In today’s market, it has become more important than ever for brokerages to have efficient, consistent back-end processes – which is where CBA’s Process Excellence program comes into play
EVERYONE IS different and brokers are no exception.
Every broker will have their own way of doing things, like keeping in touch with clients, processing a loan or touching base with ex-customers.
These differences can help a broker stand out from the crowd, but sometimes they can also make running a business very difficult.
Brokers frequently build their organisation themselves – often the case with small businesses – and are used to doing everything.
To develop the business, they employ staff but, in many cases, there are no set procedures or documentation in place to ensure new recruits work to the same systems.
This can not only be frustrating, but also inefficient. If there are 10 brokers in one office all using different business systems, the overall productivity of the company can be hindered.
At least, that was the case for Aussie Rouse Hill broker Erica Elvy.
With six writers and one support staff all following different processes, the company was not as productive as it could be, Ms Elvy says.
To remedy the situation, Ms Elvy contacted her relationship manager at the CBA.
THE PROCESS EXCELLENCE PROGRAM
Ms Elvy’s sales manager put her in touch with the lender’s process excellence team and their unique business program.
Launched in March 2008, the program was designed to help the bank improve its in-house back office and communication processes.
The program was officially rolled out to brokers in February 2011. Many brokers now call on CBA’s process excellence team to help them improve, standardise and simplify their business processes.
As part of the program, a team of experts from the Commonwealth Bank visits a brokerage’s office to identify any problems the company might be having with its back-end processes.
In addition, the team analyses work flow and develops methodologies to improve office efficiency.
Ms Elvy brought the team into her office in June – and she hasn’t looked back since.
The process excellence program is worth its weight in gold, she says, as it has improved the way in which she herself works as well as the efficiency of her staff and business.
“It has created a much warmer, friendlier and better working environment,” she says.
“Staff in the office did not communicate effectively with one another. If a client came in to see a broker and the person they normally deal with was away or unavailable they would, traditionally, have to start the whole process again with another broker.
“This is no longer the case.
“Today, everyone knows everyone’s clients intimately. They know exactly where they are up to in the loan process. So, a client who has already dealt with one particular broker can now be helped by anyone on staff in a timely and efficient manner.”
Many businesses, however, have problems with their back-end processes and internal communication, according to Ms Elvy.
“We grew really quickly,” she says. “When we first opened the Aussie franchise we were really busy and, as such, we had to appoint staff straight away.”
Ms Elvy says she and her business partner had originally planned to implement business processes that could be followed by new staff, but their volume of work had prevented them from introducing some consistent systems.
“We were the number one franchise in Australia,” she says. “We had so much business at one point that we didn’t know what to do. So, we employed loan writers who were backed by some form of experience.
“However, by hiring people with experience, we were also hiring people who had their own way of doing things – and it was very different to our own processes.
But the CBA process excellence team fixed that.
According to Ms Elvy, the team of two spent seven days working with the company and staff on initiatives to improve the existing processes.
“Closing the shop down between 8:30 am and 5pm for a whole week was a big decision, but the reward has been well worth the sacrifice,” she says.
In the four months since, Ms Elvy says she has seen significant improvements in overall efficiency.
Ms Elvy’s Aussie franchise is not the only business to utilise the skills of CBA’s process excellence team.
Loan Market Group’s Steve Matsoukas called on the team in early September and says he also has seen a big difference in overall company efficiency and general office atmosphere in the two months since their visit.
“We have 16 brokers on staff and 13 different business processes,” he says.
“The process excellence team effectively simplified and standardised our processes, identified best practise for our business and helped us to implement just that.”
According to Mr Matsoukas, the team effectively helped the Loan Market franchise standardise the messages it sends to clients, simplify its processing systems and introduce a single way of communicating within the office, as well as helping the business organise its clients and staff.
“Previously, there was not a lot of interaction between brokers,” he says. “We now understand just how important it is to stay up-to-date on everything your colleagues are doing, which is why we hold monthly company meetings where we can discuss the month that was, devise plans for the month ahead and hear any constructive criticism.”
“Sure, taking a week out of your business [for the process excellence team] is a big ask, but it is well worth it. You also have to pay for the team to come in, but once again, this is a small price.
“In truth, there are no pitfalls associated with a program such as this. All it has helped us do is become a better, more efficient company.”
ON THE UP
Kathy Cummings, CBA’s executive general manager, third party and mobile banking, says it is pleasing to receive positive feedback on the program.
“The process excellence team can bring order and routine into procedures and document them, creating efficiencies and improving staff morale,” she says.
Ms Cummings says it is important for brokers “to have all their ducks in a row” to make the most of the business opportunities that present themselves to the third party distribution market.
“Brokers are already selling four out of 10 home loans in the mortgage market and recent research by Core Data has shown they are more engaged with their customers than other sales channels. It is clear customers value the broker proposition,” she says.
“Commonwealth Bank is a strong supporter of the mortgage broking channel and we are committed to a sustainable mortgage industry.”
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