just getting together with like minded people and talk about things in industry. It's great. I wanted to sort of ask you a bit more widely you mentioned. culture, cultural diversity, gender diversity. Obviously there's a big piece in the industry about Brian widen diversity equity inclusion that means straight heels. Protecting finance got a it's got a reputation of being white middle class male. So what do you think the industry bodies like MFT overlay. If we double A and the wider industry we need to do to to increase diversity. equity inclusion. 

Aaron Christie-David  00:15:19 

Yeah, I love where this is going. And I've seen firsthand from the years that we've been working with the MFWA, particularly Bernie and I on various round round tables, that we're making inroads, the fact that we're just asking the question going, what can we do to be more highly sensitive around diversity? Or what are some of the programs that we could start to include, and I'll look at some aggregators, and I see it across the board, I see connective I see loan market, I see mortgage choice, those women and bright young women finance lunch recently as well. There are opportunities that have been provided for women to connect. And that's a powerful community because they need that support as well. And some women will say, No, I don't want a token female event I want to be around everyone, whether it's male, female, or Chievo category fit in there. And that's cool. Yeah, and, and I think even for younger brokers or newer brokers, there's opportunities for them to come in. And I see a lot of new broker events that come out. industry events that are that are really kind of helping new brokers adapt, because what's the stat 50% will fail in their first 18 months, I see that in our own business, we, we can't hide from that statistic. It's a it's a sink or swim industry. And it's hard to watch, you know, that type of turnover. And I think we're getting better as an industry showing that there are pathways like when I started and I called one of my team members, a power broker was relatively unknown. It was like that, what does that mean? A power broker role now gets advertised quite heavily in the industry going, it's a bit like a paraplanner. It's something that can learn the ropes learn policy, but could be on track to become a fully fledged mortgage broker, the days off. I've done a search for deployment. Now, I'm a mortgage broker tomorrow. I think I think that those those days are done. You start out learning post settlement, you like these startup learning apps, you start out learning scenarios and credit. You start out and shadowing great brokers, for example. And we're maturing as an industry to go. We're no longer the solo, do it all yourself, operator, we're moving to brokerage models, and you see the top brokerages and how big they're getting. They just put their standard break away, and you can start to see it. Because they've got the right training in place. They've got the right onboarding in place, they've got the right pathway program in place, I'll go all the way back to you to the side of the equation, which is what are we doing as an industry? I think we're starting to mature and go just don't throw brokers in the deep end and sign up brokers that have no industry experience aggregators are getting very good at filtering that out games we're going to take you on, why don't you consider joining a brokerage or going through a really good mentoring program that's going to set you up to succeed. And I get a kick out of seeing where we're starting to evolve as an industry because these turnover for you but drivers that are part time mortgage brokers just aren't sitting well for the industry. 

Anthony Field  00:18:24 

Thanks very much for that Aaron. That's great to hear your insights on the industry and what needs to happen and but a bit about your background and really appreciate your time today on MPA TV. Thanks for joining us. 

Aaron Christie-David  00:18:35 

Mate, Thank you very much. I appreciate and love what you guys are doing, you know, sharing stories like this. I listen to other brokers and what they're doing, mate. This is what we want as a community we want you know, ideas that are being shared and knowledge as well as make keep it up. It's excellent.  

Anthony Field  00:18:49 

Thanks very much.