A South Australia-based broker explains how equipping his brokerage with technological tools well in advance of the coronavirus pandemic has helped his staff transition to working remotely for an indefinite period of time.
In this week’s episode of The Adviser’s Elite Broker podcast, Rise High Financial Services director James Schulze said his brokerage was in a transition period of adapting to not only working remotely but also servicing clients remotely.
Noting that there was a level of uncertainty over what the future would hold, he said that by implementing technological systems and tools well before the global coronavirus pandemic struck had helped his brokerage transition smoothly to working remotely for an indefinite period of time.
“Our brokers all work remotely from time to time anyway. At the moment, what we’ve said within our office is that brokers [should] remain working from home and not come into the office unless they need to,” Mr Schulze told The Adviser.
“But for them, from a technology perspective, that’s easy because that’s what they do most weeks anyway. And all of our systems are in the cloud.”
Among the tools used by the broker to work remotely are: AFG’s cloud-based CRM platform, Flex; cloud-based email systems; Dropbox for all client files and process documents; e-signature service provider DocuSign (to sign all compliance documents), and ZipID for verification of identification.
Mr Schulze said the brokerage is also increasingly using Zoom for meetings with clients to avoid meeting face-to-face.
“There’s still the odd occasion where we’re still doing face-to-face [meetings], but I feel like over the next few weeks and months there will be a lot more Zoom meetings,” he said.
“I’m finding now that a lot of our clients are happy to catch up over the phone or via Zoom as an interim thing just to reduce the amount of risk [of spreading the coronavirus].
“But for the signing of loan documents and things like that, there are still instances where we’re still doing face-to-face.”
However, he said he is complementing this with express posting the loan documents with a return envelope to the clients and asking them to sign the documents and express post them back to his brokerage.
“It’s a bit of a case-by-case basis at the moment. We haven’t got a set rule that we’re not doing any face-to-face client meetings. But we’re just trying to limit it,” Mr Schulze said.
Impact of the coronavirus pandemic
Commenting on the impact of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic on his business, Mr Schulze said it was still too early to gauge the ramifications, adding the first three months of 2020 had been very busy for the brokerage.
However, he noted that some clients have felt the impact almost immediately, and suddenly. One of the firm’s broker clients worked for Qantas and was recently laid off from the airline.
“He’s got a significant amount of debt, two kids, and is very concerned,” Mr Schulze said.
“So, we’re starting to get clients contacting us that are really concerned about their financial circumstances with all these changes going on. I expect that is going to ramp up quite a lot over the next few weeks and months.”
Regulations will be upended temporarily
Mr Schulze called current events “unprecedented” and warned the mortgage industry should expect many current rules and regulations “to be thrown out the window” (such as in-person verification of identity), and said banks would have to adapt.
The industry has already witnessed this, with Australian lenders enabling small-business customers to defer their loan repayments for six months in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
Following consultation with regulators, the Australian Banking Association has announced a relief package for small-business customers.
The package includes a deferral of principal and interest repayments for all term loans and retail loans for six months for small-business customers with less than $3 million in total debt owed to credit providers.
Participants include the big four banks and a range of other non-major banks.
Several lenders have also announced they are offering home loan customers repayment relief, ranging from three to six months.
“Banks are just going to have to do what they need to do to help people through this,” Mr Schulze concluded.
To hear more from James Schulze, tune in to The Adviser’s Elite Broker podcast.
Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.
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