ANZ’s decision to launch a first-of-its-kind Home Loan Centre in Sydney goes to show that shopfronts still send a powerful message to customers.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t just another bank branch. It’s a shop that sells home loans. There’s no doubt that ANZ has carefully considered the benefits of opening up a dedicated store for this purpose in the heart of western Sydney.

The store is located in Westfield Parramatta, which will be a hive of activity over the Christmas period as families flock to take advantage of the post-Christmas sales. As they walk through the shopping centre they will come across ANZ’s shiny new store fitted out like a home, which sells home loans, and is manned by a team of home loan specialists.

The major bank has made no secret about its desire to gain a greater share of the NSW mortgage market. It’s the biggest economy in the country, and one where ANZ has been underweight in home loans.

It will be interesting to see just how effective a retail presence can be in delivering volumes.

According to Loan Market chairman Sam White, ANZ’s strategy reinforces the fact a physical presence is important, and that being local is important.

“Being able to be accessed and have people come in and talk in their own time without feeling like they've got to queue up or be a number or get rushed out, I think that's going to become more and more important,” Mr White said.

“The challenge I think for the lenders is that if you're going to an ANZ Home Loan Centre you're probably going to talk about ANZ and the information you're going to get is going to be from an ANZ point of view.

“That is, I think, one of the real opportunities - how do you take that experience that a bank has but make it a multi-bank lending centre?”

Mr White doesn’t believe ANZ’s move will have a huge impact on brokers, but said brokers can learn from the investments banks are making in the customer experience.

“How do we replicate that? How do we provide that? How do we keep improving our value proposition to consumers?

“I think that's going to be critical moving forward for everybody,” he said.

The news was met with mixed reactions from the broking community.

Firstpoint Mortgage Brokers director Troy Phillips told The Adviser he was not surprised to hear of the move by ANZ, saying it’s only a matter of time before the other majors follow suit.

“I think it’s just the start of a bit of a push towards retailing and what a branch needs to look like in the future and how it needs to interact with the community,” he said.

Mr Phillips added that while the new centre presents direct competition to brokers, especially those who operate in western Sydney, it gives them the opportunity to further their service proposition.

“It’s direct competition, there’s no doubt about that, but you’ve got to get used to that,” he said.

“I think after Christmas they need to be ringing all their clients, getting in touch with them and getting a feel for what they’re going to do.”

Parramatta-based broker Robert Spooner of eChoice Home Loans said he's not concerned about the new ANZ Home Loan Centre having an impact on his customer numbers.

“People still have a preference of getting [brokers] to go into their home and discuss what the 20-odd other lenders are doing, whereas if they go to the ANZ centre it’s only about the ANZ products they’re offering,” he said.

“I personally can’t see much of a threat when I think about it because people do like to shop around and get comparisons. They like to know what else is out there.”

Meanwhile, Vow Financial chief executive officer Tim Brown said while the new centre is a “positive move” for ANZ, he doesn’t believe it will be able to compete with the broker proposition.

“Obviously they’re losing market share to brokers and they have to make changes, but I’m not sure whether that’s going to help,” he said.

“I get the feeling that what customers are looking for is choice, and banks still can’t offer that.

“If anything, I think it’s probably trying to build a defence but I think it’s all a bit too late.”

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