08 Oct Robust conversations, the Broking Industry and change
As expected, my last blog entitled Accountants – the saving grace of the finance industry caused rather a small uproar.
Of course that was the aim.
I appreciated all the feedback both positive and not so positive. The emails, comments and conversations over the past weeks showed that the mortgage broking industry as a whole, sees themselves as professional. I have no doubt, in the majority of cases, this is in fact true. The point being made however, was that unfortunately this is not how we are viewed by the Australian public.
A call to arms
Whilst my opinions may have seemed an attack on the broking industry it was in fact a call to arms. I wanted to highlight how accountants were previously viewed with ambivalence but through hard work, collaboration and clever marketing they have now established themselves as trusted advisers. In both business and personal isn’t that who we want around us, giving us strategic advice, helping us to achieve our financial goals? People we trust. Therein lies the opportunity for the mortgage broking industry.
You see, despite my frequent criticisms of the industry, I truly love what I do. I have always advocated for us to become more professional – not in the sense of wearing suits and having an office overlooking the City. It is in our demeanor, in the way we act, in the way we see and value ourselves and our contribution to the success of both the Australian individual and community at large.
Valuing ourselves is one of the toughest things to do in life, let alone in business. Value yourself. If you don’t, no-one else will.
Threats, Weaknesses and Opportunities
Before we look at possible solutions, I would like to highlight a couple of existential threats to the industry as a whole.
Wayne Byres, the chair of APRA, speaking recently at the 2018 Curious Thinkers Conference in Sydney highlighted the fact ‘everyone’ agrees that major change is inevitable. My opinion – he is absolutely right. One sentence I loved from Mr Byres- ‘consensus also seems to be that it is too soon to tell whether the financial world faces evolution or revolution’. Mr Byres also suggested that due to increased technological advances and the advent of digital disruption in the financial sector that mortgage brokers and indeed branch networks (of banks, credit unions etc.) could be under threat.
Without boring you with the entire speech here is a little snippet from Mr Byres:
‘The advent of digital distribution and servicing removes the need for branch and broker networks. Open banking and comprehensive credit reporting will help new competitors to challenge established players. And, of course, regulators are making it easier to navigate the process of entry into the regulated financial system. Taken together, competition in the supply of financial services will only intensify.’
In conclusion, Mr Byres said that APRA’s role was to ‘make sure regulated entities are resilient and responsive to change, but not protected from it’, adding that while the regulator is responsible for promoting stability, ‘that does not mean standing in the way of change’. Whilst Mr Byres’ comments have been met with scepticism by some these are points we need to consider. I look at this as a warning shot rather than financial prophecy.
So there you have it. I have always liked comparing change to waves at the beach. It is inevitable they are coming. You can fight it – you can adapt, meet it head on and ride it; or you can lay down and drown. It makes no difference to the wave.
I’m not prepared to lie down and drown.
So how do we ride this wave of change?
It is probably fair to say that to date mortgage broking has been predominantly a transaction based industry. Perhaps a huge shift to relationship based management is a start. Most brokers will tell you that they all build relationships with their clients and have great mutual love for each other. If that were the case we would never lose a client – or indeed never gain a new client.
Sending clients a gift after settlement has been done since mortgage broking started. I always find the mark of a truly great relationship is when the client sends you a gift. Then you really appreciate the impact you have had on someone’s life or circumstance. Relationships are far greater (and, dare I say needier) than a post settlement gift. Getting to really know your clients is the initially uncomfortable trick – many of us struggle to really understand our friends let alone clients. Do you know what makes them tick?
It is human instinct to congregate with like-minded people – we are all giant magnets. Kids, grandkids, family history, what they love and hate, their secret TV binge shows – this is not all for show. It needs to be genuine, authentic and from a place of nurture.
We can turn this industry away from a commodity (loans) grab into a people focused industry with its backbone entrenched in relationships based on trust and respect.
I have been banging on about collaboration for years and whilst some brokers are happy to collaborate, others not so much. It is a natural instinct to try to protect our own interests, to keep our cards close to our chests. I know it is something I have personally struggled with in the past – trusting that others will hold my best interests at heart. But I am better today than I was yesterday and we should all work towards this.
We cannot feasibly hire someone for every specialty in this industry, and if we take ego out of it, we cannot hope to think we can be everything to everyone. Find people with the same goals and values, the same mindset and life philosophy. Just remember Apple got into bed with Microsoft before they became the giant they are today – same mindsets, same philosophies, similar strategies.
Your best friend might not make the best business partner, similarly your perceived competitor may be your greatest ally.
And what about the future?
Our industry has evolved past the point of doing the same old same old. What we did then, isn’t going to cut it for now, or tomorrow. We need critical thinkers. Implementer’s. People who go outside the norm and aren’t afraid to take risks. Because if we just lie here we’ll drown.
As an industry we need to take ownership and be accountable for our actions – not just our own personal actions but that of our collective industry. The mortgage broking industry is on a transformational journey and its very survival will depend on what we do individually and collaboratively to benefit the whole.
So reach out to someone who inspires you, ask to collaborate, ask for their opinion, offer something in return.
Call your clients post settlement to genuinely connect. Ask them how they found your service, ask them how you could improve – it’s a scary proposition but if you are open to their responses it will change your viewpoint and improve your service offering for future interactions.
Transformation is a necessity, for both the individual and the industry. Change is coming and we need to adapt….now. Who we are tomorrow begins with what we do today.