The quality of an aggregator plays a huge part in the success of a broker's business. So when it comes to a perfect match, what are the key hallmarks of a successful partnership between broker and aggregator? Sarah Wells – solutionist and founder of redconcierge – reveals her experience with Vow Financial.
1. When did you first partner with Vow and what prompted you to choose Vow over other aggregators?
I have been with Vow since its inception, being a former broker with The Mortgage Professionals. The past five years has seen the industry forced to evolve and confront a natural attrition process brought about by changes, such as increased competition, cross sales, tougher regulations and the retraction of a number of second-tier lenders from third party distribution. Without Vow entering the market, I hazard to guess what may have happened to my business.
At the time of these changes I spent a great deal of time looking at alternatives and I can honestly say I chose to deepen my relationship with Vow for two reasons: the idea of being part of an adaptive and innovative player in the space was the primary reason; and the strong relationships I developed with the Vow team in the first six months of the merger have proved to be beneficial to my business going forward.
2. What, in your experience, makes Vow different from other aggregators?
The key difference is Vow listens and is then agile and strategic to respond to the change; and brokers really want and respect this. In my opinion, a number of the more established aggregators have a well-established structure and brand, but in this environment the ability to respond quickly to industry trends is the difference between surviving and thriving.
3. What is Vow’s key offering to brokers?
To my mind there is no doubt about this: Vow’s philosophy to empower its brokers is enormously appealing. As mentioned, I came to Vow via The Mortgage Professionals where servicing brokers was an integral part of the business model, and it was essential to me that Vow maintained this approach.
To date, I haven’t been disappointed; Vow has more than matched its rhetoric about placing its brokers ‘front and centre’. When Vow talks about giving its brokers the skills, the expertise, and the knowledge to succeed in this brave new world it actually means it.
4. How has your relationship with Vow developed?
A number of the key members from the Vow team I have come to know and trust with my business’s future were from the other two brokerages that joined with The Mortgage Professionals. We took some time to develop these relationships, but the fact my concerns were listened to made me feel comfortable and safe with the new direction Vow was taking.
Vow has spent a great deal of time listening to its brokers and, importantly, I feel, never professes to have all the answers immediately – just a commitment to find them.
5. How does having an aggregator you can depend on for key business support positively benefit your business?
My business is Vow’s business; if I don’t succeed then Vow won’t. Put simply, without aggregator support in the design and implementation of my business model, and visa versa, we run the risk of becoming complacent and failing to listen to the market. The mark of a successful business model is one that is ready to respond to change, not one that reacts to it.
6. What are the advantages of partnering with Vow?
Several advantages from partnering with Vow quickly come to mind. To begin with you get direct access to the key people. As a broker, that’s invaluable.
In addition, it’s my experience that the Vow executive team brings an enormous amount of dynamism to the table; they are constantly looking at ways in which they can improve my business, not simply waiting for events to unfold and then responding. I really appreciate the initiative they show in all aspects of the business. For example, Vow has been extremely helpful in assisting brokers with their succession planning. In the past this was often neglected but Vow has made a real effort to help brokers get this right.
7. How does Vow promote longstanding relationships?
Vow only seeks to recruit quality brokers. They carefully assess you and satisfy themselves with the broker’s skill set and then refer the best brokers to better broker groups. It gives you confidence when you have been selected after such a gruelling assessment. Being equal partners helps promote longstanding relationships.
Remember, it’s a client-driven business. Brokers realise the extra time they have to spend explaining their products to clients gives them the opportunity to establish stronger relationships. The emphasis shifts from a ‘sale’ to ‘educating’ clients about what’s on offer, providing the opportunity to sell other products. In short, it has the potential to transform a transaction-based relationship to a lifelong relationship.
As long as Vow supports us in these longstanding relationships, we will have a longstanding relationship with our clients.
8. What are the key hallmarks of a successful aggregator in the industry today?
Honestly, I think this is a difficult question to answer as the landscape is evolving. I can only answer from a broker’s perspective; if you have successful brokers you will have a successful aggregator.
What does this mean in practice? Well, to begin with, training and education are critical. Recruitment from outside the industry will bring a much-needed breath of fresh air to a sometimes stale industry.
Being innovative: this can involve seeking alternate approaches to solving succession planning and common problems such as maternity/paternity leave for the solo business.
Support in areas such as IT, administration, marketing and business planning, including funding options for individual and small broker groups to grow, is imperative for aggregator success.
Lastly, knowledge transfer and business culture development (and not just the raw numbers) will become major considerations that will need to be factored in by aggregators when assessing brokers.
9. What business initiatives at Vow from a broker’s point of view have proved successful in the past 12 months?
Looking back at the services Vow has introduced over the past year, it’s really quite a remarkable track record for a young company. Vow reached agreement with the professional education and training firm Kaplan Professional – the first training package to be designed exclusively for a mortgage aggregator in Australia. It means Vow brokers can get accredited professional development material via Kaplan’s online training program OnTrack, helping facilitate their ASIC licensing requirements. In IT, Vow promised and delivered ‘Alice’, the new system that is revolutionising how I engage with clients. It’s saving me time and increasing productivity.
Vow entered into an exciting arrangement with the computer giant Dell to get brokers large discounts, ranging from 10 per cent to 40 per cent, on computers. It established a new rewards program that allows brokers to earn points to redeem against a host of business tools and professional development programs on Vow’s Menu of Services. For me, it reinforces my belief that Vow is genuinely committed to empowering brokers.
10. What is the best thing about doing what you do?
The best thing about my business is the amazing people I meet every day. I have the great privilege and honour of getting to know people through their dreams and goals. The icing on the cake is seeing a dream on a piece of paper or in someone’s scrap book become a reality. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to be part of this.
11. What does the not so distant future bring for your business and the broking landscape?
Last year I incorporated a Buyers Agency product line into my business and have seen my business evolve through the new branding ‘redconcierge’. And in the not too distant future I plan to form closer alliances with a number of key professionals, allowing me to move closer to the lifestyle concierge business I have always envisioned through the formation of this collaborative hub.
12. What is your greatest achievement as a broker to date?
I have been lucky to be awarded a number of awards, as well as being elected to the MFAA NSW State Council as Vice President. These opportunities afford me the privilege of being involved in shaping the future of the industry, something I take a great deal of personal pride in supporting.
I have done a fair bit of pro bono work for borrowers who have fallen prey to unfortunate circumstances and fraud. My greatest achievement has been bringing dignity and grace to families and assisting them in finalising their dealings with banks and then watching them get their lives back together and find the financial freedom they deserve.
13. How do you envision your relationship with Vow evolving in the next phase of your business?
Given I am in the process of completing my MBA, I have some ideas around my own succession planning and will rely on the support of Vow to bring these to fruition.
Published on: Friday, April 15, 2011