As well as being a good way to keep up to date with the latest industry trends, I always find third-party education events to be a useful way to catch up with brokers informally and get a sense of some of the hot topics and challenges they are facing today.
At a recent event, one challenge in particular seemed to come up time and time again, and that was around engaging with what is becoming an increasingly younger client base. It’s a situation that brokers are finding themselves in more often as their ageing clients – who have gone beyond retirement planning and are no longer in need of advice themselves – are referring their children for financial advice instead.
While customer advocacy is indeed a positive thing and testament to the great work brokers have done with these clients so far, what brokers are finding is that their clients’ children have different concerns, expectations and ways of interacting compared to their parents’ generation.
From what I can see, many brokers are having trouble connecting with this younger demographic, so what’s the best way to get cut-through? It’s a question that you would do well to ask yourself when it comes to succession planning, and look to move beyond simply providing a service to really building a sustainable business.
1. Focus on relationship skills, not credit skills
The ability to understand credit may have been a prerequisite for mortgage brokers a few years ago but it’s not any more. With the right analytics and automation, credit software can do all the hard work for you, which leaves room to focus on more important skills – namely the ability to build and develop long-term relationships with your clients.
Many clients these days are comfortable doing a lot of the work themselves and are looking to their broker to perform the role of mentor or coach – validating their decisions rather than doing the work for them. You need to take it one step further and almost segment your loan writers and support staff to match your client base so that there is real affinity and understanding on both sides. Match age and skill set so that your people grow old with their customers.
2. Hire outside the industry
If you want to hire someone who is going to think differently, then there’s no point in hiring within the industry. Instead, you need to attract new blood from other industries. Look at the talent on offer in professional services, for example, and consider what value they can add. A fresh approach can make all the difference when you’re looking to distinguish yourself from the competition and position yourself as a forward-thinking intermediary that truly understands their clients.
3. Nurture a digital presence
Gen Y has grown up on social media and relies more on peer recommendations and online reviews as opposed to the traditional advertising mix favoured by their parents. From a broker’s perspective, maintaining an online presence is now becoming less of an optional extra and more of a ‘must have’ if you want to resonate with a younger audience.
Image is also important; there’s no point carrying an old analogue phone rather than a smartphone if you want to build confidence that you’re on the same wavelength with your younger clients. They want to know that they can interact with you online and have immediate updates. The challenge here is to remain up to date and relevant with the evolving nature of digital.
That said, on the positive side, I’m seeing brokers start to use video on YouTube to highlight their thought leadership and offering Skype calls for busy clients on the go.
4. Develop and diversify
Recruiting the next generation of brokers offers fantastic opportunities for reverse mentoring; there’s a lot you can learn from new recruits to the industry. Tech-savvy digital natives will be at home online and on social media, and know how it works. Businesses need to evolve, so let others step up and take the lead in these areas.
Experienced brokers in return can add value around dealing with the challenges involved in being a third-party intermediary, such as trouble-shooting and how you manage when things go wrong.
Diversify your skills and diversify your knowledge by keeping up with business trends, not just here in Australia but also overseas. Actively search for different ways of doing things, and look at how you can apply trends from other industries as well as other countries to make a point of difference.
It’s understandable to be apprehensive of change, but you can still maintain a legacy without losing sight of opportunities. Ultimately, you need to make sure your business is sustainable, your approach has longevity, and most importantly that your customers see value in dealing with you, not just now but well into their financial lifecycle.
Mark joined ING DIRECT in 2000 as a relationship manager where his passion for service quickly led him to a senior leadership position.
Mark held the roles of head of direct mortgages, NSW state manager for brokers and head of partnerships for brokers before being appointed head of broker distribution in 2011 and more recently as head of third-party distribution in October 2012.
Mark brings a true sense of energy and drive to the team, focusing on developing the skills of his team and strengthening their rapport with brokers and planners. Mark’s ultimate objective is to ensure ING DIRECT remains the market leader in all areas of third-party service delivery.
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