Advocating for clients in the wake of Armageddon

Top 100 broker Karen Bashford has seen a lot in her time as a broker, but the most memorable things were the Royal Commission and the country’s largest bushfires that ripped through her community earlier this year.

She spoke with MPA about the ways she has advocated for the industry and her clients in recent years.

A sea change to the industry

It was a sea change that led Bashford from a corporate role in Sydney to broking in Ulladulla on the NSW south coast.

“My parents had lived down here in Ulladulla since I was 18 and we liked the area.”

“We thought it would be a nice place for the kids to grow up.”

She joined her brother’s business as a second broker for about ten years until he retired and she took over in 2013.

Nowadays, Bashford does 600-800 loans a year and has a database of about 8,000 clients.

Raising positive awareness

While the Royal Commission was the biggest challenge during her 16 years in the role, it was also a great opportunity to reach out to clients and advocate for the industry.

“We spoke to politicians daily for weeks, had meetings with local members and our state representatives as well.”

She also wrote letters to several well-known media personalities and reached out to clients for written testimonials.

“We made it our mission to do as much as we could.”

“It was rewarding in a way to reach out to all our clients because so many of them came back to us with the nicest things to say.”

She says by speaking up she was able to positive raise awareness about the profession.

“A lot of people didn’t realise what we did and that there is no fee.”

“In a way it was the best advertising that we had, but by far the most difficult time that I’ve had in broking,” she says, explaining that if trail commissions were abolished it would threaten the jobs of her five full-time staff members.

“They’ve got families, mortgages and responsibilities – and full-time jobs don’t just roll down the street in a small regional town.”

Australia’s most devastating bushfires

If there was ever a prime example of how much brokers are willing to go above and beyond for clients, it would be earlier this year following the devasting bushfires that ravaged much of the country.

“Over 25 of my existing clients lost everything.”

“I think I went through three boxes of tissues in the first three weeks with clients coming in traumatised by the whole thing because it was just Armageddon.”

She says she was able to be their advocate by speaking to their insurance companies and lenders, with the client’s authorisation, in order to prevent the insurance money being used to pay off the mortgage.

“A lot of them couldn’t borrow again with all the new rules after the Royal Commission, and a lot of the insurance companies wanted to just pay mortgages out and then people would end up with a block of land and a sum cash but not enough to build.”

“I don’t get paid again for that, but that’s not what it’s about.”

“It’s about those clients needing me and me being there for them and I will forever be their finance person.”

“It’s an opportunity to give back.”