Not many aggregator chiefs these days will talk directly to brokers, but William Lockett, managing director of Specialist Finance Group, insists it makes all the difference
MPA: You pride yourself on being directly contactable by your members – how can they benefit from this access?
The ability and accessibility of our members to contact me directly gives great comfort to our members in that they can deal if required directly with the owner of the business. This normally ensures quick answers and resolutions which supports our members without the need for their queries to be referred to other parties or a board structure which takes greater time and is simply not that flexible. Our members can ring or email me directly as I am a full-time managing director. You can argue with me over a particular matter. More and more people like that over the last three years, given the erosion of aggregators’ independence.
MPA: What do you think brokers want most from aggregators?
First of all I think what brokers want from an aggregator is flexibility to be able to provide them with the suitable support structure that they feel is best for their business and not what the aggregator thinks is best. With SFG our members are given the flexibility they require as some brokers require more assistance than others and this is also reflected in the flexible aggregation agreements we have available. Brokers also want a suitable and easy to navigate software system, a reliable commission payment system, accessibility, flexibility and a guarantee from their aggregator that their client and database is theirs which is protected and no third party will cross-sell to them. They also want protection of their trail income.
MPA: What sort of brokers could benefit most from Specialist Finance Group’s offering?
In our current membership we have a wide range of large brokering companies and medium to small groups through to individual loan writers. Again the flexibility in our aggregation model which offers four unique models [of commission] allows the brokering group/brokers to achieve the best possible option that is available for them today.
MPA: Can you realistically compete with large aggregators when it comes to offering backoffice IT and CRM systems?
If anything, being of a more boutique aggregator ensures that we have time and staff to support all our brokers in all aspects of their business from assisting with loan scenarios to commission queries. Our growth in the last 2-3 years has been from brokers who have left and transferred from larger aggregators as they feel as though they do not get the general support from the large aggregator and they have simply become a number in their system. We have received great feedback from these new members who have advised us that they have received more support from SFG than what they received from their previous aggregator and again the fact that they can deal directly with the owner of the aggregator makes them feel significantly more important in their business relationship with an aggregator.
MPA: What sort of training and professional development support can you offer?
Regular professional development days as well as software training through symmetry to one on one sessions with bank BDMs are all part of the service SFG can offer. Compliance audits are also beneficial to our members.
MPA: Is diversification now essential for brokers, and how are you supporting brokers who want to diversify?
Whilst diversification is certainly an add on to all our members’ businesses, it is very important that they have “bedded” down their core business first. Once established, accountants and financial planners are an important outsource and many of our members are now enjoying their relationships through diversification.
MPA: What do you see as developing trends in broking – and does Specialist Finance Group have any plans in these areas?
As above, diversification into financial planning and accountancy groups are seen as important and we can assist brokers in finding these sources. We assist all members with the diversification as required but the greatest support all brokers generally require is better relationships with their existing database that will firstly see their primary business of finance broking improve, and when that main part of their business is running successfully we suggest and assist with any plans to diversify their business model.
WILLIAM LOCKETT’S CAREER TIMELINE
MPA: Is consolidation in the industry, particularly banks acquiring aggregators, a huge concern for you?
Leaves school at the age of 15 and takes up job in a kitchen
Earns Diploma in Credit Management
Sells catering business and joins Collier Constructions
Investment and Development Consultant at Dale Alcock Building Group
Joins Specialist Finance (then Specialist Mortgage)
“One of the greatest things I’ve done is the rebranding of our business from Specialist Business to Specialist Finance Group. It’s always been a baby of mine, something I’ve wanted to do... now being the sole owner of the business, we can take up a much clearer direction moving forward”
Lockett is also a proud father of three
Not at all – by staying independent we are allowing our members to look after their own clients without any “Big Brother” potential of cross selling and third party preferential lending. In fact, we can say that our business has grown alongside consolidation within our industry as a number of our new brokers/members have clearly stated that they do not wish to be with a major corporation that has an ownership structure where there is bank involvement.
BROKING FOR AUSSIES LIVING ABROAD
MPA: How important would you rate evolution and providing new services in terms of Specialist Finance Group’s brand?
Specialist Finance Group has brokers in offices worldwide, helping Aussies who live abroad but want broking services. Here’s Lockett’s top tips for this type of business:
- Distinguish between borrowers who work abroad, and those who actually have their permanent address abroad: this is what makes the big difference
- You’ll have fewer lenders to deal with: learn their views on foreign incomes and foreign tax laws
- Be careful when converting foreign currencies in Australian dollars, and don’t forget about Australian tax rates
This type of business can be very lucrative: broker Helen Avis, based in Singapore, has been St.George’s Top Broker for two years running
We have just gone through an evolution with our rebranding and letting members and the public know that we are now a “Complete one stop” aggregator with several offerings and a flexible approach.
MPA: Specialist Finance Group also has offices in South-East Asia – how and why did you expand in this region?
There was a definite market for Australians living overseas looking for an accessible and compliant group in assisting them purchasing Australian property on foreign incomes. We opened our Singapore office and we quickly saw the great potential in this area which now sees us doing major volumes for ex-pats living abroad. This growth has seen us open offices in Hong Kong, Dubai and London and again this is for the same reason. We also have business partners abroad which look after the tax returns for all Australian citizens living abroad.
MPA: Is a different approach required by brokers dealing with foreign investors? How can you support them?
Dealing with foreign investors and ex-pats is a completely different spectrum for our finance brokers/members. Not only is there a cultural difference, at times there is a language barrier and then of course they are submitting deals outside of Australia back to Australian financial institutions. They have to deal with a large degree of different issues which also includes different income and tax systems therefore they need to be fully versed on these matters and deal with a lending institution that is also experienced within this field.
MPA: Could you explain in one sentence what is your unique value proposition?
The value of any member being able to deal directly with the owner of the aggregator on any level and to achieve the most flexible aggregation agreement that best serves their requirement. At the end of the day you can’t ring up Mr PLAN; you can’t ring up a Mr AFG
; you can’t ring up a Mr Connective
. That’s the difference.
SPECIALIST FINANCE GROUP’S BUSINESS
75% residential finance,
20% commercial and
5% for plant and equipment finance
Settlements have increased by 30% over the last two years
Staff across Australia (excluding NT) plus offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and London