Every broker knows that the key to a strong brokerage is happy clients. But how happy are broker clients – and what drives their satisfaction? We unpack what borrowers think of the mortgage experience from the findings of the Consumer Access to Mortgages Report 2021
They say that the best service is the service that is provided when you didn’t even know what you needed. For brokers, this is achieved on a frequent basis. It can be when you’re reaching out to a borrower about the upcoming end of their interest-only period and outline the next steps, or when you let them know that they’ve repriced their home loan and saved them money, or helping them access COVID-19 support/relief to help them manage their finances over the crisis. Being able to delight customers is key to having a strong brokerage with repeat business and ongoing rave reviews and referrals.
But aside from providing a service before it’s even asked for, knowing what a consumer really wants from the mortgage process is also key to delighting them. To understand what borrowers want and value from the mortgage process, The Adviser once again teamed up with Momentum Intelligence to ask consumers for their thoughts on why they choose to go to a broker/branch/online for their finance needs – and what prospective borrowers are likely to do too.
Now in its third year, the Consumer Access to Mortgages Report explores the experiences of consumers across Australia (including those that have never secured a mortgage) to better inform industry stakeholders on the behaviour, expectations and experiences that drive the decisions that consumers make when accessing finance.
What we asked
This year’s Consumer Access to Mortgages survey included 1,036 consumers between January and April 2021.
The aim of the 2021 report was to help deepen the industry’s understanding of how consumers perceive their experiences of mortgage brokers and proprietary channel lenders across a range of factors, including turnaround times, cashback offers, open banking and more. Given the social distancing environment and move to remote working, we also wanted to know how borrowers prefer to be communicated with when it comes to mortgages too.
The lay of the land
This year’s survey found that the mortgage broking channel continues to be the preferred channel among existing borrowers, with 60 per cent intending to use a mortgage broker the next time they take out a mortgage. This level of preference is in line with the flow of new mortgages being written via mortgage brokers and reflects the strength of the mortgage broking industry.
As with previous years’ reports, broker clients are also much more likely to use a broker again for future lending needs (83 per cent of broker clients would return to this channel), with less than two-thirds (61 per cent) of direct clients saying they would go direct again.
Similarly, the majority of prospective borrowers (“future first home buyers”) were also found to be more likely to engage with a mortgage broker rather than working directly with a single lender (56 per cent versus 39 per cent).
This preference highlights that the broker proposition has continued to resonate even with those who are yet to make their first move in the property market.
While choice of channel continues to be strong, this year’s report did note that satisfaction is falling.
Momentum Intelligence found that 72 per cent of consumers who had engaged a mortgage broker in the previous 12 months said they were satisfied, while a slightly lower figure (68 per cent) of proprietary channel customers were happy with their experience.
While the proprietary channel satisfaction was consistent with the 2020 survey, the gap in broker satisfaction has reduced significantly when compared with previous years, with broker channel satisfaction dropping by 16 percentage points in a year alone.
Brokers continue to be well rated for their communication with clients (85 per cent versus 69 per cent), which was particularly important during peak COVID-19 outbreaks, but the lower levels of satisfaction correlated highly with frustrations around speed of approvals for loans via the broker channel.
Indeed, while borrower satisfaction with speed of approval was low across the board, (at just 57 per cent overall), these figures were better for proprietary customers (61 per cent) compared with broker customers (53 per cent).
The issue reflects publicly acknowledged turnaround time disparities between the two channels. Speaking at a hearing of the standing committee on economics during their ongoing Review of the Four Major Banks and other Financial Institutions in April, the CEOs of the four major banks all conceded that the “time to yes” for home loans was faster when customers went direct, which they attributed to a range of factors, including technology, access to customer data, and less complexity in borrower demographic (see the June edition of The Adviser magazine for more on this topic).
For example, CBA data shows that its median time for home loan approvals during the March quarter was 1.7 days direct, but 14.7 days via broker, while NAB was at 3.8 days versus 8.3 days and Westpac was 11 days versus a whopping 23 days.
Indeed, the monthly Broker Pulse survey from Momentum Intelligence shows that, across all lenders used by broker respondents, turnarounds had blown out to an average of more than 11 business days in early 2021.
Brokers continue to experience delays in turnarounds now. However, there are green shoots of improvement filtering through, with the average time to initial credit decision across all lenders down to an average of eight business days in July 2021, its fastest time since the pandemic first hit in March 2020.
But the damage appears to be done, with consumers less satisfied with their brokers because of it.
Trust levels across both channels also fell in this report, with the broking channel dropping from 89 per cent in 2020 to 83 per cent in 2021. While for the proprietary channel, it has dropped at a faster rate from 67 per cent in 2020 to 57 per cent in 2021.
Speaking of the issue, Momentum Intelligence’s head of strategy, Michael Johnson, says that while turnarounds are generally outside of a broker’s control, the way they communicate these delays to clients early – and staying across how turnarounds are faring – is key to mitigating later frustrations in the home loan process.
He says: “With the significant differences in turnaround times between lenders, it’s critical that brokers go above and beyond to communicate status updates to their clients to maximise their satisfaction.
“This data shows clearly that clients who experienced much slower turnaround times were less satisfied with their broker. That’s why brokers must take a proactive role in communicating application status updates.
“It has been a really challenging period for brokers and their clients, and our data shows that brokers that communicate better receive higher rates of satisfaction, even if the lender turnaround times are slightly longer,” he adds.
As such, brokers can keep delighting their clients with their communication and advice by preparing their clients for what the road ahead looks like for them. Whether it’s advising them that their lender of choice may take a little longer to approve than normal, or highlighting lenders that are able to approve the loan more quickly, being able to clearly communicate these issues to clients could go a long way in improving satisfaction levels overall.
Find out more about what borrowers (and future home buyers) think of the mortgage experience in the Consumer Access to Mortgages Report 2021, available to download from Momentum Intelligence.
proprietary channel customers will seek to use a mortgage broker the next time they secure a mortgage, indicating further growth for the broker channel
of borrowers were satisfied with their application’s speed of approval, leading to significantly lower overall satisfaction among borrowers
of first home buyers plan to use a mortgage broker
borrowers believes they were only given one single lender as a recommendation from their broker
consumers is aware of open banking or the Consumer Data Right
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.
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