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A celebration of the industry’s best
On a Friday night in mid-October, the Australian Mortgage Awards recognised the best in the mortgage and finance industry with a virtual awards celebration. Hosted by TV and radio presenter Erin Molan, this year’s ceremony saw awards handed out in 29 categories to finance brokers, BDMs, lenders, banks, aggregators and service providers.
For the 12th year in a row, the awards were sponsored by major bank Westpac. CEO Peter King called the event a great opportunity to celebrate the industry’s outstanding achievements over the past 12 months – despite not being able to do so in person.
King praised the way the broking industry had come through the pandemic. “Since COVID, the industry has shown new ways of working and shown how resilient and innovative it is,” he said. “Brokers continue to play a key role in helping customers with the Australian dream: buying a home. They trust and value your independent service and advice, and they look to brokers to help navigate a complex landscape of choice.”
Adapting to a new way of doing business
The industry was certainly there for borrowers over the last two years as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. In March 2020 as the international borders closed and restrictions were put in place to limit movement and interaction, many Australians lost their jobs or had to press pause on their businesses.
Navigating the options for borrowers presented some complexity, so brokers stepped in to support their existing clients with solutions like repayment holidays, refinancing, or cash flow options.
In fact, the market turned out to be much more resilient, and throughout 2020 brokers saw record numbers of refinances and first home buyers.
Brokers also had to adapt their own businesses to the sudden shift to working from home and no longer being able to see clients in person. It was a learning curve for many brokers who had to implement new technology and rethink their business strategies, but when the lockdowns and restrictions were put in place in NSW and Victoria again this year, brokers were much better prepared.
Banks also had to double down on their digital offering to ensure that borrowers and brokers could continue to submit loans, even though they could not complete the usual steps in person. This year’s AMAs celebrated the digital efforts of both brokers and banks.
The biggest winner of the year was mortgage broker Louisa Sanghera from Zippy Financial, who took home the individual award for Broker of the Year – Independent, while the brokerage also won the Most Effective Digital Strategy award. Commenting on Zippy Financial’s digital strategy, Sanghera said that over the last year the brokerage had focused on building its online presence. “We achieved this by taking complete
ownership and control of our communication channels and continuing to grow our online community groups,” she said. “Our strategy consists of a dynamic and interconnected network of websites, social media platforms, online magazines, online advertising, online content marketing, community events, PR and direct communications.”
Sanghera’s wins also led to her taking home the biggest award of the night: Australian Broker of the Year.
“As an independent mortgage broker, winning Australian Broker of the Year is such a huge deal,” she said. “We were up against some well-established and much larger brokerages, and everyone else nominated in this category is more than deserving to win. So I’m honoured and overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected to come out on top and win this award.”
Sanghera thanked her team for all the hard work they had done, saying the year had been “crazy busy”. She said winning three awards on the night “means the world” to her. “Not only is it a validation of the hard work I’ve put into the business for almost seven years now, but it’s also a testament to the amazing team I have behind me, supporting me every step of the way. I couldn’t have done this without their support and dedication,” she said. “We have faced several challenges throughout the years, and winning these awards gives us more fuel to burn the fire that we need to keep on pushing forward, to achieve more and to help make more clients reach their goals and dreams. These awards would not be possible without the continuous trust we receive from them, and it motivates us to improve the quality of service we provide to them more and more.”
One of the other big winners of the night was Home Loan Experts, which won Liberty Australian Brokerage of the Year. This was off the back of winning Brokerage of the Year (>20 staff). Increasing its loan settlement value by almost 71% in FY21, the brokerage aims to “answer all leads, not just high pay-off customers”. Home Loan Experts mortgage broker Prakash Rai said it felt “surreal” to be receiving the award. “I’d also like to extend my thanks to my team at Home Loan Experts, without whom this would not have been possible. I’m forever grateful for your support,” he said.
Recognising the best lenders
With the increase in lending business during COVID-19, brokers worked through the challenge of lengthening turnaround times. SLAs grew as banks tightened their lending criteria and spent more time diving into borrowers’ living expenses.
In MPA’s surveys this year, brokers voiced their frustrations with the increased turnaround times, but commended non-banks for performing much better. Lenders were celebrated at this year’s AMAs as well, with awards recognising those that had provided the best service to brokers over the last year. Taking out Bank of the Year was Bankwest. Addressing the issue of turnaround times in its submission, Bankwest said it took a continuous improvement approach to managing application volumes as well as increasing the number of staff in its processing team.
Bankwest’s general manager of home buying, Peter Bouhlas, said he was delighted to accept the award on the night. “Our vision is to deliver brilliant customer experiences every day, and we aim to offer simple, friendly service, security and value for Australians from coast to coast,” he said. “With 80% of our home loan customers choosing Bankwest through their broker, we place great importance and respect on our third-party relationships. Bankwest’s ambition is to be the best broker bank in Australia, and we can only
achieve that by working closely with brokers and adapting to their needs – and this award suggests we’re on the right path.”
The Non-Bank of the Year award went to Pepper Money. Helping brokers through the COVID-19 period, the non-bank focused on introducing service innovations and broker education.Barry Saoud, general manager of mortgages and commercial lending at Pepper Money, accepted the award and thanked the non-bank’s team, its customers, brokers and business partners. “We feel really fortunate to be part of an industry that is providing real-life solutions to our customers, so I thank [them for their] support,” he said. “I’d also like to acknowledge and thank all the finalists; we feel very proud to be part of a group that’s providing alternative lending solutions.”
While only a few of the winners of this year’s Australian Mortgage Awards have been mentioned here, all the winners are important and deserving of celebration. Congratulations to everyone who was named as a finalist in 2021; in such a busy and complex year, it was a tight judging process. Full details of the finalists and award winners are highlighted over the following pages. MPA looks forward to seeing you all in person at next year’s Australian Mortgage Awards.
WESTPAC AUSTRALIAN BROKER OF THE YEAR
- Louisa Sanghera
LIBERTY AUSTRALIAN BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR
BROKER OF THE YEAR – REGIONAL
LA TROBE BROKER OF THE YEAR – COMMERCIAL
- Kevin Wheatley
Bayside Commercial Mortgages
FBAA BROKER OF THE YEAR – INDEPENDENT
- Louisa Sanghera
PEPPER MONEY BROKER OF THE YEAR – SPECIALIST LENDING
- Mark Davis
The Australian Lending and Investment Centre
EQUITY-ONE BROKER OF THE YEAR – PRODUCTIVITY
- Daniel Pym
Loan Market Double Bay
MFAA YOUNG GUN OF THE YEAR (FRANCHISE)
- Luke Whitbread
Mortgage Choice Erina NSW
ADELAIDE BANK YOUNG GUN OF THE YEAR (INDEPENDENT)
- Andrew Hadjidemetri
Australian Financial & Mortgage Solutions
BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR (1-5 STAFF)
BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR (6-20 STAFF)
RESIMAC BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR – DIVERSIFICATION
COMMONWEALTH BANK OF AUSTRALIA BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR (>20 STAFF)
BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR – REGIONAL
NEXTGEN.NET NEW BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR
BOQ BROKER BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE FROM AN INDIVDUAL OFFICE
MOST EFFECTIVE DIGITAL STRATEGY – BROKERAGE
BEST INDUSTRY MARKETING CAMPAIGN
BEST INDUSTRY SERVICE
PRIME CAPITAL AGGREGATOR OF THE YEAR (UP TO 500 BROKERS)
ONDECK AGGREGATOR OF THE YEAR (OVER 500 BROKERS)
BEST MAJOR BANK BDM
BANKWEST BEST AGGREGATOR BDM
- Tracey Najjar
Centrepoint Alliance Lending
BEST NON-MAJOR BANK BDM
MORTGAGE CHOICE BEST NON-BANK BDM
- Michelle Rose
La Trobe Financial
NON-BANK OF THE YEAR
FINTECH LENDER OF THE YEAR
MSA NATIONAL BANK OF THE YEAR
LOAN SERVICES TEAM OF THE YEAR
MOST EFFECTIVE DIGITAL STRATEGY – LENDER