The banking and financial services royal commission has dealt a blow to the broking industry on a professional and emotional level. Here are some key pieces of advice on coping with the fallout from the royal commission.
On Monday afternoon, the final report from the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was released, quickly followed by the government response which outlined that it would be implementing all 76 recommendations in one form or another.
The changes to the way brokers are paid – from the ban on trail commissions next year to a review on removing upfront commissions and moving to a borrower-pays remuneration structure in three years’ time – has caused widespread anger, despondency and frustration in the broker channel.
But as well as anger, many brokers have been voicing feelings of anxiety and depression.
Now, more than ever, ensuring that we band together as a community, check in on one another and talk about our frustrations and challenges is key, says Tracy Kearey, broker and managing director of Home Loan Connexion.
Ms Kearey, who has launched her own health and wellbeing program at her brokerage and has been supporting brokers through this difficult time, told The Adviser: “Many of us find coping with change difficult and challenging. The thought of having to adjust from our current path can bring on feelings of anxiety and elevated stress levels and sadly this can lead to poor mental health outcomes.”
“It’s important when feeling overwhelmed by changes to our current environment that we connect with others. It’s within these supportive networks that we can share our concerns, debrief and strategise the best way forward.
“Connecting and speaking to others who either share our challenges or have empathy with them ensures we do not isolate ourselves, lose perspective and manifest problems that don’t exist,” Ms Kearey said.
She concluded: “In the end, regardless of the perceived challenges faced by the mortgage and finance industry following the royal commission report there is always a way forward and a bright future ahead.
“As I always say, a problem shared is a problem halved”.
Engaging in self-care
Dr Rebecca Michalak, the principal of workplace consulting and research firm PyschSafe, said the possibility of changing employment status or conditions can be distressful, as is the uncertainty that often precedes such life events.
“It is important that those working in affiliated professions recognise the potential for their mental health to be impacted and take proactive steps to engage in self-care,” she said.
“A strong network of colleagues, friends and family, accessing available resources including Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) – which typically offer both career and financial counselling in addition to psychological support services – and maintaining healthy diet, exercise and sleep habits will be beneficial,” she said.
It is also vital to pause, she added, to avoid unnecessary, premature and unhelpful catastrophising of the situation – especially in these very early days following the release of the final report from the banking royal commission, when the nature and extent of any required change is not yet clearly defined.
“We are but 48 hours out from the findings being released – while industry change is afoot and it is wise to acknowledge this to be the case, these changes certainly won’t happen overnight – providing time to prepare, plan and pursue responses that best serve your individual and career interests,” she said.
R U OK? Day director Graeme Cowan said that when we are under stress – especially and including in the wake of such workplace changes – it is more important than ever to prioritise self-care.
“Be self-compassionate during this period,” he advised, before outlining a series of ways to go about this.
“Have a 45-minute walk – or equivalent – each day (preferably in nature). Anyone can fit this in before or after work, or at lunch time,” he said.
“Every hour (set the timer on your phone or watch) take time for five deep breathes. Close your eyes… in for five seconds, hold for five seconds, out for five seconds. Focus only on the breath. Breath is life and being mindful during this exercise can provide peace and perspective,” he suggested.
“And catch up in-person with someone you trust and whose advice you value and respect – send a text or private message to set up a time now. Explain what you are experiencing. Ask their advice.”
If unhealthy stress continues – something which is often indicated, for example, by poor or little sleep for more than four days in a row – then it would be necessary to speak to a doctor, psychologist or similar expert, Mr Cowan said.
Resources are also available online or by telephone (hotlines and websites are available at the foot of this story).
Mr Cowan’s suggested strategies are applicable across the board, but self-compassion can take many forms, in addition to these solutions, and individual responsibility must form part of a game plan.
Some of us respond to team sports, others to reading books. Some are able to effectively meditate or practice mindfulness, whereas others need a creative outlet, such as cooking, painting or drawing.
What is of fundamental importance – especially in times like this – is for those events, activities or initiatives that bring joy and meaning to our day-to-day lives are made non-negotiable aspects of our daily or weekly schedules.
Doing so will ensure we aren’t placing too much stock in what happens in the 9-to-5. Doing so will allow us to have a light at the end of the tunnel, something to look forward to, and – most crucially – it provides much-needed downtime whereby we can relax, unwind, recharge the batteries so that when we come back to our desks, or turn our minds back to the professional challenges that lie ahead, we are refreshed and ready to go again.
But self-compassion also means, as the term suggests, being kind to ourselves.
Without wanting to downplay the professional challenges that lie before those working in this space, positive reinforcement, internal affirmation and even indulgent guilty pleasures can go a long way to improving the outlook of one’s day and, ultimately, their psyche.
This is where Mr Cowan’s three-pronged advice becomes a necessity. Taking the time to openly and honestly communicate with people in your life – spouse, partner, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues – not only provides an opportunity to unburden yourself of stressors, but it gives you access to insight and perspective from a third party that you may not have had before.
It is important to recognise, however, that practical self-care strategies may appear superfluous or inconsequential when feelings of suicide ideation are at the fore.
Where to turn
Suicide prevention service Lifeline provided the following comments for those who may feel that the regulatory, legislative and practice management recommendations handed down will impact not only their professional success, but personal wellbeing.
“Lifeline is aware that the findings of the royal commission into banking may be distressful for many involved. We’d like to take the opportunity to remind people affected to please reach out.
“If you are feeling emotional distress, please talk to someone you can trust, a GP; or for a confidential discussion, remember Lifeline is here to listen.”
“Lifeline cannot stress enough the importance of speaking to someone about how you are feeling. For families and friends of those who work in the sector, we ask you to please watch out for any changes in behaviour that concern you. If you notice a change, please check it out, ask the person involved how they are doing. If they are not coping, please be ready to offer to take them to a GP or call Lifeline.
“Many people don’t realise that you can also contact Lifeline if you need support in helping someone you are concerned about, so call us for advice on what to say,” the service continued.
“Please, remember, Lifeline is available 24 hours, 7 days a week on 13 11 14 to talk to a trained crisis supporter.”
If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, or you’re worried about someone else and feel that urgent professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or one of the 24/7 crisis agencies below.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
beyondblue: 1300 22 4636
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.
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