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Many groups boast that technology is their point of difference, but which one has the right tools to take your business to the next level? The Adviser investigates

Technology is more influential than ever before in the third-party channel. Cloud-based platforms and apps for mobile devices are just some of the technological advances that have been designed to streamline a broker’s business. It should come as no surprise that some of the biggest investments aggregators make are in their platforms.

But who is doing what? Which group’s approach to technology is aligned with yours? How important is technology for your business?

Choice CEO Stephen Moore says a good technology platform should not only meet the needs of today’s brokers, but be scalable well into the future.

Mr Moore said having Salesforce as Choice’s CRM system acknowledges best practice.

“That’s pretty appealing to brokers where technology is an important part of their business,” he says. “They recognise that you’ve made a decision for the business that will not only benefit now, but also in the long term.”

Mark Lewis, managing director of Bernie Lewis Home Loans, said “Choice’s use of the world-class CRM system Salesforce within their Podium software platform” was one of the key selling points in the firm’s decision to partner with the aggregator.

Choice recently launched an online loan comparison tool in an attempt to support loan package selection. The facility is available through the group’s website and allows individuals to easily compare home loans using a customised search engine.

The tool is able to recognise the type of home loan that customers are interested in by referring to Choice Home Loans’ panel of lenders, and can even display specific features such as additional repayments or low-doc applications.

Mr Moore says the new development comes at an important time, as digital business continues to increase.

“Australians spent more than $15 billion online last year, a 12.5 per cent increase on the previous year’s figures, which shows the power of online as a space for customers to engage with businesses and make purchase decisions,” he says.

Mortgage Choice chief executive Michael Russell believes in the evolution of new broker tools to better support the mobile and remote nature of broking, and says the brokerage was an early adopter of cloud-based platforms.

“Several years ago, we became one of the first lending companies to transition our staff and brokers onto Gmail, as we believe it offers our employees and brokers an added level of security and safety when it comes to their professional, personal and private emails,” he says.

“By transitioning to a cloud-based system with cloud-based apps, we provide our broker network with the ability to complement their technology solution with applications that integrate with the core of their business if and when they wish, while still remaining secure from a governance and compliance perspective.”

In addition to its cloud-based systems, Mortgage Choice has recently launched a new technological initiative called Project One.

Mr Russell says the new initiative will implement an “industry-wide, trusted off-the-shelf” CRM platform with “an industry-leading broker front-end”.

“They will combine to provide our franchisees with a web-based platform full of functionality to improve their productivity and overall customer experience,” he explains.

Mr Russell says Project One correctly positions Mortgage Choice for future user needs and customer behaviour.

“In other words, we understand that customers will continue to change and evolve the way they interact with brokers, and we are preempting this evolution so that we can stay ahead of the pack,” he says.

“Project One will allow us to interact with our customers in a way that is convenient to them – be it through multi-channel engagement or allowing the customer to self-service.”

PLAN was the winner of the Best Technology Platform category at The Adviser’s Australian Broking Awards 2014. Its chief executive, Phil Quin-Conroy, says it is vital to not only deliver brokers effective technology, but to support them through the process of integrating it with their business model.

“We support them to embed it into their business and to leverage technology in a way that is suited to the business, because brokers run different business models,” he says.

“They’re at different stages of growth as well, so the way that they can leverage technology can be quite different.”

Mr Quin-Conroy also runs a technology forum once a year which explores the latest technological trends, issues and ideas.

“We’re very much staying close to trends and implementing a philosophy, I suppose, of building from the outside in – really making sure that we’re listening to the needs of our customers – our brokers – and delivering to them,” he says.

Vow Financial chief executive Tim Brown says the aggregator has always designed its technology systems so that different parts can be replaced once new advances become available.

“So for me, it’s about getting best of breed in the market and putting that building block into our CRM,” he says.

“For example, CRM is probably the key component, and that drives your information to whatever system you want to go to. So we use Symmetry for loans, Coin for wealth and Loan Works for commissions, and we find that they’re the best for each of those categories.”

Connective director Mark Haron said the aggregator has received a lot of good feedback from brokers on its technology.

“Every aggregator out there has a technology platform, but we have one that we’ve built and managed in-house, and we built it for the brokers,” he says. “It’s not being built off the back of our desire to run our business – we don’t run our business from this platform. The brokers run their business by that platform, so it’s built purely for them.”

Paul Liccione, general manager of sales and distribution at eChoice, says one of the boutique aggregator’s big strengths is the fact that it started as an online
comparison site.

“Because of that, we’ve developed our own proprietary system that we’ve built from the ground up, and we have a team of six developers working full time on it to make enhancements and adapt to industry changes,” he explains.

According to Mr Liccione, all of the features of eChoice’s platform are available for brokers to operate on mobile devices.

However, Mr Liccione says the platform is not really the aggregator’s main point of difference for brokers.

“We’ve got tools that will help them engage their clients, retain their clients, and bring money in the door that they wouldn’t otherwise earn,” he says. “We don’t sell a platform – we sell the ability to take brokers’ businesses and move them from $1 million to $4 million.”

Aussie Home Loans chief executive James Symond says technology is a ticket to the ball game, but it’s what you do on the field that counts.

“This business is about relationships. It’s about relationships with customers and it’s about relationships with the broking group and the brokers,” he explains.

“I don’t think it’s about only one thing in isolation such as technology – it’s the whole package. It’s the business, it’s marketing, it’s technology, it’s credit coaching, it’s business support and it’s culture, and I believe it’s the number one reason why Aussie is as successful as it is today.”

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