For new brokers, the help and support of a mentor can be the difference between having a broking business that is good, and having one that is great. But how do you go about choosing a mentor and what do mentoring programs offer? Annie Kane finds out more.
"Every single broker goes through a period where they are really questioning the decision they made,” said Therese O’Neill, founder of Alphabroker Mentoring.
Speaking to me about the importance of mentoring, Ms O’Neill revealed that brokers “go through a stage” where they’re thinking that they’re useless and they’re no good.
“It’s just a rhythm. It’s a psychological thing, a rite of passage, that they seem to have to go through to get to the other side. And, if they don’t have a good mentor, it can be too hard on them. They just go, they quit. That is why a good mentor is crucial," she said.
It’s general knowledge that around half of all new brokers don’t make it past their first 18 months of business, so ensuring that brokers are not only properly prepared for the industry, but also properly supported, is crucial to the longevity of the industry.
Speaking to The Adviser earlier this year, Connective director Mark Haron noted that while the NCCP Act and broker associations require that brokers with less than two years’ experience be mentored by an individual with relevant industry experience, it is also starting to become an industry requirement from lenders and aggregators that brokers have a mentor, “because we’ve unfortunately seen poor retention of new-to-industry brokers”.
“Around 50 per cent are actually making it. The success rate increases to 75 per cent to 80 per cent when someone starts with a mentor,” Mr Haron said.
Indeed, in December last year, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) announced that it was raising the levels of its accreditation policy so that brokers with less than two years’ experience could only become accredited if they had a mentor, and in July this year, its subsidiary Bankwest followed suit with the same requirement.
Bankwest went a step further though, bringing in revised mentorship standards designed to make it “clearer for both mentors and mentees to understand the expectations on both parties”.
It now requires mentors to be an MFAA- or FBAA-registered mentor, review and sign off at least 12 mentee deal submissions, maintain regular contact with the mentee, and co-sign written records of all mentor-mentee contact as maintained by the mentee.
Meanwhile, mentees would have to actively participate as mentee for up to two years, commit to becoming a competent loan writer, complete their diploma within the first 12 months, complete at least 12 deal submissions, maintain regular contact with the mentor and keep written records of communication and meeting outcomes.
“These changes, along with updated commission structure, will ensure that, together, we align to evolving industry practice and regulator expectations to deliver better customer outcomes,” general manager of third party Ian Rakhit said.
He added: “These final changes are important to all of us and they will ultimately result in a stronger and more sustainable broker industry which will continue to deliver amazing results for our customers.”
As well as lenders, aggregators have also been taking a closer look at the mentor-mentee relationship, with some suggesting that, in order to raise standards and produce better consumer outcomes, better oversight of the relationship is needed. It was for this reason that
Specialist Finance Group launched a new digital CRM that requires mentors to oversee their mentees’ loan applications.
Blake Buchanan, SFG’s head of aggregation, acquisition and strategy, said that while the introduction of a formalised mentor system for brokers was a “good step for the industry” and provided a “way forward when it comes to assurances and training for new-to-industry brokers and their consumers”, he said that in the five years since these rules have been in place, there have been some “gaps” that have been identified in training and processes.
Speaking to The Adviser about the new system, Mr Buchanan revealed that once a mentee uploads a deal to the CRM system, prior to submission to a lender, the mentor is notified via text and email that the mentee has a new application for review.
The mentor can then go through a portal to review the application, make notes and recommendations, and ultimately, if applicable, approve the application to proceed to the next milestone.
Mr Buchanan said that SFG’s intention is for mentees to have at least their first 12 deals approved by their mentor before lodgement, with the mentor eventually having the discretion to be able to turn off that functionality once they are comfortable with the mentees’ progress.
The former general manager of aggregation at eChoice added that the group decided to develop a system that assists in accountability and transparency following the ongoing scrutiny of and increased accreditation standards in the industry.
“What I have seen change recently is that the big banks are holding the mentors more accountable now, whereas, historically, if a mentee submitted an incorrect or fraudulent loan, the mentor was not culpable,” the aggregation head said.
Why did you become a mentor?
I became a mentor for a few reasons:
How many brokers have you mentored?
I have mentored over 200 mortgage brokers across Australia over the past six years.
What are your top tips for new brokers?
What tips do you have for those thinking of becoming a mentor?
Go into it with a giver’s heart. Don’t do it for the money as you will rarely make money being a mentor. Do it to give back to the industry.
Care about your mentees, empathise with them and make sure you are available when they need you. If you are too busy for this, refer them out to another mentor who will take good care of them for you.
Why did you become a mentor?
I taught Cert IV and Diploma and that gave me really good insights into hundreds of existing broker businesses across a few states. I was looking really into getting to know a lot about these brokers’ businesses and their processes and how they do things. There was no mentoring when I started, and certainly brokers back then, who were very successful, held their cards very close to their chest, so they weren’t sharing tips for success with new brokers who were perceived as competition.
When the GFC hit, the MFAA looked at the industry and said that we’ve really got to look at introducing mentoring as a requirement. I got approached to become a mentor, but my initial reaction was no. I was training and broking and I thought I wouldn’t have time to mentor.
But I started to think about my own succession plan. I was nearing 10 years as a mortgage broker but wasn’t feeling so challenged with the paperwork and back office and admin side of things and I thought, what was [the business] in 20 years going to look like if I didn’t do something now?
So, I put on this structured two-year program, and nearly seven years later, we’ve had more than 120 brokers come through the program.
What tips do you have for new brokers?
One thing that we mentor a lot is how to network. Networking is really important because if you think your business is going to grow while you’re sitting in your lounge, it’s not going to happen.
It’s really all about visibility and getting out there... You just don’t know who you’re going to meet.
As soon as you’ve done 12 loans, let go of the admin. Hire, outsource, recruit. I mean, as a new broker, it may be an ask to look at hiring someone, but I do have brokers that have
their two years of experience and are putting on a part-time PA that’s coming in and doing their processing as well as their social media. If recruiting is not on the cards or a viable option, I would say, look at the areas of your business that you enjoy and focus on those and outsource everything else, because the sooner you can let go, the faster your business will grow, and I think that was a big learning tip for me.
The other thing is, ask for help. This industry has got so much education. It’s got so many talented people that are willing to help if you ask, so one thing that I’ve always done, as a business owner, is surround myself with people who are a lot more successful than me. I believe that if you just learn one thing per conversation, that will really help your business grow. But you should also put your hand up and ask for help. There are so many people out there that would be willing to share their journey and their tips. Everyone is talented in different ways. Just be open to it and network. Get out there.
Trust your instincts
“Go with your gut feeling on how you will work together. Make sure you choose a mentor that is in it for helping you, not because they are a cheap option. You get what you pay for and this is an investment in your business and your education which will ultimately help you to be more or less successful — it’s your choice! Find someone who genuinely cares for you, and you to help them to be successful. Someone for whom it’s not about the money, it’s about helping people. Someone with many years’ experience. A mentor who will always make themselves available to their mentees.” - Tracie Palmer, Cornerstone Mentoring
Pick your model
“Find out what sort of model suits you. Do you need legal? Do you not need leads? Do you need a fixed salary? Have you got cash to back you up? It starts all the way back there. Location is not the be-all and end-all, but it certainly does help if your mentor is close geographically. There’s a comfort that comes with that, more from the broker’s side. I think that makes them feel safer and perhaps more secure. And the other thing is whether you like them. I’d say, try before you buy because you don’t want to make a mistake with your mentor. And, certainly, what the mentor is going to cost you is important.” - Therese O’Neill, Alphabroker Mentoring
Look for experience
“I think you’ve just got to make sure they’ve got a lot of grey hairs — experience really matters… Also, patience and dedication to make sure that [you] learn the best of [your] ability is probably what you want in a mentor. Someone you can trust as well. That’s something that’s very important in this kind of relationship… trusting each other with tasks, and it’s a two-way street on that front.” - Luke Harborne, IFA Mortgages & Finance
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser magazine, Australia’s leading magazine for mortgage brokers. As well as writing news and features on the Australian mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending market – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker podcast and regulator contributor to the Mortgage Business Uncut podcast.
Before joining The Adviser team at Momentum Media in 2016, Annie wrote for a range of business and consumer titles, including The Guardian (Australia), BBC Music Magazine, Elle (Australia), BBC Countryfile, BBC Homes & Antiques, and Resource magazine.
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