Best Regional Broker: Joanne Dillon gets a win at the Better Business Awards

Joanne Dillon of Smartline Roxby Downs has been named the Best Regional Broker at the Better Business Awards in Adelaide for 2018. These annual Better Business Awards recognise excellence among mortgage advisers across 18 different award categories.

As an adviser in a regional area, particularly a mining region, Joanne sees her clients facing extra challenges that don’t typically affect metro areas, making her job more complex but also more rewarding.

“As a mortgage adviser in a regional town, I’ve had to adjust my business to the financial landscape and the needs of my clients,” she says. “I’m proud of what I have achieved and it really was an honour to be recognised for my contribution with this award.

“It’s also great that the industry is recognising the contribution of regional Australia, rather than just focusing on metro areas. There are many people living in regional Australia and there’s a lot of value that we can add to the Australian economy as a whole.”

As a broker in a mining town in a fairly remote area, Joanne has had to adapt and be flexible much more so than an ordinary broker in a regional centre or city.

“I have to evolve as my town changes,” says Joanne. “Change is subtle but ongoing so I have to be really in-tune to borrowers’ needs. I have to diversify my business as the town and the lending landscape changes.”

Much has changed over the course of Joanne’s business. The downturn in the mining sector meant redundancies and financial stress for many residents of Roxby Downs. At the peak of the downturn, Joanne’s business became less about helping people find a new loan, and more about helping people make their financial situation more comfortable.

“I was advising clients how to make most of their income as well as pre-preparing lenders for known redundancies. In many cases I was negotiating a temporary compromise arrangement with lenders to preserve the client-lender relationship and my clients’ credit history. It became more of a repair and encouragement role, rather than a selling role. As a result I think people have become very loyal to me because they can see I’m not trying to sell anything, I just want to help them when they are going through difficult times.”

Since June 2017, as BHP has moved into a growth phase and is expanding the mine again, confidence has returned to Roxby Downs. With an expanding workforce comes job opportunities, guaranteed income, house purchases and investment opportunities and Joanne is adapting her business again.

“My clients have very different time restraints to most people. Many are FIFO workers, they may have 7 days on and 7 days off or have 14 days on and 1 day off. They may live here or live in the cities. So I evolve my business to the needs of the town. I can offer clients finance for purchases in any state as well, so if they are FIFO workers and want to get their home lending sorted while they are here, we can do that.

“I’ve also had to adapt as the industry changes. Banks here are reducing their hours or closing down, so we now provide that face to face relationship that clients need, assisting with personal loans, home loans, investment refinance, financial structure and portfolio strategy.”

Joanne’s experience in the mining industry is crucial to her success. “There are often lending restrictions for borrowers in the mining industry as employment is considered to be more volatile. As a result, it’s essential to understand how the different lenders will assess the various income situations in mining and what products are on offer. My experience and relationships with the lenders means I can help my clients find the most suitable options depending on their circumstances.”

Joanne believes winning the Best Regional Broker Award two years in a row is down to three key things – accessibility, experience and flexibility.

“I make a very conscious effort to create personal connections with clients and to be available whenever necessary to fit in to their schedules. Secondly, over the 30 years I’ve been here, I’ve developed a unique and in-depth knowledge and experience of lending in the mining industry. Finally, my ability to adapt to the evolving landscape of a remote mining town and continue to provide a relevant and honest service to the community is something that makes me extremely proud.”

Joanne also has a small budgeting business that she runs alongside her broking business and the two go hand in hand. She now offers budgeting strategy, money management, future planning, loan servicing advice and even lifestyle advice. “The mining industry can offer great income but it’s fickle. So I help people recognise they need to manage their money well while things are good so they benefit financially in long term, rather than wasting their opportunity.”

“I’ve been in Roxby Downs for almost 30 years so I understand the market, the obstacles, and the different timelines and issues our locals face,” she says. “I moved here in the late 80s when interest rates were at 17%, so I know what financial hardship is. I also know there’s no hole too deep that we can’t build a strategy to work ourselves out of. It may take some big changes, but you never give up. Anything’s possible. It just comes down to how you approach it and how much effort you’re prepared to put in.”

Joanne’s standing in the community is further enhanced by her work with youth, as she talks to teenagers in schools about finance, the cost of living and money in general. She also supports many charities and donates her budgeting services for free.

“Getting your finances right makes such a difference to your long term financial health and happiness. Winning the Best Regional Broker Award made me realise that I am on the right track in achieving my own dream which is helping people achieve financial success.”