Mark Haron: Confidence in the broker

As Connective's executive director celebrates 15 years at the aggregator, he reflects on the resilience of the broking industry during the challenges of the pandemic

Mark Haron: Confidence in the broker

With rising vaccination rates paving the way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the broker industry is gearing up for what the ‘new normal’ might look like. Connective executive director Mark Haron is confident that the high activity brokers have seen in the last two years will continue. There is “still so much opportunity”, he says.

Celebrating his 15th anniversary at the aggregator in October, Haron says if he has learnt one thing from the past two years, it’s the importance of communication and connection. Brokers stepped up their communication during the pandemic to make sure borrowers understood the various changes and offers on the market, and he says this should continue.

“It’s crucial for brokers to continue to communicate with clients to understand their needs and to educate them. The real opportunity is to develop deeper client relationships but do it at scale,” Haron says.

“With interest rate changes coming up that will potentially negatively impact borrowers, clients will want to know more and more about ways they can ensure they have the right home loan. The broker’s job is to guide the client on that journey.”

Helping brokers stay resilient

In navigating repeated lockdowns, communicating with borrowers, and growing their own businesses, brokers have been nothing if not resilient. They quickly adapted to the virtual landscape early in the pandemic, and technology has played a huge role in this.

Haron says the industry has gone through an accelerated digital transformation, and many of the changes are here to stay.

Systems like Connective’s Mercury Nexus give brokers the ability to navigate various tools to service existing clients and connect with prospective clients. A good platform doesn’t just get the application to the lender, Haron says. It needs to accurately collate data, guide the broker through regulatory requirements, provide a seamless process for the client, and support regular communication.

In the same system as their CRM, brokers can use Connective’s Client Centre to get borrowers to put information into their profiles, as well as access product calculators and pull together data for compliance.

It’s not just a benefit to the broker; Haron says clients have enjoyed the change to digital processes too.

“The way brokers have really engaged with the available technology has been exciting,” he says. “It helps them provide exceptional service to their clients, which results in more borrowers using brokers through positive ‘word of mouth’.”

Rolling out tech updates has been an important way for Connective to help brokers transition to online processes, but that’s not all it has done to support them.

Understanding the frustrations that brokers and their clients have been experiencing due to lengthy turnaround times, Connective has invested in its own white label home loan product.

Haron says the benefit of having a white label portfolio is that the aggregator can focus on improving service levels, forcing other lenders to look at their own.

Connective has also introduced its Lender Approval Time Dashboard over the last year, providing real-time data on lender approval times, which “changed the whole narrative” on how lenders were reporting their turnaround times.

“It’s made them be more transparent in how they’re reporting turnaround times,” Haron says.

“We’re saying to the lenders, ‘no one cares when you pick up the loan fi le’, and the client doesn’t really care when they’ve got a conditional approval, because it still doesn’t mean they have the loan locked in.

“It’s when the loan becomes ‘unconditional’ that is crucial. That’s when the broker knows, and the client knows, that they can purchase or refinance their property with confidence. The Lender Approval Time Dashboard helped lenders be a lot more focused on improving turnaround times.”

Keeping brokers informed, engaged

Along with meeting brokers’ expectations that they will have the right tools and services, Connective has also ensured that all its staff are interacting with brokers more frequently. This has been a focus throughout the business – and Haron adds that none of this could have been done without the support of CEO Glenn Lees.

“We were conscious during any inter-action with our members that brokers were going through a pretty tough time,” Haron says.

“In the last two years brokers’ clients have needed them more than ever, and there’s been a heightened level of interaction. So we needed to lift our service levels for brokers as well. It’s really about checking in on the brokers and making sure everyone is doing OK, and we’re all looking after each other.”

Brokers have not been the only communicators during the pandemic. Quickly adapting to the situation, Haron began hosting webinars to ensure brokers were kept informed but also continued to feel engaged while they worked from home.

The level of interaction with industry associations, the regulators and the government did not slow down either, he explains, so it was important to him to keep communicating so brokers knew Connective was not “dropping the ball”.

“We’re continuing to do these things so brokers can feel confident and continue to look after their clients and grow their businesses,” Haron says.

To support these interactions, he explains that the aggregator has partnered with Melbourne Business School to offer a broker education series as part of its extensive digital education program this year.

“The brokers are loving it because it’s not just talking about the industry, it’s talking about how to improve their businesses. It’s been tremendous to see brokers thrive in what could have been a disastrous period for the industry.”

Congratulating brokers on their resilience over the last two years, Haron says they have stayed strong and done a great job of supporting their clients – and the increasing share of the mortgage broking channel is a direct result of the outstanding performance of brokers over recent years.

“Let’s continue to make sure the mortgage broker proposition remains really relevant and we all continue to strive to deliver the best outcomes for clients,” says Haron.