Finance

Ian Thorpe dives into mortgage market as brokers scramble to diversify

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Former swimming champion Ian Thorpe has emerged as an investor in a new online mortgage business, just as one of Australia’s biggest mortgage brokers ramps up its expansion into commercial and personal lending.

Former swimming champion Ian Thorpe has emerged as an investor in a new online mortgage business, just as one of Australia’s biggest mortgage brokers ramps up its expansion into commercial and personal lending.

Thorpe’s new site, called Ziggybid, allows lenders to bid for the right to lend to site users. Potential borrowers list their details with Ziggybid (including the type of loan they want and some financial information about their income and expenses) and then set a timeframe of one to five days, by which time lenders must submit their bids.

“You then get to pick from the best rate or the best service, because we also rate each lender on a customer service basis – usually about how quickly the lender will approve loans and the feedback we get from other borrowers – just like eBay,” Thorpe said in a statement.

So far 15 lenders have signed up to the site, including the big four banks.

The site was created by Glenn Spratt, one of the founders of Wizard Home Loans. Management will include Ross Berglund and Michael McKelvie, who worked with Spratt at another mortgage business, Mortgageport.

But the launch of Thorpe’s business comes as mortgage brokers are scrambling to diversify away from their reliance on home loans.

One of Australia’s biggest mortgage broking chains, Mortgage Choice, has begun expanding its presence in the commercial and personal loans market as the housing downturn continues.

“Participating franchisees have begun to offer personal loans, and we have two lenders on that panel so far – St George Bank and GE Money. Again, we’re continually looking at opportunities to increase the number of providers,” Mortgage Choice chief executive Paul Lahiff says.

The company is also in the process of finalising a panel of equipment finance providers, with Macquarie the only lender on the panel so far. It is also in negotiations with a provider of lease bonds for commercial premises.

Mortgage Choice remains the subject of takeover speculation after financial planning group Count Financial grabbed a 15% stake in the company earlier this year.

But Lahiff used yesterday’s Mortgage Choice annual general meeting to refute claims from Count that the company’s mortgages are under pressure.

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