(This article was written by Jeff Thomas and reprinted by permission of the American Cash Flow Association from the January 1999 issue of the American Cash Flow Journal.)
Fred Rewey. Tracy Z. Do these names sound familiar? If you’re a regular in the industry, they should. You may recognize Tracy from her role as editor of the Cash Flow Connection. She was at Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities from 1988 to 1997, most recently as vice president and national production executive. Tracy developed the BrokerNet™ software program for brokers.
Fred, an Oxford attendee whose cash flow beginnings started with his ownership of Take Note Investments, working with Jon Richards and later Judy Miller, has recently added the role of visiting instructor for the American Cash Flow Institute to his list of credits. He also was a vice president at Metropolitan from 1995 to 1998, among other things developing and maintaining the second release of BrokerNet™ after Tracy left in 1997.
It was at Metro that the two met. Now they’re husband and wife, and more relevant to this story, the owners of Diversified Investment Services, Inc. (DIS) in Spokane Washington.
Tracy Z left Metropolitan about a year and a half ago and it wasn’t long before she found herself in a Master-Brokering role. “Before we only did Master Brokering by word of mouth,” she says. “We were a smaller shop then, and we did quite a bit of consulting work in addition to buying for our personal account.”
Brokers would come to her with deals they didn’t want to process or deals they felt could be a risk. She states, “Now, so we can take on more business and be prepared to give that service, we’ve added staff members, and Fred’s come onboard. We have a senior closer that used to be with Metropolitan too. She’s been in the business for eight years, and she’s a really good processor. We feel like we’re prepared to take on more business.”
Looking at deals from both sides of the industry
Although Fred Rewey and Tracy Z have considerable experience brokering notes, anyone looking for a Master Broker shouldn’t forget that both held officer positions with the largest institutional buyer of private mortgages. “We’ve seen a lot of what’s out there,” states Rewey. “What’s unique is that we came from the funding side of it.”
Tracy continues. “We’ve watched the industry grow. I’ve been in it for over 10 years, and there are many brokers I’ve worked with through the years that now are top producers. It’s great to see,” she says. “When the companies we worked with got bigger and bigger, we got away from helping those who are new in the business. And so we want to get back to those roots and give them the benefit of our knowledge and expertise and let them learn along the way.”
Master Brokers are typically in place to be a co-broker rather than a mentor. And as the deal unfolds, the Master Broker lets the broker know what he or she did and why. The process is usually very hands-off. And all knowledge comes from seeing how the Master Broker handles the deal. In general, brokers don’t call a Master Broker until a deal is in place.
DIS takes a slightly different approach to the Master Broker relationship. Fred explains, “We’re probably more open than some [Master Brokers]. I’ll help somebody with a brochure or talk to them about their marketing and things like that.”
One way DIS helps the broker get hands-on experience is through the use of conference calls. “If they want to listen to us negotiate with a seller so that next time maybe they can do it, we can get on a three-way conference call because we have that technology,” states Z. “They can introduce us as the underwriter who wants to ask a few questions. We’re very open to setting it up so they can learn from the process and advance in their knowledge.”
Rewey adds, “We’re not looking for one deal where they send it in and we take our spread. We’re looking to develop relationships.”
For new brokers, there are many advantages to the Master Broker system. Because of their experience, Master Brokers bring a wealth of information and experience to the table including the following:
- The ability to qualify or disqualify a deal quickly
- Experience using different structuring techniques
- The ability to process a deal quickly
- Experience in negotiating fees
- The ability to get the deal closed without mistakes
- The ability to get it done, period – especially in tricky situations
Since a new broker may not yet have the experience to handle a deal as well as a seasoned Master Broker, he or she can take advantage of handing off the deal. There are a couple of reasons why: First, the broker gets the chance to watch an industry professional in action – someone who’s really good at what they do. It’s real experience that cannot be recreated in a training environment. Second, the broker receives part of the commission but without having to perform the work of processing and closing the deal.
The benefit of advanced funding
DIS primarily purchases notes for its own account. The notes are held for long-term investment or future resale in large portfolios. However, to take advantage of volume and pricing incentives, DIS also brokers transactions. When they do (also as in the case of a co-brokering situation), they use their own funds to provide a quick closing. DIS calls it the Advanced Funding program.
“We cut a lot of time off because we are the decision-makers,” says Tracy Z. “We’re using funds in our own credit lines, so we can pull the trigger when we think the deal is ready. All our deals – unless it’s an excessively-large commercial deal or something outside of our normal appetite – we fund ourselves.”
Rewey summarizes, “They get the benefit of having a mentor, but they don’t lose the benefit of being direct with someone who can make decisions and fund rapidly.”
Options for brokers
Diversified Investment Services will work with brokers in one of two ways, depending on the broker’s preference. One is a referral program. The other is a submission program.
Predetermined fee. If the brokers prefer, DIS will work with them before the deal to set a mutually acceptable fee – typically $1,000 to $1,500. Then DIS will negotiate the deal for the broker.
Negotiate your own deal. DIS will offer what they are willing to pay for the deal, and the broker can then negotiate something less to pay the seller.
“We’re pretty flexible,” Rewey states. “We can have a set amount if they want us to work the deal. Or it could be a split or better. There are certainly plenty of deals where they make more than we do. Whatever they need.”
Consulting – without the price tag
“We provide advanced consulting services for some of the more well-known investors out there. And we charge a fairly hefty fee for that,” states Z. She offers this expertise to brokers as well. “The people that come to us as Master Brokers get the benefit of that consulting service without any cost to them; they get it just because they sent us a deal.”
Fred Rewey and Tracy Z have over 15 years of combined industry experience. From start-up note broker to corporate officers for the nation’s largest note buyer, their experience covers all aspects of marketing, closing, underwriting, and servicing cash flow instruments. However, more impressive than their success is their willingness to share the knowledge that helped them achieve the position they hold in the industry.
Tracy Z states, “If they’re committed to bringing us business down the line when it works, then we’re dedicated to helping them find that business.”
Diversified Investment Services, Inc. is a note investment company created by Fred Rewey and Tracy Z in 1997. In addition to marketing and purchasing notes for its own account, DIS also works with brokers providing consulting, closing, and training services.