Client Story: Homeward FinanceOctober 6, 2021
Ten years ago, after a 20-year career in the banking industry, Steve Villios opened a RAMS (Registered Australian Mortgage Securities) franchise. He began as a sole operator working from home, but the business quickly grew and he opened two offices in Unley and Mount Barker, expanded the company to a team of 15 employees and became the biggest volume RAMS office for South Australia/Northern Territories/Western Australia every year.
Clearly, the company had remarkable success, but as with most start-ups, the journey wasn’t smooth sailing all the way.
“The biggest challenge my business had to overcome was the impact of the Royal Commission and the legislative changes that those brought to the industry,” says Steve.
Last year, in the middle of COVID, the franchisor (Westpac) informed all franchisees that they could no longer act as mortgage brokers and could only offer the RAMS product due to the new Best Interest Duty legislation.
“This change would have completely destroyed my business, as we specialise in construction loans for first-time home buyers, and you need lots of lenders to be able to deliver,” explains Steve. “As a result, I had to part ways with [RAMS] and create a new brand: Homeward Finance. Fortunately, the first 12 months of the new company have been our most successful yet, so it was the best thing we could have done.”
Today, Homeward Finance assists customers with loans for homes, home construction, investments, cars and more, as well as with mortgage refinancing and debt consolidation.
Keys to success
The biggest key to all of this success? Steve says that without question, it’s his team.
“To have happy customers and referrers, you must have amazing people who deliver exceptional service,” he states. “It’s rare that we lose people from our company because we have such a great culture. We’re a high-performing team, but we know how to have fun along the way, too.”
When asked about his advice for other new business owners, Steve says, “Only recruit the best people, have clear performance objectives and manage your staff to work towards those goals.”
Oreon’s role in the business journey
Steve is a long-term individual client of Ben Reynolds and moved over to Oreon when Ben joined the firm. When Steve started his company, he became a business client, too.
Ben, Annabel Johnson and the Oreon team have continued to support Steve as his business has grown. In addition to assisting with cashflows and projections to work with bank funding as the business has grown, they’ve offered advice in the areas of asset purchases, GST and overall business structuring.
Most importantly, Oreon helped Steve make the transition over to XERO software and ensure that all the financial record keeping has kept up with the growth of the business.
“The XERO conversion has changed the way we as accountants can advise clients, because we have financial information on a real-time basis now,” says Annabel. “We’ve also been able to provide advice on what the best systems and apps are to link back in with XERO.”
“Oreon has been with me the whole way, and they’ve been amazing,” notes Steve. “I had never been self-employed before I started the RAMS franchise, so the Oreon team have been instrumental in helping me set up the right business and trust structures and supporting me with Xero. As my business has grown, they’ve assisted me in setting up new companies and with tax planning.
They always provide great advice. I’ve referred many customers to Oreon, and they’ve referred customers to me, too,” says Steve.
Future of the business
In the future, Steve hopes to continue to grow his company and help all of his brokers become more successful.
“My brokers already settle significantly higher volumes than the industry average because we have a large team of admin staff supporting them,” he explains. “I also plan to open two more offices over the next two years – a northern and southern office – so that we’re never too far away for our clients and referrers.”
To learn more about Homeward Finance, visit their website.