Warren Freeman, unlike many mortgage brokers, didn’t start with a financial background. In fact, Warren was working as a full-time school teacher when he decided it was time to venture into a new path.
Raised by only his father, Warren attributes his work ethic to the strong life lessons he was faced to adopt from a young age. As a young boy, Warren was responsible for taking care of himself, ironing his shirts for school, cooking and cleaning and learning firsthand the importance of organisation and preparation.
From the age of 16 years, Warren began working full-time. Putting himself through university, where he completed a teaching degree to become a primary school teacher. During his time at university, he met a girl and only six weeks later they had bought their first property together. Over 30 years later, they’re still happily married with two grown adult children.
It's all in the name
Growing tired of the politics within the education sector and seeing his passion for teaching begin to diminish, Warren decided it was time for something new. Having a real passion for helping people and a dream of becoming a business owner, Warren ventured into the finance industry and joined a broking group.
Then, in 2005 Warren decided it was time to go out on his own and start his business. On Warren’s last day of teaching, one of his Aboriginal primary school students gave him Cathy Freeman’s autobiography. After reading Cathy’s story, Warren said he was inspired by her life and her unparalleled drive and ambition to succeed in the face of adversity.
Cathy Freeman is known to have the words ‘Cos Im Free’ tattooed on her shoulder. This is a respectful nod to Aboriginal musician and artist, Christine Anu and her popular song ‘Cause I’m Free’.
“After reading Cathy’s autobiography and learning the sentiments behind the words ‘Cos Im Free’ I was really inspired by it all and that’s where the idea of COSIMFREE Home loans really stemmed from”.
From the classroom to the boardroom
Warren believes there are definitely similarities between teaching and being a mortgage broker. He says,
“The important skills in teaching are also important in broking, educating and the development of relationships such as trust and the aspect of being able to nurture”.
It was a combination of factors which led Warren to become a broker. When Warren was a teacher in the classroom, he was noticing how regimented the classroom structure had become and how accountability was everything.
“Everything became about checklists and being compliant. It stopped being about listening and interacting with the children and being able to have that spontaneity in teaching to it becoming just a process and ticking off a checklist. It was at this point my love for teaching started to wane and my love for mortgage broking was really taking over”.
25 years a broker
Warren believes the skills he acquired as a teacher were quite transferrable as he ventured into a new industry. Warren has been a mortgage broker now for 25 years and has been a business owner for 15 of those of years.
“Having not come from a banking background like a lot of mortgage brokers, I really believe I was seeing the industry through different eyes. From day one, this business has been built on putting the customer first and there are countless examples of where I have done wrong by myself and my own family because it was in the best interest of the client”.
Warren, today for PLAN Australia, is currently becoming number one in their volumes settled since 1 July 2019.
“I’m proud of the fact we have achieved that milestone without having to do any advertising – we run completely off referrals”.
It’s clear Warren has found his niche and passion in the industry and his numbers prove this. Though it has not been without sacrifice and compromise and completely dedicating his life to his clients, whom Warren truly goes above and beyond for.
From loan appointments at all times of the day and night including 8:00PM appointments on a Sunday evening, even when it’s the last thing he feels like doing, Warren will do it for his clients.
I’ve had clients call me at midnight when I’m asleep next to my wife because they’re anxious about whether their loan application will go through.
I’ve come home at midnight and my wife has made me dinner when I’ve been late home after a night of loan appointments, there has even been nights where I’ve ended up just sleeping in the office.
It's no easy feat being a broker
Warren’s advice to new brokers or anyone looking to enter the industry, is simply put, be prepared for hard work.
Being a mortgage broker is not easy, you require an incredibly diverse range of skills from being able to communicate clearly, have strong mathematical skills, be able to multitask with the various duties you need to work on each day.
Don’t be kidded into thinking there are customers waiting outside your door, you need to go out and look for clients and you need to be bold and confident and tell everyone what it is you have to offer.
When first starting out, Warren watched what the successful brokers were doing and wasn’t afraid to ask them questions and learn from them. Not giving in, not matter how hard the journey was is clear as to why Warren has had such great success with his business and his clients.
“If you can consistently perform, it will only get easier, not harder. If you’re looking to go out on your own, my biggest advice is to prepare. Prepare for over 6 months before you do it. I didn’t prepare and it was incredibly difficult”.
A genuine care for clients
When asked if there were any stories where Warren had gone outside the norm to help a client, there were many examples. One of which truly shows the genuine care Warren has for his clients.
“I had to go and talk to a Sheriff and ask him to please leave a female client’s house because we were only moments away from the formal approval for refinancing so she could keep her home. This was right before Christmas and when she had no money to buy Christmas presents because her loan hadn’t fully settled yet, I gave her $500 from my own personal bank account so she could buy her children Christmas presents”.
What’s more, Warren says there is many a photo his family have taken of him, on family vacations where he’s got his phone to his ear, trying to work things out for his clients. It’s clear to see the dedication Warren has for his business and of course his clients.
“There is so much I am proud of, the fact I can support 8 employees here by paying their salaries – it’s a lot of responsibility but there’s a lot of pride to know I have created 8 jobs. Although, one of the things I am most proud of, which tops all that has happened throughout my career, is just walking down the streets of Geelong and having so many members of the community wave and say hello to me and knowing in some way or another, I am making a difference in their lives, it’s truly wonderful”.
Warren became authorised with ALI Group in 2005 and since then has protected 226 of his valued clients with My Protection Plan. Though, Warren admits, the journey with MPP hasn’t always been easy and can understand some of the challenges for sole traders who want to offer to their clients, but simply don’t have the time.
I had a great belief in ALI Group and My Protection Plan from the very beginning. Although, my attention was diverted when I was sole operating my business. I did find though, when I was able to employ support staff, it freed up a lot of time and it meant I was able to focus on making this an important part of my process once more.
Unfortunately, 2019 was a traumatic year for Warren’s clients having a real need for protection and some of them not having anything in place to see them through financial hardship.
“We spent many, many months helping a young couple buy their land and build their home. We became very friendly with them and the female applicant left a lovely review on our COSIMFREE Facebook page, then one day last year she rang very teary to see if we had a copy of her birth certificate and when I asked what was wrong, she said her cancer had returned and she was terminal. She passed away just 7 days later”.
“Seeing first-hand what happens when you don’t have that protection in place, it has certainly steeled my resolve to promote the need for protection, now more than ever”.
For Warren and the team at COSIMFREE Home loans, a lot of their client base are young people and a common misconception they hear is “nothing bad will happen to me, I’m too young” but as Warren and the team have now experienced first-hand, age is no barrier to unforeseen circumstances.
“It’s great to be able to protect our clients with My Protection Plan. I never want to see one of my clients lose their partner and then lose their home, too”.
The MPP process
The team at COSIMFREE Home loans have a two to three touch point process where MPP is brought into the conversation. It is through years of making MPP an integral part of the process, that the team have found a process which works for them.
“When we are looking at assets or liabilities, we talk to the client about MPP. I regularly use the stationery ALI Group provides and include these in the information packs we give to all of our clients. My team member, Alice is dedicated to doing the loan contracts with every client and it’s during this appointment that we focus on the importance of having protection. We have found during the loan doc sign up, the client can really grasp how real the financial investment is and they start to think about what could happen if they are unable to make those mortgage repayments. We also talk to the client about Extra Benefits and how by using the EB portal, they are able to offset the cost of their premiums”.