ING DIRECT has for a long time led the pack in innovation, and according to the bank’s head of broker distribution, Mark Woolnough, ING DIRECT has no plans to let go of that lead anytime soon
Q: HOW IMPORTANT IS THE BROKER CHANNEL TO ING DIRECT?
It is crucial to our success as a lender. Currently, 90 per cent of our new business comes through the third party channel, a significant contributor to ING DIRECT’s profit. More importantly, a lot of what we do revolves around the third party channel. Our planning, our products, policies and processes are all designed with the broker in mind.
Q: RECRUITMENT ASIDE, HOW DO YOU PLAN TO GROW YOUR NATIONAL PRESENCE AND MARKET SHARE?
We understand we need to meet the expectations of our broker partners. We are the fifth largest bank in Australia – under a branchless model, so our brokers are the face of ING DIRECT. We know that we need to give them the right tools in order for them to sell our products.
We have shown since late last year that we are happy to take on a lot of broker feedback and actively change the way we do things. We will always listen and act where appropriate. We can’t do everything, but we can do what makes strategic sense.
We listened to our brokers when they called for greater competition in the market; we delivered by introducing a switching campaign. We are serious about competition and giving both brokers and consumers choice outside of the majors.
We have also reintroduced 95 per cent lending. For us to drive our market share, we have to provide our brokers with the best product, policy, price and service.
We are currently in the throes of giving every broker direct access to a credit assessor and credit manager. Last year, we ran a trial program that gave some of our brokers direct access to our staff and the results were really pleasing. Broker efficiency improved, as did overall customer satisfaction, which is why we are now expanding this trial to include all of our broker members.
We are constantly working on deepening the relationships we have with our broker partners. We want to understand them and their business, so that when we launch a new product or announce a policy change, we know which broker segments to target.
Q: HOW IMPORTANT IS THE BROKER CHANNEL TO HOME BUYERS?
According to the latest statistics, more than 40 per cent of all new loans written come through the broker channel – a very significant stake. We know consumers want to use brokers because they strip out the confusion associated with getting a home loan.
Moreover, consumers are time poor and often don’t know how to find the right mortgage for their needs. Brokers are offering more than just a home loan; under diversification, they can offer insurance, credit cards and other services. Brokers have the chance to embed themselves in the community as a real one-stop shop.
Q: YOU’VE BEEN WITH ING DIRECT FOR MORE THAN A DECADE. WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING FOR THIS LENDER?
It is good to work for a true challenger brand. ING DIRECT has proven over a long time that it is happy to challenge the majors. We had the savings maximiser account in 1999 and that totally reshaped the way consumers looked at savings.
The savings maximiser was born at a time when the standard variable rate (SVR) was a commoditised product that everybody seemed to offer, so we led with no fees, no ongoing fees and no redraw fees.
ING DIRECT has a strong brand, and a trusted brand. It is not often you can use the words ‘trust’ and ‘bank’ in the same sentence, but we can and we are very proud of that.
Also, when I joined the team, there was 100 staff, now we have over 1,000. It is a very lean and nimble structure. It is great to know that everybody plays an important role within the company.
Q: YOU ARE INVOLVED IN HOCKEY – DOES THIS HELP YOU AT WORK?
When you look at sport and you look at work, they are similar. Both are really team orientated. In both, you need to be surrounded by good people, whether that is support staff, BDMs or coaches.
In my hockey team, just like ING DIRECT, everybody has a role to play. You can’t just turn up on the day and expect to perform at your best.
Q: WHICH MARKETS HAVE THE MOST POTENTIAL FOR BROKERS?
There are two main opportunities: the investor market and the refinancing market.
While owner occupiers are nervous about jumping on the property ladder, investors realise that now is a great time to invest in bricks and mortar because there are some great yields.
But while investors are strong at the moment, refinancing is the strongest segment. With so much noise in the market, brokers need to make sure they are on the front foot and that they stay in contact with their clients so they remain top of mind if the customer decides to change their financial situation.
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