CAFBA CEO has high aims for broker organisation

Professional Standards Scheme will boost growth, says former politician

CAFBA CEO has high aims for broker organisation

If CAFBA’s sole aim when searching for a new CEO was to find somebody with enough political clout to open doors in Canberra, it would be hard to go past David Bushby.

Boasting an impressive CV, Bushby (pictured above) served as a Liberal senator for Tasmania in the Federal Senate between  2007 and 2019, including as chief government whip of the Senate from 2014 onwards. He had a particular interest in economics, serving as a member and chair of the Senate economics committee.

Bushby’s first three months as a senator began toward the end of the John Howard government in 2007. He also served under Liberal prime ministers Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrision, and in Opposition during the terms of prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

After leaving the Senate in 2019, he was appointed Australian Consul-General in the US city of Chicago, a position he held for three years. Bushby also practised as a commercial and international lawyer and is a trained economist.

He took the reins as CEO of the Commercial and Asset Finance Brokers Association from David Gill in October 2023. MPA caught up with Bushby to discuss his time as CAFBA CEO so far, how his work as a senator brought him into contact with commercial brokers, and his vision for the industry body.

Despite being so heavily involved in the world of politics and its machinery of bureaucracy and regulation, Bushby fully supports CAFBA’s goal of being a highly professional, well-recognised organisation whose members are the masters of their own destiny.

“I think CAFBA exists primarily to maximise the chance that the industry remains largely self-regulated … that’s its fundamental purpose underlying  everything it does,” said Bushby.

“The education pathway that we offer, the professional development, our high entry requirements for membership – everything we do is all about ensuring that brokers operate in an ethical, knowledgeable and capable way so that they don't attract the attention of government and get regulated in ways that’s not going to be good for them, their clients and the economy.”

While Bushby recognises he’s not a commercial or asset broker, he does bring to the table detailed knowledge how governments operate.

“Having somebody who understands government, how government decision makers work, how they think, how they interplay with regulators, I think is a huge advantage for an association like CAFBA,” he said. 

“Whether it's been my career as a diplomat, my career as a politician, the real skill in that is the networking, talking to people and creating relationships with people that matter. Those skills, whether it's in the Senate, whether as a diplomat or whether as CEO of CAFBA they all translate and move across perfectly.”

Bushby said it had been a steep learning curve for him as CEO CAFBA, especially understanding the relationships between lenders, aggregators and brokers.

“I've had a surface-level understanding of how the banking and the finance sector works, but not a deep one that you can only get from actually living and working in it,” he said.

Unlike other broker industry bodies which included aggregator and lender representatives on their boards, Bushby said CAFBA’s board, consisting of 11 directors, could only be made up of people who are qualified brokers.

He said this meant through the board he had access to brokers who could provide any information he needed about the industry.

How Bushby first connected with CAFBA

Bushby said he was reminded of how much the finance industry had changed when he looked back at the 2011 Senate economics committee inquiry report on banking competition.

He said the inquiry came about through the efforts of then shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, with the CEOs of the big four banks and the governor of the RBA appearing before the Senate committee.

“It was very high-profile, it was on the news every night … it went for a few months and actually delivered a very good report with commonsense suggestions on how to put pressure on banks to improve competition.”

Looking at the report’s 40 recommendations recently, Bushby said they didn’t mention brokers.

“That highlights to me how much the industry has changed in the 13 years since then, where brokers weren’t a consideration in 2011 when you’re thinking about improving competition.”

Bushby said now brokers played an important role in keeping the market competitive.

His first encounter with CAFBA occurred during the Rudd government when it was in the process of bringing in the National Consumer Credit Protection Act and wanted it to include commercial lending.

“CAFBA came to me as a member of the economics committee that was reviewing the bill and  made a really good case to me as to why commercial lending is different and shouldn't be subject to the NCCP and I agreed, so I went to bat for them,” he said.

The efforts of Bushby and other politicians in advocating for commercial lending to be left out of the NCCP were successful.

“The argument was that business borrowers were more sophisticated and don’t need to be treated with quite the same kid gloves as consumer borrowers,” he said.

“If you tie up business lending with too much regulation, you slow down the economy, you slow down the ability of business to be nimble and quick and take advantage of opportunities and new contracts.”

Bushby said after that first involvement with CAFBA he stayed in contact,  worked with the organisation on a number of things while he was in the Senate.

“I just developed a lot of respect for the people who were part of CAFBA and the work they do.”

He described CAFBA as “growth enablers for business”.

“They help small business get the finance they need to grow and that’s a great thing in my book. It’s really important in a growing economy,” he said.

While Bushby said the most common path for someone like him who had worked as a politician and diplomat for almost 15 years was working as a government lobbyist, he didn’t want to do that.

“I wanted to do something that excited me about getting up every day in the morning and that I felt was worthwhile,” he said. “And when the CAFBA CEO role came up, I thought, I know these people, they're great people, what they do is really worthwhile doing.”

Bushby said he was put through a rigorous application and interview process by CAFBA and was thrilled to be offered the job.

The growth of CAFBA

CAFBA is a highly effective advocacy organisation and this had been led by advocacy chair, former president and life member David Gandolfo, Bushby said.

“Gandolfo is widely respected as one of the most effective association advocates of any organisation, large or small,” he said. “CAFBA has done a really, really good job up to this point.”

Bushby said CAFBA started as a small organisation in 2008 but its membership had grown by 10% to 15% every year since. CAFBA now boasts more than 1,500 members (including both brokerages and individual members).

“It’s not just the membership that’s grown, it’s the resources and capabilities of the organisation that have improved along the way,” Bushby said.

“Part of the thinking I think with the change of CEO and the retirement of David Gill was that we have the opportunity to professionalise even further, improve the organisational capabilities and take it to a next level.”

Professional Standards Scheme

CAFBA is seeking to become certified under the Professional Standards Scheme (PSS). Bushby said it started the formal process by applying to the Professional Standards Council in April.

“We've always got to be looking at how can we continue to improve the professional nature of this industry and the people who are in it.”

The board had decided that the PSS was the best way to do that, with the council “running a fine-tooth comb over CAFBA”,  a process that could take 18 months to two years.

“We want to make {sure] we are an organisation that is capable of effectively self-regulating our members … [the PSS] does really stave off the argument for the government to step in and regulate.”

Bushby said achieving PSS certification would be a highly esteemed achievement, with other respected organisations such as the CPA and the Law Society of NSW being part of the PSS.

Benefits would include lower professional indemnity premiums and possibly post-nominals for members, similar to what the CPA has.

Bushby said he hoped it would create a degree of aspiration with commercial brokers and their clients, encouraging customers who were looking for a broker to choose someone who was PSS certified.

CAFBA has also created specific qualifications for commercial and asset brokers in association with the Institute of Strategic Management. These included the Certificate IV in Financial Services (FNS41820): Specialising in Commercial & Asset Finance and the Diploma in Financial Services: Specialising in Complex Issues in Commercial Finance.

“It is the only specifically targeted educational qualification that focuses on commercial and asset broking,” said Bushby.

To become a member of CAFBA, the diploma was the minimum requirement but Bushby said brokers also need experience and references as well.

CAFBA also offers the internationally recognised Certified Lease and Finance Professional (CLFP) qualification.