Commercial finance forum focuses on education

Collaboration the key to learning, says broker

Commercial finance forum focuses on education

Education is one of the focal points for the MFAA’s National Equipment and Commercial Finance Forum, says the group’s re-elected deputy president Mhairi MacLeod.

The asset and equipment finance broker, and principal and founder of Astute Ability Finance, is serving her second term as forum deputy president following recent elections for the MFAA’s five national forums.

Judo Bank chief third party officer George Obeid was re-elected president of the National Equipment and Commercial Finance Forum

The five MFAA national forums are the National Aggregators Forum, National Compliance and Regulatory Forums, National Lenders Forum and the equipment and commercial finance forum. Along with broker feedback through state managers, the forums  are designed to provide valuable insights that inform MFAA programs, advocacy and policy positions.

MacLeod (pictured above), who was the first woman to be elected to the role of deputy chair of the National Equipment and Commercial Finance Forum in 2022, said the forum “was taking a new direction and new leads from real brokers as well as the other forums”.

“If there’s any crossover we’re all collaborating and sharing our thoughts,” MacLeod said.

She said she was delighted to be re-elected as deputy president and hoped to inspire other women to come forward and share their views in a male-dominated space.

“The men in the forum want to hear our opinions. We’ve got [AAA Financial Group general manager] Melissa Ashcroft in our forum as well, she’s lovely. We’re starting to get a voice, which is really great.”

Ashcroft was also newly elected deputy president of the National Mortgage Managers Forum.

MacLeod said she and Obeid worked well together, complementing each other by bringing their own perspectives – Obeid as a banker, and MacLeod as a broker.

“I think that's a big difference. It’s great to have banks and aggregators on the forum but what does it really look like at the ground level? What are we all wanting? What changes do we need?”

Education a key aim of MFAA forum

MacLeod said the forum was focusing on educating brokers to keep up their skills and understand what it meant to be part of an aggregation team and governing body.

The focus extended also to new brokers who wanted to work in commercial asset and equipment finance.

“This forum is bringing together the whole understanding of what commercial equipment brokers do – it’s just not bricks and mortar. It's about collaborating with other brokers who want to learn how to do cars, trucks, shop fit-outs, anything with a serial number. It's a broader spectrum and we’re just paving the way.”

MacLeod said fraud was also a key focus, as it was for the other national forums.

The aim is for self-regulation in the commercial finance sector, avoiding the “heavy” government regulation that other segments such as financial planners faced, she said.

The forum wanted to keep mortgage brokers informed and MacLeod encouraged MFAA members to look out for the forum’s outcomes in coming months, such as through the meeting minutes, which were available from the MFAA.

Trends in asset and equipment finance

Looking at what is currently happening in asset and equipment finance, MacLeod said she was starting to see some “really good movement” with more cars, trucks, bulldozers and equipment coming into Australia.

“During COVID, there was a slow-up of assets coming in, even machinery coming out of Germany and France, we were having problems getting that in. ‘

“It's now starting to flow through, so this is where I think we'll probably have a good five years coming out of the COVID spectra, as we get more and more equipment landing into the country.”

In terms of demand for finance, MacLeod said manufacturers wanted to purchase new equipment, unlike in the COVID era when they would hang onto existing assets.

She said the transport industry was also bringing in newer trucks, and the desire to upgrade equipment was also growing in the building sector and beauty industry.

MacLeod said the banks and lenders needed to be onboard, working alongside SMEs. “They’re bringing out new products to assist all the time, which is fabulous.”

She praised non-bank lenders for working closely with brokers and SME customers “looking at products and how they assess a customer”.

“They’re starting to become more engaging in what the customers are looking for, whether it be a regular payment, seasonal payments etc,” said MacLeod.

“Due to the velocity of change in the way businesses operated during COVID, smaller lenders gave brokers and customers the gift of electronic signatures and verifications, and tools such as Verimoto, where people can inspect a car without having to physically go and see it.

“Digitalisation has certainly come a long way in this space, with a lot more brokers and banks implementing these processes.”

MacLeod said second and third-tier lenders had pivoted to this new technology a lot more quickly than the big banks, who would eventually make the move.