NAB’s executive general manager, Growth Partnerships, Antony Cahill, talks to The Adviser about the lender’s broker proposition and the future of the third party distribution channel
ANTONY CAHILL was always keen to travel.
NAB’s executive general manager, Growth Partnerships, who grew up in the UK’s Midlands, initially nurtured dreams of becoming an air force pilot – “I was flying planes before I could drive a car,” he says. “I had a scholarship with the air force and wanted to see the world.”
Mr Cahill eventually took the “sensible life path”, however, and completed a science degree at England’s Loughborough University.
But the hunger for travel was still there: “I knew I didn’t want to live in the United Kingdom, I wanted to live in Australia,” he says, and so armed with his degree and a dream of living Down Under, he set off for the other side of the world.
FORAY INTO FINANCE
After arriving in Australia, Mr Cahill secured a position at ANZ following a consulting assignment. It was there, in 1999, that he was first introduced to the third party distribution channel.
His career path at ANZ was “varied”: “I worked across many different areas of the business,” he says. “I worked in mergers and acquisitions, then the wealth space and the retail space, which involved dealing primarily with third party and wholesale lending.
“During my last three years at ANZ, I worked in institutional banking.”
After an extremely broad introduction to the Australian finance sector, Mr Cahill says he was particularly drawn to the mortgage industry, and in particular third party lending.
“It was very clear to me that third party lending was a core part of the Australian mortgage market,” he says.
“Australian lenders embrace the third party channel and understand its importance. It is certainly a critical channel for National Australia Bank.”
In fact, it was NAB’s commitment to growth in its third party distribution channel that attracted him to his role – which he took up in October 2010 – in the first place.
“I had 11 interviews,” he recalls. “During all of the interviews, it became abundantly clear to me that NAB saw the broking business as critical to its overall success as a business.
“I knew this role was going to be the right fit for me.”
Growth Partnerships is a division of NAB Personal Banking that brings together a number of businesses providing products and services to the mortgage broking industry – NAB Broker, Advantedge Lending and Avantedge Broker Platforms.
Since taking up the position, Mr Cahill has invested in every aspect of the Growth Partnerships business, seeking to enhance the broker proposition and continue to grow the business.
BACKING THE BROKER
One initiative championed by Cahill was an industry first by a major lender to include brokers in the “call to action” in NAB’s TV advertisements, promoting the broker as being as important as the banker in the eyes of the customer. So, why did he do it?
“At NAB, we understand that Australian’s are choosing the services of a broker, now more so than ever, and we want to support that,” he says.
Mr Cahill expects the broker channel to continue to grow in size, with brokers eventually writing more than a 50 per cent share of the mortgage market.
“I believe the broker share of the mortgage market will continue to grow and I think there are a number of reasons for that,” he says. “The first is regulation. Regulation and licensing has enhanced the broker profession and improved the overall professionalism of the sector.
“Secondly, competition between Australia’s lenders is currently running hot, and NAB is encouraging borrowers to seek financial guidance and support from an independent third party.
“Brokers are ideally placed to provide guidance – they can add value and really help customers navigate the complexity of the mortgage maze.”
And Mr Cahill believes that as time goes by, consumers will turn to their broker for more than help with their home loan. Gradually, they will come to see their broker as an adviser – someone who can help them with all their financial needs and goals.
A CHANGING ROLE
Just as consumers look for more than mortgage advice, so it is up to the broker to evolve beyond home loan transactions, Mr Cahill says.
“I truly believe the channel will continue to evolve,” he says. “We will start to see brokers selling more products. While they will stick to selling mortgages predominantly, I think it will get to a point where the industry will be forced to move beyond mortgages alone.”
And as the needs of consumers evolve and the role of the broker grows, NAB is keen to evolve as well, Mr Cahill says.
The bank aims to support and foster broker, client relationships through continued investment in its service, software platforms and channel relationships.
“We have made monumental strides across all parts of the NAB Broker and Homeside businesses in the last 12 to 24 months,” he says.
“Eighteen months ago, we knew our servicing and turnaround times were not where we needed them to be. Today, we are very much in the game and, in many instances, can offer quicker service than many of our major competitors.
“We overhauled the way we do business with our brokers to cut down on the time it takes to process a loan as well as the number of times a loan needs to be worked on.
“We have educated all of our support staff to pick up the phone and talk directly with brokers. We want to keep our brokers informed throughout the whole process.”
Mr Cahill says the lender has also refreshed the Homeside brand, strengthening the visual link to NAB. “The new visual ID for Homeside really leverages the power of the NAB brand and supports brokers in their client conversations.
“At the end of the day, we understand that if we want brokers to have confidence in us and our service, then we have to be consistent.
“Consistency really is the key to success.”
THE ROAD AHEAD
While NAB Broker and Homeside have certainly made some significant progress, Mr Cahill says he is far from complacent.
The executive general manager understands there is still a lot of work to be done if NAB Broker is to become lender of choice for brokers and their clients – which is why the lender is continuing to invest in all aspects of the Growth Partnerships business.
“Moving forward, we want all brokers to have access to a quality and consistent service experience and we will continue to make further enhancements to deliver on that promise.
“In addition, we are investing in the professional development of our BDM and broker support teams and have put more specialists in place to support our broker partners.”
NAB also plans to run technical sessions over the coming months to help brokers not only survive, but to prosper in the new lending landscape.
“We want to help brokers come to terms with what is required of them under NCCP. We also want to help them grow their business and their bottom line in their core lending business and broader solutions beyond mortgages,” Mr Cahill says.
NAB Broker and Homeside remain key parts of NAB’s proposition.
“At the end of the day, Homeside as a proposition is very different to what it was two or three years ago. We see significant opportunity for brokers that haven’t used us in a while. We are working hard to reactivate those relationships and ensure brokers are really aware of what we can offer them now.
“To all those brokers that haven’t used Homeside in a while, I encourage them to try us out – give us a go. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised.”