When non-bank lender Homeloans Ltd acquired the defunct Refund Home Loans business earlier this year, it signalled a major leap forward for the company’s strategy. Homeloans had long eyed branded distribution, and had managed to build a network of around 20 branded brokers. The Refund deal saw Homeloans’ branded retail network more than triple, with the addition of 54 new Homeloans brokers. General manager of retail sales Greg Mitchell explains how the Refund buy fit into Homeloans’ grand plan.
MPA: The Refund acquisition was a very high-profile win for Homeloans this year. You were able to expand your branded distribution pretty significantly.
Greg Mitchell: Yes, certainly that’s been a great one for us. We’ve always wanted to build the retail side of Homeloans. Through that channel, we’ve not got the potential to expand our brand and products through the 54 ex-Refund brokers we signed up throughout the country.
MPA: How are the former Refund brokers settling into their new role as Homeloans branded brokers?
GM: You’re always going to have teething problems, but it’s actually been fairly stress-free. A lot of the Refund guys were not able to trade or actually do business while Refund was in administration, so we found it was refreshing to sit down with these guys and explain ways to build their business in the different areas we work from. We’ve done a lot of work the last two to three years in regards to brand awareness, and we’ve done extensive work to broaden our range of products. So with one application form, these brokers have got access to five different funders. That makes their life a lot easier when they’re dealing with people out in the marketplace.
MPA: Is this kind of branded distribution growth a strategy Homeloans will continue to pursue in the year ahead?
GM: We’re always after the right people to come onboard, and we want to make sure we have relationships with the right people. Being selective is good for the business. But we’ve always been up for the right acquisition.
MPA: You’ve said before that Homeloans wants to continue to build its retail presence and brand visibility. How have you gone about making consumers more aware of the brand?
GM: We went right back to basics. When [national marketing manager] Will Keall came onboard the visibility and consciousness of the brand in the marketplace were the initial things he had to make sure we had right. Putting the profiles of people like Shane Webcke and Matt Pavlich to the brand has been good. We’ve also made people aware that we’ve been around for 26 years, we’re publicly listed, we have five different funders; there are a lot of facets to building brand awareness. But consumers out there in the marketplace are now aware of who Homeloans are and what we do.
MPA: Following on the Refund acquisition, what does Homeloans have planned for the year ahead?
GM: In the short-term, we want to focus on having a retail presence and also a presence through the third-party channel. Our biggest focus is service. It’s hard to put a value on service, and people talk about service all the time, but I would put Homeloans up against anyone in terms of service. Our BDMs I would put second-to-none. We’re building a tighter relationship with the people we want to deal with moving forward, and that’s very important. We have around 6,000 accredited brokers on our books, and we need to build rapport with the brokers who are going to give us loyalty, and maintain our levels of service with every deal, every day for all the other brokers, and hence to their customers too. It’s so easy to say that, but it’s not easy to do. But you have to. It devalues your proposition and the value of your brand if you don’t do that.