The mental health and wellbeing of brokers is particularly important to Choice Aggregation at the moment, says its CEO
The potential strain on the mental health and wellbeing of brokers over the last few months has been significant, as they have worked remotely, faced an economic recession, worried about their own businesses and helped borrowers navigate hurdles.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, mortgage brokers were still recovering from the turmoil of the royal commission recommendations and subsequent preparation for the best interests duty.
This is why Choice Aggregation is focusing its efforts on the mental wellbeing of its brokers.
“2020 really has become a year unlike any other,” says CEO Stephen Moore.
While COVID-19 has impacted many areas of everyday life and business, Moore says the exact responses and challenges will vary from person to person.
“Change is challenging, and I know the past few months have been difficult, but in this environment brokers really do need to embrace change”
“We all adapt differently, and brokers are working through exactly what COVID-19 means for them on a personal level,” he says.
It’s not all bad news: Choice has seen a 12.5% increase in settlement volumes year-on-year, and Moore says growth is continuing. Loan applications in May totalled $2.96bn, the highest result for the financial year and 27% ahead of plan.
Refinancing has been one of the biggest focuses for brokers, and while Moore says it is the right thing to do for existing customers, he warns that brokers should watch out for a false sense of security.
“We haven’t yet experienced the full economic impact of COVID-19. So it’s important that brokers continue to focus on marketing their businesses for future growth to attract new customers too.”
Name: Stephen Moore
Company: Choice Aggregation Services
Years in the industry: 10
Career highlight: “In my 25-plus years in the financial services industry, one standout was being a co-founder of UBank, which is now recognised as a leading direct bank. However, leading Choice and being part of the broker industry has been the most satisfying. I love working with such a great team and such fantastic brokers and am proud of how our industry has advanced, tackling significant challenges to become the leading channel for home loans in Australia.”
Adapting to change
One of the ways Choice is supporting broker mental health is by helping them be proactive in making business decisions so they can feel more in control.
“Change is challenging, and I know the past few months have been difficult, but in this environment brokers really do need to embrace change and be willing to adapt,” he says.
“We have focused on supporting brokers to control what they can. For example, adopting practical measures that will support them to operate efficiently in this period and ensure they can continue to deliver outstanding customer experiences.”
Moore encourages brokers to find some quiet time and headspace to plan strategically and consider how they want their businesses to emerge in the post-pandemic environment, for example, by thinking of positive, long-term changes that could help brokers get on the front foot.
These could be things brokers were already considering doing, or opportunities that have been identified thanks to the pandemic. Marketing to existing customers and the broader community is also particularly key right now.
“It’s the work brokers do now to market their businesses that will lead to future growth,” Moore says.
One thing that’s had a significant impact on broker businesses – and businesses across the globe – in the last few months is technology. During a time of restricted face-to-face interaction, technology has stepped in to ensure that brokers can remain in contact with new and existing clients. And while it is difficult to imagine that broking will ever be wholly digital, Moore says brokers should be adopting digital tools and investing time in getting up to speed on new technology.
Choice recently released a new feature as part of the new Podium platform called My Finance Communities, which enables brokers to complete a seamless online application, from uploading and storing customer documents through to an inbuilt chat functionality.
“The future for broker businesses is, after all, combining great digital tools with high-quality face-to-face customer interactions,” Moore says.
A message to brokers
While there is still uncertainty around the virus itself, as well as its economic impacts, Moore says there is a lot for the broking industry to be positive about. He is confident the industry will come out of the pandemic more resilient than ever, and expects broker market share to continue climbing towards 70% over the next three years.
“In times of uncertainty there is a natural flight to those we trust, and the critical role that brokers play in supporting customers has been and will continue to be apparent during the coming months,” Moore says.
“Talking to others is the best thing you can do – your internalised perspective can often be far worse than true reality”
The industry has already proved that it can not just survive adversity but prosper beyond the challenges it faces. It now also has support from the government, and new regulatory require ments are ensuring that there is confidence in the system. Moore believes the imple mentation of the best interests duty will be the “best thing that’s ever happened to our industry”.
Despite the opportunities and the positives, Moore says feelings of loneliness or anxiety can impact us all.
However, “you aren’t alone”, he says.
While social distancing and self-isolation are currently the right things to do, these terms can have negative connotations, particularly for people who are usually sociable. Moore says brokers should remember that there is support out there, and they should feel comfortable about reaching out to their aggregators, which have a particularly important role to play in this regard.
“Don’t forget to speak to your friends, your family, your colleagues and industry peers,” he says. “Staying connected can really help us all overcome feelings of uncertainty.
“Talking to others is the best thing you can do – your internalised perspective can often be far worse than true reality.
”He adds that we need to look out for each other now more than ever.
“I would encourage all brokers to look out for those around them, and don’t be afraid to ask the simple question, ‘R U OK?’
“Trust your instincts. If you feel like someone is not acting themselves, then talk to them. Simple conversations can be life-changing,” he says.
“Maintaining a positive mindset can be a challenge for all of us during such uncertainty and negative news reports.
“Remember to look after yourself and do what you can to remain positive – whether by doing regular exercise, meditating or just blocking out time away from your desk. Lean on your aggregator for support. Surround yourself with positive, motivated individuals and, most importantly, take care of yourself.”