The peak industry bodies have offered guidance to brokers as they tackle the merging challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Finance Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA) and the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) have addressed the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and its impact on broking practices and the broader economy.
FBAA managing director Peter White acknowledged that the current environment is unprecedented and would present the industry with “unique” challenges.
“I’ve been in this game for 42 years now; it’s the first time I’ve come across anything like this,” he said.
Mr White stressed that it would be up to each individual broker to determine their response to the outbreak, given the health risks involved.
“Every step is a first, but I think most importantly, from our point of view and from our staff’s point of view, it’s all about personal choice, because we’re potentially dealing with people’s lives being at risk,” he added.
The FBAA head encouraged brokers to use the technological tools at their disposal to engage with clients as an alternative to face-to-face interactions.
“We’ve got everything at our fingertips to try and do our best to keep things moving forward as usual,” he said.
“Yes, it’s going to mean more high traffic on emails, possible a lot more face-to-face time being done through [technology], but they’ll become more routine.”
He outlined that brokers “must have the technology and knowledge to be able to transition to an online model, and with Skype, Zoom, Face-Time, FB Messenger and numerous other platforms available," which are “easy and inexpensive”.
“Brokers who are not prepared to go online will be impacted financially, as less consumers will seek face to face meetings in the current environment.”
However, Mr White noted his concern regarding the mental wellbeing of mortgage brokers, in light of the social distancing measures encouraged by authorities.
“My great concern is people’s mental health, being a broker can be a little bit of a lonely game, not the best of days when you’re working from home, and something like this can make it even harder,” he said.
Mr White urged brokers to use technology to maintain communication with peers to better manage stresses associated with the crisis.
“Stay connected to one other somehow and by doing that, you’ll then be able to support one another as things feel like they’re getting a little bit rocky for you,” he said.
“The worst thing you can do is shut down completely. Unfortunately, it’s the easiest thing you can do.”
He added: “You may have to put yourself into quarantine for 14 days if you become crook or you know you’ve been in contact with someone, but you’ve got existing technology – at the palm of your hand today – to help you stay in contact.”
MFAA CEO Mike Felton echoed Mr White’s sentiment, encouraging brokers to leverage technology to adapt to the new challenges posed by the outbreak.
Mr Felton said the association would be working with stakeholders to identify potential alternatives to help brokers navigate through the uncharted waters.
“Clearly, the coronavirus is likely to increasingly present challenges, particularly with face-to-face client contact,” he told The Adviser.
“The MFAA is working with the MFAA Lenders Forum and a number of aggregators in order to explore solutions/policy adjustments which we hope to be able to advise on in due course.”
Mr Felton also encouraged brokers to remain calm throughout the period, adding that he is confident the industry will rise to the challenge and continue to deliver positive outcomes for consumers.
“We obviously need to follow the latest health advice and take precautions that have been suggested; however, at times like this, it is important that we don’t panic and continue to go about our business as best we can,” he said.
“The success of our industry has been built on the foundation of strong solutions and outcomes and particularly during challenging times. I have no doubt that brokers will do everything possible to be of maximum benefit to their customers, to help them navigate the coming weeks and months.”