With technology and digital tools now a necessity, MPA speaks to a bank and an aggregator about how they are growing their technology to provide brokers and their customers great service
Almost every industry – if not all industries – has had to adapt to the growth of technology, and the lending and broker spaces are no different. Particularly with the rise of fintechs and the consumer’s reliance on technology, more established banks and lenders have had to keep up with their digital offering.
As a non-major bank, Bankwest has the ability to be slightly more agile in developing digital products and services and it has spent the last two years prioritising investment in its digital and broker channels specifically.
Wanting to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace, it has particularly prioritised investment in building a strong, digitally-led proposition.
“Our plan is to move customer experience beyond good, or even great, and into amazing – every single day,” says head of third-party banking Ian Rakhit.
Also recognising technology is playing a wider role in everyone’s lives even beyond business, Specialist Finance Group has developed its digital offering to improve efficiencies and make it easier for people to engage.
“Our plan is to move customer experience beyond good, or even great, and into amazing – every single day” Ian Rakhit, Bankwest
“Finance brokers, whilst very busy, are no different than a lot of other people today who are time poor; we’re always trying to fit more into our days both in business and personally,” managing director of Specialist Finance Group William Lockett says. “Technology is now a vital component in helping brokers with their business efficiencies and in the services they can provide and the speed in which they can do it.”
The digital revolution
Bankwest’s broker portal has been a longstanding tool, allowing brokers to track most loan applications in real time and view their Bankwest customer details in one spot. But in the past 12 months the bank has launched a number of digital initiatives to support brokers by expanding its range of tools on the portal.
Recently, Bankwest launched digital signing for home loans. Where it previously took 13 days for a new home loan to be made ready for settlement, digital signing has reduced this to within seven days for new home loans and within 24 hours for increases to existing loans.
Specialist Finance Group also has digital signing capabilities for those lenders that accept digital signatures. The aggregator launched its broker platform SFGConnect two years ago, to equip its finance brokers with the most advanced technology platform available for them to use in their business model.
The aggregator’s portal allows both clients and business partners of the broker to have some access to the system.
The marketing capabilities within SFGConnect let all finance brokers maintain regular contact, allowing for an ongoing and continual business relationship with their clients.
The importance of broker technology
Rakhit says the digital tools help to make processes much more transparent and efficient.
“Many of our tools are also designed to save brokers time, so that they’re not spending time on tasks that don’t add value,” he says.
“Although we’ve made many developments in this space, there’s still work to do.”
With continuous developments, it is important to keep brokers updated so they understand how to use these platforms to their maximum potential. For Bankwest it updates brokers directly with eDMs or through their aggregator and BDMs.
“Technology is a key part of everyone’s life and technology builds efficiencies and makes it easier for people to engage” William Lockett, Specialist Finance Group
For its digital signing launch, for example, it took a staggered approach and educated small groups of brokers at a time via eDMs, webinars or face-to-face.
The improved efficiency that technology brings allows brokers to remain in regular contact with their customers, adds Lockett.
“Technology is a key part of everyone’s life and technology builds efficiencies and makes it easier for people to engage,” Lockett adds.
Specialist Finance Group provides both initial and ongoing training to all its members. In addition to direct and personal training, it also provides other technology training through its personal development day presentations, regular webinars and members can access SFGConnect tutorials. There is also a dedicated SFGConnect team to help with any issues or queries, who also attend personal development days and visit members regardless of location.
Feedback from brokers
Bankwest has seen monthly logins to its broker portal increase by 89% between July 2018 and 2019, showing the desire for more comprehensive tools and the success of the bank’s efforts.
Rakhit says each stage of the broker experience was designed in partnership with brokers, which helped the bank understand and define what was important to the channel – and what was not. The consultation extended into the testing phase, ensuring what was built was what brokers wanted.
“The result of this collaborative process is a range of real-time tools that empower brokers and ensure they can access what they need anywhere, anytime and on any device,” Rakhit says.
Specialist Finance Group has also seen a positive response towards its own platform. The feedback from its members has been “outstanding”, says Lockett.
“Our members have really embraced this leading technology and another reason for this has been the ease and user-friendly nature of this technology which has made it not only easy for the brokers to be trained but also in how they can use this technology to grow and develop their business model,” he adds.
The future of technology
Continuing the partnership with brokers in the design of digital offerings, Rakhit says Bankwest will remain focused on delivering the right solution which meets a genuine need, rather than releasing a number of different initiatives which might not hit the mark.
As technology continues to grow and change the way the world does things, face-to-face interaction is becoming less of a necessity. But the relationships brokers have with their customers and those they have with their BDMs is still enhanced by human relationships.
However, Rakhit acknowledges that digital continues to be an important part of delivering amazing customer experiences and people are turning more heavily to digital platforms to meet their needs.
“Our role is to ensure that customers and brokers have the digital platforms available to achieve their goals, while continuing to be supported through faceto- face channels,” he says.
Not stopping at its SFGConnect platform, Specialist Finance Group will continue to look at ways the industry can improve with technology.
“We never stop looking at ways to improve,” Lockett says. “We continue to speak to not only our members, we also speak to our business partners and our software designers. With the feedback we get and what we believe needs to be carried out, we look at improving that and implementing new technology as we think is required.”
Having seen the rapid growth of technology even over the past few years, Lockett says in a perfect world face-to-face interaction will remain, but technology has the capabilities of taking over more of the human interaction.
“It would be sad in today’s market because it takes away the personal element and the empathy people have. I would like to think there will always be an element of face-to-face or human contact in any dealings,” Lockett says.