Branded groups are well known for the systems and support they offer their brokers. The Adviser finds out why brand power matters and what competitive advantages it offers
What makes the prospect of joining a branded group so appealing?
Partnering with a brand that is already established can make good financial sense. The reduced infrastructure costs that come with joining a branded group represent a strong selling point.
For brokers who are new to the industry, or who are making the transition from loan writer to business owner, a branded group can offer the support – and in some cases, the leads – needed to succeed in the industry. The recognition and trust that good branding delivers are two of the other benefits that brokers experience, according to Jeff Chapman, national product and marketing manager at LJ Hooker Home Loans.
“The Australian mortgage market is very competitive, so having a brand that stands out complements the work mortgage professionals do on the ground,” Mr Chapman says.
“The trust element helps us as we set up our shopfronts across Australia. Linking our brand helps transition referrals across from our real estate network as it becomes seamless for the consumer.”
A brand can generate leads, which is another drawcard for brokers, he adds.
Brokers who join LJ Hooker Home Loans double their chances of capturing leads due to the group’s running real estate and home loans lead campaigns in which both groups share. LJ Hooker Home Loans is also focusing on major upgrades to several of its inbuilt platforms that deliver leads from its real estate network.
Mr Chapman says the group’s home loans and real estate arms are seen as one team, making it easier for LJ Hooker brokers to leverage off the brand’s strength for local area marketing.
“We also offer our unique hub that provides easily-accessible marketing material and merchandise,” he says. “Our real estate brand has an 85-year-old pedigree in franchising.
“Our home loans business is in the enviable position of being able to work off the back of that knowledge and technology.”
Not just a brand
Aussie’s chief executive, James Symond, says the right brand alongside the right broker will mean both greater and more consistent results.
“The branding has been proven to attract more customers and close more loans,” Mr Symond says. “Now, having Commonwealth Bank behind the scenes as the ultimate owner of this broking business, it really is blue-chip opposition for any broker.
“With Aussie, it’s not just the brand; it’s our systems, it’s our support, it’s our products, and we believe that gives our brokers the best chance to run a successful business.”
Over the past 23 years, Aussie has invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” in building and promoting its brand.
“We have marketing managers in every state that coach and support our brokers, teaching them how to market their business and build their personal and business profiles locally,” says Mr Symond.
The strength and longevity of the Aussie brand have helped it attract new customers by giving them the confidence that they are benefitting from many years of experience and knowledge.
Aussie’s “standout” education and training programs are another reason for brokers to operate under the brand, according to Mr Symond.
An MFAA-accredited diploma and mentoring program, a two-year business academy, an online learning portal with over 200 modules, and refresher workshops and coaching are all offered to Aussie’s brokers.
“This means that Aussie brokers are highly trained and can focus on delivering a superior customer experience while driving their business to financial success,” Mr Symond says.
Aussie also continues to invest and build on its online capability through its CRM systems. “These are a big part of what helps our brokers make their businesses more efficient and productive,” says Mr Symond.
Culture is another point of difference that can turn a good business into a great business, he continues.
“Sure, structure and systems need to be there and we believe we have that in spades,” he says, “but I believe we have this genuine, integral and entrepreneurial culture that is the important driving force of Aussie.”
Supporting the business
Brokers who are trying to decide whether to go with branded support need to ask themselves one question: would they have more success going it alone or with a large, supportive team with an established market presence?
Choice chief executive Stephen Moore says a recognised brand with a national presence helps a broker to promote their business as one that borrowers can trust.
Choice has put significant resources into developing specialised business support platforms, resulting in an increasing number of Choice Aggregation brokers moving across to start a business under the Choice Home Loans brand.
Undoubtedly, the sheer size and scope of the Choice brand has helped drive this level of investment, with support in the form of recruitment and retention services, marketing and business coaching, state-of-the-artt technology, and an award-winning white-label solution.
“Providing tailored business support is a key component of the Choice Home Loans service offering,” says Mr Moore, with ‘better advice through better listening’ the platform on which the business offering rests.
Practice development managers act as business specialists by providing strategic planning and business coaching to improve business efficiency, while Choice Home Loans’ peer to-peer learning sessions allow brokers to team up and develop best practice protocols.
“Our culture of collaboration means our members have the opportunity to learn from top-performing brokers who live and breathe the industry every day,” says Mr Moore.
Brokers who operate under the Choice brand have a chance to receive extra leads in addition to those they generate themselves. Often these leads are outside the brokers’ usual networks, which helps in building client data and referral opportunities, he adds.
“Our members really value our lead support as it allows them to consistently build their customer base with very minimal time and effort,” says Mr Moore.
Access to leads
PLAN chief executive Phil Quin-Conroy says that unlike many branded groups with franchise business models, PLAN allows brokers to have their own branded business.
“PLAN Australia is a wholesale aggregator. We see ourselves as a service provider to entrepreneurial, self-employed, finance broking business owners who are in growth mode,” he explains. “They absolutely operate under their own brand, supported by the services and infrastructure that we deliver.”
Mortgage Choice CEO Michael Russell says that branded groups offer the benefit of a strong support network and marketing campaigns that drive leads for brokers’ businesses. The strength of the Mortgage Choice brand played its part three years ago in the launch of the group’s financial planning arm, which gives all of its brokers access to a Mortgage Choice financial planner to assist clients with their broader financial needs.
“Having an in-house financial planning arm has really helped our brokers to strengthen their overall customer service proposition and create happier, stickier clients,” he says.
Mortgage Choice’s proposition is designed to attract sales-oriented people who are passionate about providing a great customer experience – “people who value and recognise the tangible and intangible benefits associated with our brand”, Mr Russell says.
“Ideally, we want our brokers spending their time writing loans and not searching for loans,” he says.
Q&A: Liberty Network Services’ Brendan O’Donnell shares his views on the power of branding
Question 1. Why is branding so important?
A brand provides a framework that allows brokers to focus on what they are good at – dealing with customers. A brand also provides depth and breadth of support in specialist areas that a broker needs to be successful in in today’s world, such as digital marketing, referral management, lead generation and targeted local area marketing that is professionally packaged and that makes a difference.
Brands provide the scale and provide the support. In essence, brands create a professional platform.
You can’t allow one point in your particular network to do something wrong, so you are very focused on making sure that a minimum standard applies across the board because you’ve got brand reputation to protect. Ultimately, a branded platform gives you saleability.
Question 2. How does your model compare with what the market offers?
Our proposition is built on five pillars: namely economics, technology, diversification, marketing and business building. We believe our model is the most rewarding branded model in the market. We are a retail branded model that does not have the restrictions that you may find with many branded models. We provide brokers with the freedom to write business through Liberty and a panel of 16 lenders. Equally, they receive 90 per cent of the upfront and trail on all business written, and 100 per cent on all Liberty business written. Our technology platform is mobile and runs on the Apple iPad – it’s truly amazing.
Diversification is the most spoken about yet the least executed component of our industry. Our advisers are very fortunate to be able to write motor loans, SMSF and commercial loans in an easy, integrated way. We also have an integrated insurance offering from LFI Group all sitting on the iPad. Sixty-eight per cent of our advisers now write motor loans and we have a 23 per cent conversion rate on mortgage protection.
Our marketing is targeted and is relentless in supporting advisers’ local actions – we invest dollar for dollar with our network. As for business support, you can’t build distribution without a team that have good business acumen and can mentor and guide advisers. Liberty Network Services has a strong sales management team.
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