The Adviser’s James Mitchell recently caught up with MFAA chief executive, Siobhan Hayden following their national convention in Melbourne. In this Q&A, Ms Hayden shares the feedback she’s received so far as well as the industry body’s strategy moving forward
After six months in the role, what have been your initial thoughts on the industry?
I came from within the industry so I had a fairly good headspace around what the MFAA customers needed as I was a customer myself. I think I realised a lot of those initiatives from going around and talking to brokers and there’s been no significant surprises.
What I’ve been really humbled by though is there isn’t one negative prevailing wind – any broker you talk to, any aggregator, any lender. Everyone wants the industry to grow and be more successful, which is great.
On your appointment, you’ve said that you didn’t think the MFAA was ready for someone like yourself to come to the chief executive role. What did you mean by that?
I felt from my experience, being an MFAA member, that I could’ve described the MFAA as being more conservative at that growth phase. I don’t consider myself conservative. I’m quite innovative and I like to challenge the norms. With that headspace, in the recruitment process, I wasn’t sure that the change the MFAA was looking to instigate was that significant.
I was wrong, so that was obviously a fair depth around why they selected me as candidate – not only my business skills but my approach to this association and how we can run it more effectively as a business, understanding our customers and delivering a good service.
What are some of the initiatives the MFAA is looking to roll out?
We’ve got lots and lots of things that we’ve documented, many we need to put some more rigor around in relation to finances.
A really great initiative from the board was $1 million towards consumer awareness campaigns over the next 18 months.
There’s not a lot of detail yet behind that but the second biggest priority for brokers, when I went around the country, was consumer awareness.
One of the big ones that I’d like to look further at is the financial literacy week, which is in September this year. That would engage all our MFAA members around the country, going out and providing a small presentation on financial literacy, which will be very exciting.
In terms of the initiative surrounding consumer awareness, was it surprising to learn that a lot of people are unaware what a mortgage broker actually does?
It is very surprising and we’re 50.4 per cent of the market. One in two consumers choose our channel, which is fantastic, and recent research from Ernst & Young demonstrate that lenders believe that’ll go to 60 per cent. I’d like to see it grow even further over the next five years.
You’ve said another initiative is to introduce a professional lobbyist – just how significant is this to the industry?
We’re looking for a professional lobbyist to really advocate on behalf of our channel. I think one of the concerns in the industry, and for consumers, is that financial services is one large umbrella – financial planning, mortgage brokers, asset finance brokers – we’re all bundled under that one umbrella.
We obviously have very different business models, so really clarifying what we provide, how we do our job and how we’re remunerated – I think needs to be made clearer to government and regulators.
The MFAA has already been very successful with lobbying under the previous CEO Phil Naylor. Under Phil’s leadership we were fortunate enough to have the results of NCCP that we achieved.
Do you think there needs to be a bit more education for major players so that they don’t make fleeting statements about the industry?
I think that people, particularly regulators or significant players in the market, such as the RBA come out with statements that demonstrate clearly they don’t have an understanding of how our business runs.
They do need to be held accountable for those statements and where possible, we help influence that and get in front of them, have an audience with them and provide further information to remove the concerns they have – which are not valid.
Having a professional lobbyist would be critical in that sense then?
Absolutely. We have informal regulator meetings with ASIC every couple of months which is great. Former MFAA chief executive Phil Naylor instigated those meetings and I’ve attended a few of those already in my six months and they’re quite productive meetings.
We talk about numerous things of concern to ASIC but really I suppose from a lot of initiatives, you need to be both proactive and reactive. I think traditionally we’ve been more reactive and now I’d like to be able to do both. With a professional lobbyist on behalf of our industry – lenders, aggregators and brokers – we can have someone channelling our issues and concerns at a professional level in Canberra as well as also mitigating the issues that come to play in a reactive fashion.
A few of your brokers are really kicking goals with innovative strategies. How are you looking to extend this to the rest of your broker channel?
The feedback I’ve received was how brokers wanted to learn, not so much from professionals outside the industry, but from peer-to-peer learning and hands-on training. It gets them to really understand how someone in the same industry as themselves has utilised their niche offering to customers to really grow and be successful.
I think that’s where brokers really learn the tools of the trade, as opposed to someone like us at the MFAA, touting what’s right or wrong. It’s really about learning from people that have been successful.
What are some of your goals for the year ahead?
We’ve been able to announce a couple of great initiatives and it’s really my goal to feed the information to our customers where I’m able to do so. We’ve got a lot more in the pipeline that I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to announce. We’ll keep trickling along and get our next year’s budget in place but we’ve just come off the back of the Melbourne convention and it was very successful in relation to the engagement and feedback from customers and industry partners.
James Mitchell has over eight years’ experience as a financial reporter and is the editor of Wealth and Wellness at Momentum Media.
He has a sound pedigree to cover the business of mortgages and the converging financial services sector having reported for leading finance titles InvestorDaily, InvestorWeekly, Accountants Daily, ifa, Mortgage Business, Residential Property Manager, Real Estate Business, SMSF Adviser, Smart Property Investment, and The Adviser.
He has also been published in The Daily Telegraph and contributed online to FST Media and Mergermarket, part of the Financial Times Group.
James holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature and an MA in Journalism.
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