Is the grass really greener on the other side? Here’s a comprehensive guide to the questions you need to ask before switching, what’s involved, how long it will take and how you can work out if the ‘big switch’ is worth it
For many brokers, difference in commission structures is no longer the sole reason for considering a switch in aggregators.
Brokers are facing a rapidly changing technological and regulatory world, so an aggregator’s ability to keep up, adapt and change – all while maintaining effective communication – is what sets the market leaders apart, and a big motivator in sending brokers looking for a new service.
Insufficient business support, outdated technology or software offerings, poor commission structure and a lack of communication are just some of the reasons that send brokers looking for alternatives, as the pressure mounts on aggregators to offer a service that will support their clients in all aspects of their business, now and into the future.
“Rapid changes in technology and a vastly different regulatory landscape has resulted in brokers requiring their aggregator to specialise in more and more areas,” says Finsure’s managing director John Kolenda.
“The role of an aggregator has dramatically changed over the years. To stay ahead of the competition aggregators can no longer just provide a CRM platform, commissions processing and a monthly newsletter.”
Blake Buchanan, general manager of aggregation at eChoice, agrees that aggregators who want to attract top-performing brokers need to have a comprehensive offering.
“Brokers require comfort that they are partnering with someone now that is a leader in the digital space, that can assist with business development, marketing strategies, and assist in growing their footprint in an ever-growing market,” he says.
Despite the vast array of services aggregators can offer and the various ways in which they could potentially help you grow your business, there’s no escaping the remuneration factor either.
“The main reasons we have seen brokers switching to Connective in recent years has been the desire to develop and grow their business under a fair agreement structure that gives them greater control of their business and their commission,” says Connective Group director Mark Haron.
It could even be that your aggregator simply no longer reflects where you want your business’s brand to be.
That was the case for Melbourne-based broker Marshall Condon.
When establishing his new brand, Neue Black, in January, he realised that his existing aggregator couldn’t match the requirements of his new business.
“For us, we really wanted to move our own brand, so moving away from a franchise brand to a different aggregator was more to build a brand and own it ourselves. That was probably the biggest reason behind the choice to switch for us,” he says.
Mr Buchanan says this factor can drive brokers to switch aggregators even if they’re otherwise happy with the service they’re currently getting.
“Often we will have brokers join us that were very impressed with their aggregator but feel they would prefer a provider with a better digital strategy, for example,” he says.
What’s the process?
The first step involved in switching is on the broker. Namely, they need to conduct their due diligence, comparing the different offers and features available from each aggregator.
From here, it’s important to assess which aggregator best suits your business’s needs.
It’s worth also checking in with your existing aggregator to see if they are willing to match any new offers you’ve received, and to let them know where you’re at in the decision-making stage.
Keeping an open line of communication with your existing aggregator can be a crucial part of maintaining civil relations, and making sure that the transition of essential details between your old and new aggregator runs smoothly, according to Mr Condon.
“For me, my leaving with my aggregator was quite amicable, which is probably one of the most important things to note. Everyone left on good terms, and we’re still in communication – when you’re moving across clients and loan books and what not that’s definitely handy.
“So we didn’t really have any issues, but that’s probably because we ensured that we kept that communication and that relationship with the outgoing aggregator. Obviously moving across it made it so much easier.”
Indeed, how smooth the transition process will be is largely dictated by the existing aggregator, and any clauses a broker may have agreed to in their contract, according to Mr Haron.
“Unfortunately, the major roadblock is their existing agreement with their aggregator. If this has clauses enabling the aggregator to stop paying commissions it can delay the broker significantly while negotiations or legal action is taken. My biggest piece of advice for brokers is to be careful what you are signing, and not to rely on verbal assurances given by an aggregator employee,” he explains.
The main documentation required by an aggregator in order to commence the transfer process is a separation letter from a broker’s previous aggregator. Most aggregators require 30 days to separate.
It is important that a broker requests this letter of separation from their existing aggregator as soon as possible, according to Mr Buchanan.
“When switching, it is important that the broker notifies the outgoing aggregator in writing but also requests the separation letter to be provided as early as possible. It is important that the letter is worded with the appropriate phrasing so that it does not delay the transfer,” he says.
The relationship structure a broker has with an aggregator may also have an impact on how easy the transfer process is.
“If a broker is a credit representative of the outgoing aggregator, on some occasions, the aggregator might request a full audit of all files. This is rare but can happen, and brokers should always be prepared for this,” Mr Buchanan explains.
Other than the letter of separation, and any potential issues arising from an existing aggregator agreement, most aggregators now take control of a majority of the administrative side of switching.
“The aggregator will compile the broker agreement to review as well as the checklist for supporting documents. If the agreement is acceptable, the broker would execute and notify the existing aggregator of their departure. Most aggregators have 30-day terms, which means the broker will not be released for this period,” says Mr Buchanan.
“In these 30 days, the new aggregator will ensure the broker is ready to be switched over and will simply need the notice of separation from the outgoing aggregator. Once received, the aggregator will notify all funders of the transfer of accreditation requirement for the broker. These generally are actioned within 72 hours but can be escalated for a faster turnaround if a broker has an urgent deal.
“So it is business as usual for the broker within the 30-day term and, if there is any disruption at all, the broker may be affected for [only] 72 hours whilst the transfer of accreditations is processed.”
A seamless transfer process is essential to maintaining a broker’s business integrity, and their ability to uphold standards for existing clients, according to Mr Haron.
“It is important that the broker’s business is disrupted as little as possible and we work closely with the broker to have business systems and software established and functioning so that the moment their lender accreditations are activated they can be submitting loans.
“We have a very efficient system that enables the broker to complete their lender accreditation forms quickly and we manage the submission of those forms to the lenders with the supporting documentation each lender requires. Taking this out of the broker’s hands significantly speeds up the process for the broker and gives them more time to focus on their business and customers,” he explains.
Brokers should attempt to negotiate with aggregators, but also be careful not to burn any bridges during the process, according to Mr Condon.
“It’s a small industry and if you’ve made a decision, it’s a business decision, it’s nothing personal so you shouldn’t need to bring that into it. Hopefully the people, if you’ve explained yourself and the reasons why you’re making the move, kind of understand then that should make it a much easier process,” he advises.
Despite all three aggregators profiled maintaining that their offerings are standardised, with little room for negotiation, Mr Condon’s experience suggests otherwise.
“We did negotiate pretty hard. We did a full due diligence on all of them, so we did negotiate pretty hard. It wasn’t really a negotiation in that we told them what we were looking for and they came to the party pretty easily,” he explains.
Is it worth it?
Naturally enough, aggregators agitating for new clients are happy to spruik the positive outcomes of the transition process.
Mr Buchanan is keen to emphasise that the benefits of making the switch manifest not only as quantifiable business outcomes – such as increased commission – but also the adoption of better business practices and optimised client outcomes.
“Ultimately, [they’ll have] better practices and higher incomes whilst offering their clients a more comprehensive service,” he says.
Mr Kolenda likens the process of finding the right aggregator to the realisation of an effective business partnership.
“A good aggregator can make every difference to a broker’s business. We see ourselves as a business partner in every single one of our brokers’ businesses. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, or how good at business you are, if you have the wrong business partner you won’t maximise results,” he says.
“Across our organisation we dedicate ourselves to servicing our broker partners in the same way an exemplary broker would service their clients.”
Mr Haron whittles the key benefits of switching down to three major factors: software, education and business support.
“Having the right aggregator can make a huge difference to a broker. Whether that broker is new to the industry and needs a lot more help and training or is a broker that is employing lots of brokers themselves, having the right agreement and fee structure can make a critical difference.”
He argues that the benefits of switching are long term, down to the moment when a broker may decide to leave the business or even move on to another aggregator.
“What a lot of brokers don't consider when joining an aggregator is what happens when they leave the aggregator to change or to sell their business. Ongoing support services, training and the right software are also vital to question and confirm whether they are the right fit.
“As one of our famous industry leaders says: ‘It’s smart to ask.’ The only times I have seen a broker disappointed with changing aggregators is when they changed because of the promise of lots of leads or referrals and it doesn't live up to their expectations, but otherwise brokers are usually much better off with the change,” he says.
For Mr Condon’s part, he believes that the benefits of switching aggregators at the start of the year are evidenced in the level of personal attention he has received from Finsure’s upper management.
“We have a relationship with John Kolenda, the owner of Finsure, and he’s made himself very much available to us for everything we need. If we have any queries or concerns we can call him and he helps out. To the extent where I was recently in Sydney and I did a three-hour strategy meeting with John as part of the trip – there’s probably not a lot of places that would offer that type of service. They’re very good with their brokers and have a lot of time for them,” he says.
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