Liz de Mink, founder, and owner of De Mink Property Finance, celebrates 27 years as a mortgage originator, winning a MortgageMax Industry Legend Award in 2022.
Liz has seen it all, having witnessed the industry grow from small beginnings into a multi-billion Rand sector and has been there to observe its many milestones, including when the prime lending rate catapulted to a staggering 25,5% in 1998 and when it decreased to an all-time low of just 7% in 2020. But Liz has not just watched history play out, she’s also helped to shape it and was hugely instrumental in writing the first chapter of the mortgage origination story in South Africa.
Throughout her career, Liz has remained stubbornly committed to one thing: never compromising on the quality of the service she gives her clients. This philosophy, together with her no-nonsense approach which ensures the very best offers for her clients, has contributed to her continued success and earned her boutique operation a fiercely loyal support base, with clients returning time after time and referring their friends, relatives and, colleagues.
We chatted to Liz recently about her years in the industry, the secret to outstanding client service, and what it takes to make it as a bond originator – advice that anyone considering a career in our industry would be wise to take on board, given the phenomenal success that Liz and De Mink Property Finance have achieved. Here’s what she had to say.
You played an important role in the history of our industry. Can you tell us more about it?
Around the end of 1995, visionaries within Seeff Property Group had begun to consider the idea of mortgage origination, a concept with roots in the US. At the time, I was one of Seeff’s top-selling estate agents in the Western Cape, working mainly in the small Cape Town suburb of Parow West. In search of a new challenge, I accepted a position at Seeff Home Loans in 1996 and began processing loans referred by the business’ estate agents.
At first, people were unsure of the change. Back then, customers would typically approach the local branch of their bank directly for property finance. Now, we were asking them to fax all their personal information, proof of income, and other financial documentation to a stranger at the end of a telephone line! What’s more, nobody had heard of mortgage origination and very few people were familiar with Boland Bank which had partnered with Seeff to become the first financial institution to back this new industry.
Fortunately, clients were soon won over by the relative ease of the operation and the very favourable rates being offered by Boland Bank. I played a part in that success by helping to solve many of the teething issues experienced in the early days and winning clients over to the wonderful world of mortgage origination!
What prompted you to start your own business?
When I decided to branch out on my own, I was working for one of the larger companies in the mortgage origination space and that added a layer of bureaucracy I had not previously experienced in my career. When I began to feel that this situation was impacting the level of service I was able to offer my clients, I knew something had to give. My dedication to quality eventually pushed me to leave and work as an independent originator through a small aggregator to maintain the level of service I believe that every one of my clients deserves.
What is your greatest strength as a bond originator?
My tenacity! My single-minded commitment to prioritising my clients’ home loan needs is what ultimately resulted in my helping to create the systems and criteria that the banks use today to assess freelance workers. I’ve always had many freelancers on my books – film producers, directors, costume designers, artists, musicians, actors, and the like – who are high-income earners, but were previously deemed to be high-risk individuals. As they were not permanently employed and did not earn a fixed monthly salary, proving affordability for a home loan was difficult and the banks were reluctant to give them credit.
I recall one client in particular, a freelance film director who had enjoyed a consistent income over many years, but who was still unable to secure a home loan. I just couldn’t accept the status quo and was determined to do something to change it.
After discussing the situation with Credit Managers at several banks, I realised that where freelancers were concerned, proof of income would simply have to be presented in a way that clearly illustrated affordability and consistency of income. And so, I set about putting together the documents for my client in a formulation that would be accepted by the banks. Happily, her application was approved and she referred many more freelancers to De Mink Property Finance in the years that followed. Today more than 80% of my clients are freelancers and 99% of all my freelance applications are approved!
What is the secret to outstanding client service?
I’ve always remained committed to delivering unrivalled levels of service and honesty. I often spend many months (years, if necessary) helping my clients become home-loan ready and I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. What matters most is that my clients make informed decisions and are prepared for the enormous, long-term financial commitment they’re taking on when purchasing property and applying for a home loan – this is even more important with the country and economy facing a renewed period of uncertainty.
What advice would you give to someone starting as a bond originator?
Firstly, the customer is king. After that, it’s crucial that you know your bank products, keep abreast of any changes made by the banks, and always give the customer the correct information – if you don’t know, tell the customer you’ll find out. And finally, treat every application as if it is the most important one you’ve ever submitted – irrespective of the size of the loan or the amount of commission you’ll earn!