This award recognises the mortgage and finance broker who best represents the industry across key factors, including, but not limited to, loan volumes, loan book growth, compliance, submission quality and customer service, as well as business processes, systems, stakeholder engagement and customer relationship abilities.
1. Highlight a planned and successfully executed business-building strategy.
While the success of Cherry Lending & Finance could easily be attributed to a customer first approach, it’s slightly more complex than that. According to Director Nikki Berzin, “anyone who knows me will say that the first thing to know about me is just how organised I am”.
As a one woman band – she has to be. While Nikki takes great pride in her nurturing and soft approach when it comes to the world of mortgages and finance, the other side of Cherry Lending & Finance’s success is the structure, systems and protocols that she has in place in order to keep on top of – and exceed – the expectations of her customers.
In fact, the structured approach has proven to actually work symbiotically with the customer driven methodology of Cherry Lending & Finance. While combining the two, Nikki is better able to help and service her clients by having the paperwork and deadlines taken care of. For example, submitting the appropriate documents not just on time – but ahead of time – helps to speed up the mortgage process for her customers, and get them into their properties faster.
The Cherry Lending & Finance ‘Customer Journey’ forms a core component of this unique strategy, and is a code of ethos that comprises three key stages. The “dream weaving” starting point includes empowering, educating and creating an action plan for customers as to what their ideal mortgage and home looks like. Next up comes the “hand holding” stage, in which Nikki provides structure, guidance, advocacy, transparency and communication for clients as they apply for home loans. Finally, after settlement comes the “next stepping” – support, consistency, collaboration, fostering an ongoing relationship – which is all too uncommon for many other lending providers and institutes.
2. Demonstrate a market-leading/best-practice approach to customer service and how that increases mortgage volumes.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see every day applicants being hit with ‘no’ or ‘you’re not ready’ by a bank or less than reputable broker – without being issued any further advice as to what to do next, or how to improve their financial situation. However, even for those that do make it through to settlement and manage to get the magical tick of approval for a home loan – lending providers will rarely check in with them again a few weeks, months or even years down the track.
At Cherry Lending & Finance, their customer driven approach doesn’t have an expiry date. “We view each and every one of our clients as a long term member of the Cherry Lending & Finance family – and we’re on the financial journey together.”
Instead of washing their hands of a client after they’ve received a pre-approval and in turn a contract of sale, for Cherry Lending & Finance it’s all about the follow up.
They will regularly check in with their clients with questions that are as simple as –
- “How can we stay on the property journey together?”
- “How can we help you buy a second property?”
- “Would you like us to show you what to do next?”
Even on those rare occasions where a customer may not hear the feedback that they had initially hoped for in regards to obtaining a pre-approval, instead of sending them on their way Cherry Lending & Finance actively make a ‘game plan’ for them in order to eventually get approved – or the exact steps that they need to follow for a better outcome. When working with Cherry Lending & Finance, they turn ‘no’s’ into ‘not quite yet, but let’s help you get there.’
3. Highlight innovation in your business and how that has supported business growth.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, in 2016 Nikki began the process of applying to become a firefighter for the Country Fire Authority, Victoria’s leading fire fighting service – and passed. As Nikki’s husband has been in the Victorian Police Force for over two decades, she was already familiar with the responsibilities associated with being an emergency services worker.
However, the call to follow her own path was getting louder, and Nikki knew that her true passion was for numbers. As a result, the blueprint for Cherry Lending & Finance took shape, before launching in 2017.
Nikki quickly realised that there was no ‘one stop shop’ for finance solutions for the emergency services industry. There was no support for mortgages for the tight knit community that is police officers, firefighters and paramedics and their families, who without a doubt faced their own unique challenges when it comes to stress, working hours and finance options.
Thanks to a unique background, specialised policies and procedures and of course, a customer centric focus, over 80% of Cherry Lending & Finance customers are now emergency service workers and their families, with word of mouth being the brand’s primary growth driver.
While many other mortgage broking services would be hesitant to ‘limit’ themselves and niche down to one industry or sector, it has allowed Nikki to focus on one of Victoria’s biggest communities and cater to their unique working environment accordingly.
4. Provide case studies or examples that showcase how they cater for the needs of clients and how that influences business success.
While Nikki has helped countless of applicants get into their first property after being declined elsewhere, it’s also not uncommon for Cherry Lending & Finance to help customers that are tied to mortgage products that were issued to them from other lending institutes, but may not be the most favourable for their own individual circumstances.
One example of this would be a recent client of Nikki’s, who came to Cherry Lending & Finance as an attempt to exit a loan with less than ideal conditions attached. Nikki proceeded to monitor the market, and as soon as the client’s property lifted in value enough to make the swap – Nikki made the refinancing package happen. The clients are now happy Cherry Lending & Finance clients, who even received a cashback offer and a significantly lower interest rate.
By using her significant industry knowledge, customer first approach and more importantly, having the patience and stamina to play the long game with the clients, Nikki was also able to save them paying an additional lender’s mortgage insurance fee via refinancing at the right time. That same client is now on their way to building enough equity to purchase their first investment property, which was significantly sped up thanks to the savings made through a refinancing overhaul.
5. In 25 words or less, please provide a statement on “What is your best piece of career advice?”
Focus on your clients instead of focussing on the numbers, and build on your reputation like it’s your biggest asset – because it is.