Clive Kirkpatrick on ... halving mortgage turnaround times

St. George has set itself the audacious goal of halving turnaround times. Clive Kirkpatrick tells MPA how he’s driving the bank’s service revolution.

St. George took a bit of a pummelling in last year’s Brokers on Banks survey, ranking last overall – brokers complained about turnaround times and service levels.

But the bank’s general manager of mortgage broking, Clive Kirkpatrick, responded in a way atypical of many banks. He owned the criticism. Kirkpatrick forthrightly took on board brokers’ concerns, and set out practical steps St. George would take to rectify some of the problems. Kirkpatrick has put the pieces in place to lift the bank’s service game, and has also made the vow to see St. George’s turnaround times cut in half.

MPA: St. George has made some major improvements in regard to turnaround times in the last six months or so. Can you walk me through some of those?

Clive Kirkpatrick: Firstly, we put on 80 people across all parts of the business on top of the 400 that were already there, so that’s a 20% uplift in personnel. We’re now staffed to handle the volumes that come through on a daily basis. That was the key driver in improving our turnaround times. We also did work with our Flame Brokers to change some of the ways they deal with us, so we introduced a new process that would take a Flame deal from pre-approval to settlement and post settlement. What that means is up to each appropriate stage they have access to the credit officer, and also all the documentation comes straight to them in an email. The documents come back from the clients in coloured envelopes so they get priority. We also put in a BDM support team which can now take a lot of the administrative tasks and follow-up and processing away from the BDM, so the BDM can spend more time helping brokers bring in quality deals.

MPA: What kinds of dividends are you starting to see from these improvements?

CK: The immediate benefit is the improvement in our broker net promoter score. We survey brokers across all our segments every six months. In the last six months, we saw a lot of improvement in how brokers deal with us and what they think of us. Another benefit has been in reduced reworks. If we get everything we need from the customer, that decreases their waiting time and gives them a better experience with the broker. They can get off the market quicker and get into their investment property or house quicker.

MPA: It seems like technology innovation has really been one of the driving forces for St. George over the past year. What are some of the improvements you’ve seen in that area?

CK: As you know, we were first to market with a broker iPad app. That’s been brilliant, and the brokers who use it reckon it’s one of the best they’ve ever seen. We’re following that up with an iPhone app to see deals through, and some other technology developments that will use the tablet as the core rather than the desktop or laptop. Mobile technology is changing the way we interact, and this year you’re going to see some pretty special stuff come out from us.

MPA: What are some of the top priorities for St. George for 2013?

CK: We want to hit our numbers from a broker perspective. We still have some way to go to improve our service, and we are continuously working with our partners to do that. This year our focus is just on getting our BDMs out there more by having our administrative team hit a stable platform of BDMs so brokers get to know them well. We’re also focusing on improving input quality, so we’ll be working with brokers and aggregators so they understand our requirements, because every bank is different. Also, our mobile platform will continue to be improved and rolled out.

MPA: What do you foresee for the market for 2013?

CK: It’s going to be interesting to see how the economy develops. I think it’s going to hold up pretty well. The key driver next year is going to be employment. If everyone is comfortable with their job security, we’ll see an uplift in consumer confidence. I was listening to a presentation from Westpac’s chief economist, Bill Evans, and he believes as the mining industry slows down, we’re going to see some of that investment going into housing. He’s seeing in 2014 better credit growth than this year.

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