ANZ’s new head of retail broker distribution tells MPA why she’ll be listening to her BDMs on the ground as she makes education her core focus.
MPA: How does your experience in finance equip you to work with brokers?
Simone Tilley: My background obviously is in business: I’ve had the benefit of working with small businesses, through to medium businesses, right through to our institutional, more complex end of town. I do have deep subject matter expertise in agribusiness and I’ve enjoyed over my career being part of industry.
I don’t just come to work to sell finance; I come to work to be part of something greater. Really, from a broking landscape viewpoint I can see this is an industry, not just a job, and I look forward to contributing; whether it be in broking or across the industry, I’m more than happy to play a role.
MPA: Have you worked with brokers in your previous roles?
ST: I’ve worked with brokers both as a relationship manager, where I’ve personally gone to brokers for business, and in a leadership role, working with brokers as part of what we term our ‘circle of influence’ in the broader marketplace.
My first assistant manager at Westpac has become a successful commercial broker. Her name is Belinda Gibson, and I’ve had the good fortune of watching her career blossom over time. She’s now a commercial broker, and I’ve mentored other people at the bank who’ve gone on to become brokers, so I’ve got a fairly good idea of what brokers do. I get the landscape; I respect people have choice, and we’ll work hard to listen and serve the market in the best manner [we] can.
MPA: What immediate changes have you made since you came into this role?
ST: There are not many changes; ‘areas of focus’ is a good way to put it. Really it’s about ongoing education in this space and how we lead with insights. One thing we do exceptionally is educate our BDMs, our ‘feet on the street’. It’s something that I want to continue to invest in; it’s something that yields great returns and I’m very proud of our great people, and it’s a real differentiating point for ANZ.
We also want to continue our investment in the broker space as well as the aggregators. For me this is about how we work in partnership with each other, which is how we make the industry a more prosperous one over time. The other one is service: our aim is to be the number one bank from a service proposition, in terms of responsiveness, proactiveness and fixing root causes of problems so we can drive greater productivity with our people, our brokers, and ultimately our speed to market, from a customer experience viewpoint.
We always have a ‘need for speed’, and I think it is something we are famous for in the market and something we continue to do well. [Then there’s] simplicity: we have a responsibility to make sure that both from a bank and a customer experience we do make things simple for others. One of the things that I have ignited since my time in the role is an internal program that I term ‘Broker Innovation ThinkTank’, where I’ve nominated a BDM – or they’ve nominated themselves – representing a state so … we can make things simpler and propel forward our technological advancements. It’s something we really want to advance over the coming 12 months … Because I am new I have an open mind about how we can make this business the best one we can.
MPA: Are commissions going to be an area of focus for ANZ, and if not, why not?
ST: We believe that our commissions are competitive and are in line with our focus on responsible lending practices. I guess the key is finding the right balance with all market participants, and the best possible way to do that is to listen and engage with others. It’s something that we need to constantly evaluate.
MPA: Is it that commissions are simply becoming less important as a way to get business?
ST: Interest rates are important, but fortunately for ANZ this is not the only area we want to excel at. As any good broker will tell you, those areas are product mix, service proposition, our BDMs, our credit operations, our ability to be consistent with our service level agreements, and consistency is king. It’s about the full spectrum … looking at things with a more holistic lens and in a more collective manner.
MPA: BDMs and credit policies have been an area of strength for ANZ. Are we likely to see any further improvements over the coming year?
ST: That’s something we’re working hard towards, and certainly from a technological advancement viewpoint that’s of huge focus in our wider business as we have a greater interest in customer experience from end to end.
One thing that’s really clear to me since starting this role is the success of our BDMs, and the reason we are successful is because we invest in them. Our BDMs go above and beyond, and I think it’s because they have the appropriate product knowledge, service, they’re very responsive and have the ability to navigate the appropriate systems and stakeholders to get a job done. ... One of the things we do really well is educate the marketplace … [We had] a masterclass last Friday with Mortgage Choice, and one of the things they explained to me is what they love about the ANZ education proposition is that our education is centred around the brokers, not necessarily around the bank. There’s transparency around credit policy changes, the way we communicate those to brokers so there’s clarity and transparency of message so brokers are able to navigate our systems so much more fluidly than other lending institutions.
One of the other things I think is worth highlighting is our broker webinars. It’s something we’ve done digitally, in addition to our face-to-face proposition, just so we are able to have a greater reach in our national marketplace. In August we had 600 registrations; last month we had over 2,000 brokers register on our webinars, which is a proof point that the market feels this is a valuable tool from an engagement and education viewpoint. [The webinars are available to brokers who deal with ANZ.]
There’s a reason we have [Saturday processing]; it’s to allow customers to obtain pre-approval on Saturday morning and head out to auction day with certainty, so we feel this has a real impact on customers and is an example of a pragmatic improvement we‘ve made in terms of what our customers expect from the bank.
“One thing that’s really clear to me since starting this role is the success of our BDMs, and the reason we are successful is because we invest in them”
MPA: ANZ recently cracked down on loan guarantors. Why did you make these changes, and how will you be helping first home buyers over the next year?
ST: First home buyers are a critical and very attractive segment for ANZ. First home buyers have a critical set of needs, and we had noticed that the incidence of guarantees had increased over time and many participants are trying to overcome the deposit hurdle given current housing prices. In reviewing our own policies and key benchmarks we recognised we needed to review our own policy in order to obtain the right balance between customers, the guarantor and the banks. Guarantors are often parents or people that have a close attachment to the borrower. All we’re trying to do here is ensure we have the right balance between guarantors and offering them the right.
MPA: Are we likely to see more tightening in the property investor space? Is this still a useful group of customers for ANZ and for brokers?
ST: Absolutely. The property investor space is very important and a strategically important area for us. It’s a dynamic marketplace and a function of both supply and demand. I would like to strongly emphasise it’s a highly attractive statement, and we’re open to all ideas around how we can continue to prosper in this space. Having said that, there are various pockets of asset classes, particularly geographies, where it may be prudent to consider attractiveness, but by no means are we pulling out of the property investor space.
“I would like to strongly emphasise property investors are a highly attractive statement, and we’re open to all ideas around how we can continue to prosper in this space”
MPA: Is your role mainly focused on residential rather than commercial lending? How are you making it easier for brokers to write commercial loans?
ST: Correct … at the moment my role is specifically residential, but I am working very, very closely with [commercial]. I think it’s one thing that differentiates ANZ from its peers, that residential and commercial third party has a very strong united front.
What we do is joint calling together. The maturity in our residential division is far stronger than in our commercial division, and it’s something we’re growing steadily year in, year out. What we are doing is almost taking a two-up approach where a residential BDM will take out a commercial BDM so they can take the market as one, and make things simpler for our brokers. It’s certainly something we’re good at. We have a dual app process to make things simpler for the brokers so there’s not two applications should there be a commercial application and a residential application … [it’s] really a proof point of our unity across the divisions.
“It’s one thing that differentiates ANZ from its peers, that residential and commercial third party has a very strong united front”
MPA: What can ANZ offer beyond residential mortgages?
ST: ANZ is a Tier 1 bank, one of the few AA-rated companies in the country, and what differentiates us from a credit union is we have a differentiated portfolio, and we are able to offer all participants, whether it be a person buying a home, saving for a life goal, creating wealth for retirement, starting a new business, building a business or stepping into the ring of larger, more international businesses, we are a home for each of these categories.
MPA: How would you like ANZ to be perceived by brokers 12 months from now?
ST: As the most innovative, the most educated in the market, and really taking education of our BDMs, our brokers and our aggregators to a new level. From a service viewpoint, to be regarded as best in class – [to be recognised for] our responsiveness, our proactiveness, our ability to fix root causes and really drive productivity in the market, second to none; [for] our speed, so that we are the reliable and consistent bank and doing a much better job, making it easier for our bankers and attracting the best and brightest in the marketplace.