Switching aggregators can either be a stressful, difficult and laborious process, or a transition which helps a broker better their business. What are Australia’s aggregators doing to lure you in, make the switch easier and keep you for the long haul?
Q. What is your key point of difference?
Brendan O'Donnell, Liberty Network Services: Our technology SPARK, which is our platform of the iPad and mobile. It is unique and it's exceptional. We've won Innovation of the Year award [at the Australian Broking Awards] and have been runner-up a few times. I believe we've already disrupted the market.
The SPARK platform sits on the iPad and you can process your loan end-to-end through 20 lenders from the iPad with all the benefits of using the Apple technology – it's almost a fintech offering so that's really good and the advisers enjoy that.
We all talk about diversification but there are few who are doing it. You've seen the stats, there's still very little crossover going on when it comes to insurance and the like. For us, we talk about our Liberty advisers – not Liberty mortgage brokers – and that was done purposely because it's no longer just about mortgage broking, it's more than that.
Lastly, in terms of marketing, we're very proud of what we're now doing. Everything from CRM, digital, social media, national advertising, sponsorships, local advertising, all set us apart in terms of what we do. We've got a team of 15 marketers with speciality skills working daily on our network.
Leighton King, Vow Financial: We are in true partnership with our brokers. Our success is purely via their success. Every day we strive to ensure that they not only have the best tools available to grow their business but also a range of complete care products for their clients – leasing, legal, wealth, property, insurances and commercial. We are here to empower our broker network.
John Kolenda, Finsure: Finsure at its very core is set up to assist our broker partners with business-to-business solutions. We will work closely with our broker partners to assist in all areas of their business. This support extends across business planning right through to the execution of a wide range of support mechanisms including web design, PPC and SEO-lead generation, and recruitment. We even assist brokers with the purchase of office supplies such as iPads and mobile phones.
Finsure can also provide an outbound call facility that our brokers can use to make sure all existing client details are up-to-date and identify potential sales opportunities such as refinance, investment, purchase or insurance sales in order to maximise value from their existing client database. We also provide outbound campaigns targeting potential referral relationships, with the aim to book as many appointments on behalf of the broker in their general area.
Members of the team on the ground here at Finsure have all been business owners themselves. They understand the trials and tribulations of owning a business, and what our customers require. Our team loves nothing more than assisting our broker partners with their full range of needs in achieving their own individual and business goals. Our success is directly linked to the success of each and every broker partner that is part of the Finsure Group of companies.
Blake Buchanan, eChoice: Brokers can generate more income through us than any of our competitors. We have an extremely comprehensive offering, and the newest and best in market CRM. This combined with our partnership programs, complimentary marketing and strategy enables us to be a true business partner with our brokers. We don’t just participate in aggregation – we define it and its future.
Mark Haron, Connective: Our fair agreement, reasonable and transparent fee structure and superior software are the main reasons we are attracting so many brokers.
Stephen Moore, Choice Aggregation Services: We believe Choice is unique in the market because of the value it puts on listening to its brokers and providing them with advice and support that is tailored to their individual business needs. We have a track record of helping brokers achieve their business growth aspirations with our proven support model.
We take a collaborative approach and have a strong team culture, not only within our own staff but also in the way members work together to help each other build their businesses up.
A key point of difference for us is that we are the only full-service aggregator in the market, meaning brokers can choose to aggregate under their own brand, via one of our key groups or under our brand through Choice Home Loans. We also cater for members’ changing needs across both models. An interesting trend is the move of established and successful brokers across to the Choice Home Loans retail brand. Clearly online presence, marketing, and brand are increasingly valued by successful brokers.
Phil Quin-Conroy, PLAN Australia: Helping brokers achieve business growth is a core business goal and key service offering at PLAN Australia.
PLAN Australia differentiates itself from other aggregators because it gives brokers the best tools to help them evolve their businesses through market-leading technology and access to top-quality professional development. We strongly believe that these two tools are key to business success, and we work with brokers to ensure they have the right training and technology to grow their business.
From self-employed brokers to franchises with a national footprint, PLAN Australia works with businesses big and small, but who share the same, common goals – a hunger for growth and business excellence.
Nathan Kerr, Astute Financial: We offer brokers the ability to build their own fully diversified financial services business, incorporating residential, commercial and equipment finance as well as financial planning. Astute is unique in that it has an Australian Financial Services and an Australian Credit Licence, allowing its members to be centre of their clients’ financial world.
Q. What is your key focus for 2016?
Brendan: Our key focus is obviously to continue to grow the business. We've really created a good foundation and we're now moving into our fifth year. We'll cross 100 advisers soon so we've really established a very solid platform and we're well-positioned for really good growth moving forward. Diversification is obviously key to us so a focus is to ensure Liberty advisers diversify more and more, so they're not just dependent on one, but on a number of different asset classes.
We're in a really good position to grow.
John: Diversification across the network to provide revenue uplift for our members. This includes extending our B2B services to offer even more value to our members, as well as the launch of our broker academy – a 24-month mentoring program for new brokers.
Another example is the expansion of our asset finance division, providing our brokers with additional revenue opportunities and the use of cloud-based technology to improve efficiencies in all areas of the business. This will include a fully integrated online lodgement of asset finance solution.
We continue to grow rapidly and have no plans of stopping. Our main goal in 2016 is to continue to grow our service offering, but ensure it is done so sustainably and without compromising the high levels of service we provide to our existing brokers.
Although we have exciting plans to expand our service offering in 2016, at the end of the day, our focus will always remain on continuing to deliver on our value proposition to our members.
Blake: Growth, growth, growth! In broker numbers, system developments, staff, support and innovative processes that get our brokers great market capture.
Mark: Our focus in 2016 is to continue to increase the numbers of brokers using our services from the 2,800 we currently have. Our new iConnect model will assist with this. Additionally, we are aiming to equip more brokers with marketing and business intelligence services and help them expand their businesses through our car and asset finance solutions and insurance services.
Stephen: 2015 was a significant year of growth for Choice and in 2016 we are focused on keeping that strong momentum going.
We are prioritising member support around quality customer service, marketing, lead generation and social media.
To that end, we’re currently focused on enhancing our CRM and marketing capability to help our brokers grow their businesses. At our business development days, we’re focusing on supporting our brokers to deliver an outstanding customer experience.
Choice is a business that works closely with brokers to help them succeed, and part of that is working with brokers to help them diversify their business. Supporting our brokers to grow their businesses in new avenues is a key focus for us in 2016.
We also provide tailored support for our large groups with a focus on sustainable business growth. We are supporting these groups in a wide range of ways, whether it’s support with interstate expansion or business efficiencies and productivity or benchmarking.
Phil: 2015 was a record year for PLAN Australia as we settled over $16 billion worth of loans and welcomed 457 new brokers. We are looking to continue this growth momentum in 2016 by attracting premium accounts, with a focus on quality rather than quantity.
Leighton: Growing our broker base well over the 1,100 we currently have while ensuring our brokers protect the loan of their clients as part of their mortgage process.
Nathan: Working with our members to grow their businesses through increased diversification. As industry talk turns to regulatory intervention, we are focused on helping members build stronger long-term relationships with their clients.
Q. What is the biggest challenge facing brokers at the moment and how are you helping them tackle it?
Brendan: The biggest challenge is still generating more business. That's always going to be a challenge. The market has become very competitive and as I say to our advisers, we've moved beyond the years where it was really banks versus aggregators in terms of market share.
Market share is now circa 52 per cent and hopefully going north to 60 per cent, so what's happened in the industry is, it's no longer just banks versus brokers, it's actually brokers competing against brokers.
The market is very mature so brokers need to recognise that they've got to have a competitive advantage or unique difference in their local environment to be able to do better than the broker alongside them. That is becoming more prevalent in the marketplace so with that, as a Liberty adviser, they're well-positioned because the offering is somewhat different and it is broader and it gives them an opportunity to differentiate themselves.
John: The biggest challenge facing brokers is to develop their business from a transactional model where they ‘set and forget’ their clients to a business which manages clients for life.
We support this through structured ongoing education, mentoring programs and one-on-one business planning to help identity where brokers are receiving their income from and how they can diversify and expand.
Blake: Upskilling to diversify their offering.
We have strategically implanted a number of partners to ensure our groups can diversify their businesses with ease. Those who do not cater to more of their clients’ needs will be impacted adversely in the future with higher client attrition rates.
Mark: For most brokers, finding customers continues to be their main requirement. We have found that our marketing services can significantly increase the number of inquiries coming into their business.
We are also focusing on ways to help brokers increase their conversion of these inquiries.
A close second is regulation and compliance. This year we have launched a compliance service for ACL holders that enables us to provide compliance similar to what we do for our credit representatives. This service enables business owners to spend more time focusing on their business, knowing they are getting significant compliance support for them and their loan writers.
Phil: Adapting to new technologies with a limited budget is a real challenge for brokers and their competition is often a major bank. At PLAN Australia, we live our ‘excellence through evolution’ motto, and leverage technology to improve efficiencies as a business and deliver better services to our brokers
We do this by providing market-leading IT systems as well as a dedicated support team that helps our members leverage these systems and integrate them to improve and grow their businesses. We’re also helping brokers with their digital marketing via our Social Academy on our Marketing Hub. The Social Academy aims to provide practical skills to brokers so that they can harness social media effectively for their business via webinars and supporting materials. These resources help brokers understand the social media landscape and how to use key platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in order to develop a dynamic online presence.
Leighton: Compliance and ASIC’s reviews into how brokers are operating in Australia. We have a dedicated compliance and quality team who are running numerous workshops right around the country for our network. We’d like to think we are ahead of the pack in assisting with compliance for a broker’s business.
Nathan: The challenge for brokers is to keep focusing on the needs of their clients and not be distracted by outside influences. At Astute, we believe that if you do the right thing by your clients and genuinely look to take the complexity out of their financial affairs, your business will grow. Astute has the systems and processes that allow our members to focus on helping their clients with all of their financial needs.
Q. What do you do to make the switching groups process easier for brokers?
Brendan: Not dissimilar to others, we've got a support team to make the process as seamless as possible. It's not really that difficult these days to switch.
There's obviously education around moving to a new technology platform. The accreditation process has become a lot easier because the industry is working well together so there's a bit less pain around the movement and switching your accreditations from one to another.
I think the biggest challenge in every instance is just the fear of change. Change obviously brings opportunity, but with change also comes a few challenges so we tend to hold their hand a bit and say “Don't worry about that change. The reason you're making the change is going to give you a new lease on life and it's going to energise you and your business to a different level so let's work together on that”.
John: We manage the entire on-boarding process for all new brokers, either new to industry or transitioning from another group. This includes facilitating the collection of supporting documents, completing all required lender accreditation forms, ordering the accreditations from the lenders and assisting with management of the entire transition period.
We handle the entire process from start to finish.
Blake: Our process of switching has been made simple by our support areas of the business picking up most of the tasks. By educating brokers around the process and inducting them properly with systems, strategy, support and more, we ensure the process of joining our group is easy and stress-free.
Mark: 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. In regards to most lender transfers of accreditations, there is an industry-developed generic transfer form that nearly all lenders now accept.
Stephen: We listen to our brokers and we have implemented systems to make processes as simple as possible. We have streamlined the on-boarding process for our new brokers over the years so our brokers can concentrate on their business, rather than paperwork.
We’ve experienced significant growth in terms of broker numbers recently, with 322 members joining Choice in 2015. The feedback we receive is that members value highly the support we provide in every step of the on-boarding process.
Phil: At PLAN Australia we have a well-documented, step-by-step process that clearly explains the switching process. This gives brokers realistic expectations on the time it takes to switch and ensures minimal downtime for brokers.
Leighton: We have taken the entire perceived pain from moving aggregators out of the equation by having a dedicated ‘on-boarding’ team who assist in ensuring there is minimal downtime in a broker’s business.
Nathan: We have a highly personalised engagement process for new members, with dedicated support to help them with the transition process.
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