Peta Siebert has been in the finance and banking industry for almost 30 years. She says the biggest challenge facing the industry right now is change – and if brokers can’t move with this, they put themselves at risk of having issues with lenders and customers down the track.
MPA spoke with the managing director of Avenue Financial and MFAA mentor about the ways brokers can overcome this challenge in order to build and maintain sustainable businesses over the long term.
The early days of broking
After starting out in the industry back in January 1991, Siebert has navigated almost three decades of changing policies, technologies and systems while working in retail and third-party banking for both lenders and aggregators.
She recalls her role as a mobile lender for CBA back in the era before mobile phones.
“When broking first started, back at my time in CBA in Queensland, they wouldn’t let females go on road being mobile for security reasons,” she says.
To get around this, the bank assigned her the Brisbane CBD area and she spent her day visiting clients under the condition that she appear in the office at the start and end of each shift.
While some people would interpret that as a sexist policy, Siebert disagrees, explaining she looks at it from a security perspective.
“They didn’t stop me from doing anything apart from the fact that you had to be back in the office by a certain time or at least let someone know where you are for security reasons,” she says.
Change is the biggest challenge
The biggest challenge the industry is facing at the moment is change, says Siebert, adding that brokers who can adjust to this will have a better chance at sustaining business into the future.
“The last 12 months have been very unsettling for both existing brokers and potential new brokers coming into the industry. We’ve had challenges with commissions, competition, property prices – and now clients, brokers and referrers are all adjusting to isolation on face-to-face requirements,” she says.
“It’s creating more issues, or, different compliance requirements.
“I think if we can change, and brokers can take that on board, then there won’t be any problems, but if they don’t move with the change, then that’s going to be the biggest challenge for everyone.”
The consequences of getting stuck in an era
Siebert says those who don’t adjust to the changing finance environment will be at risk of damaging their brand’s reputation.
“I’ve been in the industry for 30 years – the way I used to do it is not the way it’s done now,” she says.
“If I didn’t change, if I kept doing the same thing – and I’ve had brokers who won’t change – all that happens is they become bogged down. They can’t covert as many clients as possible.”
Not understanding the changes in what lenders require can cause compliance breaches, which can have a direct effect on the way the client rates the broker.
“Because they haven’t moved with the change, they can’t explain it to the clients so then the clients complain because they don’t understand,” she says.
Tips for building and maintaining sustainable businesses
Siebert says upskilling is key when it comes to moving with the times. She advises brokers to take advantage of any new tools that have been made available, such as in-house e-learning webinars and Apps.
While change is good, a broker can become unstuck in their interactions with customers if they don’t fully understand how or why to use these new tools.
“Avenue Financial has a monthly team meeting where we cover license compliance, lender changes and anything that’s going on in the industry that any of us have heard and discuss the impact and how to overcome, or use the tools or the change to our advantage,” she says.
“The number one item that needs focusing on is time management. We all have online diaries linked to our phones, we need to use them as our primary source of what we do and what we need to do.
“I’m a slave to my online diary in a way. It stops me from missing things that I should be doing.”
She offers the following advice.
“Once your calendar is blocked out for a particular task, refine it over a six-week timeframe and create a list of activities or tasks that you’re doing for that six weeks,” she says.
This can help brokers identify what they are doing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and help them focus on what they should and shouldn’t be doing.