It’s no secret in the finance industry that brokers love helping their clients – which is why many are now feeling distressed about the effects that COVID-19 is having on their customers.
While this can be a heavy burden to carry, there are ways that brokers can get the support they need to look after both their customers and themselves, says Blake Buchanan.
MPA spoke with the aggregation manager at Specialist Finance Group off the back of SFG’s two-part mental wellness webinar series, developed in partnership with Dr Rose Cantali from PSYCHmatters Plus Assessment Clinics.
Brokers have a vital role to play in the community
According to Buchanan there are three major things that brokers can do in order to have a positive impact on clients, colleagues and the wider community during these troubling times.
“There’s three core things here for us and they are advice, support and assistance,” he says.
In order to offer advice, brokers need to learn about the policies and parameters in place surrounding COVID-19, before making sure they can impart their knowledge in an effective and relevant way for clients and peers.
Offering support comes down to showing empathy and providing an ear for the client or colleague to speak to.
Beyond this, Buchanan says it is very important to be able to refer people to professional help if they need it.
“Where it’s beyond your skill sets, particularly in that mental health arena, [it’s important] to take action, build a plan, but refer them onto people that can assist them if that is necessary,” he says.
Being able to deal with whatever life throws at you
SFG launched the wellness program in response to the current COVID-19 crisis and a major part of the initiative is to help brokers “understand the signs when talking to a distressed customer and how to manage those discussions.”
“The initiative was launched due to COVID and our belief that it was an immediate requirement to give, not only the mental health and support required at this time, but to give brokers the tools and the tips to be able to take care of themselves,” Buchanan says.
“We also have a bit of a big family feel to our business and a deep care for our members.
“Support is really close to my heart, and that’s why it was such an important initiative to roll out to our brokers, and by extension, to our brokers’ customers.”
Putting the oxygen mask on yourself first
He offers the following analogy: when airplane crew go through survival instructions at the beginning of a flight, they always say that if the oxygen masks drop, to put one on yourself before helping others.
The same thing applies to brokers. It is important to take care of yourself and your needs first and this will then help you take care of your customers in the best way possible.
He says the webinar series provides strategies on recognising the triggers that could affect people in order to provide a deeper understanding of the issues they may be going through. It then offers tools, tips and exercises to help deal with these issues, or least recognise them in order to seek professional advice.
“It’s about identifying those triggers and those issues,” he says.
“Then they can use all of those learnings to take the necessary action.”
What effect is COVID-19 having on brokers?
Buchanan says the Coronavirus has forced many brokers who are heavily engaged in asset finance or purchase finance to rethink their business strategies; something SFG has been providing assistance with for its members.
But another major effect it is having, is on the mental wellbeing of brokers who are helping clients in a state of distress.
“Whilst brokers are still transactionally busy, they’re dealing with these customers’ concerns and worries and they do carry those burdens,” he says.
“It’s a big burden to bear. One of the toughest things for brokers to overcome in this industry is that care factor. Brokers care and love what they do when they help customers.”
Buchanan says that even without the added stress of COVID-19, many brokers already find it hard to switch off from their clients’ concerns at the end of the day.
“A really important tool that a broker must learn is that when the day is done and you can’t do anymore you do need to switch off and take some time for yourself,” he says.
Staying well beyond the Coronavirus
Not just for the current pandemic, Buchanan assures brokers that SFG will continue to offer its mental wellness initiative in a post COVID-19 environment.
“We love to support our members. We’ve been heavily involved with the R U OK? initiative each year,” he says.
“We will continue to do that into the future and, yes, we will definitely be including Dr Rose in our future sessions around the country to make sure that our brokers, not only can do it through a webinar, but also get some face to face time with these true health experts when the COVID restrictions are released.”
To brokers, Buchanan says it is okay to feel vulnerable sometimes.
“It’s okay to be vulnerable, it’s okay to reach out to somebody and say to them, you know what, I’m not feeling great.
“I would say to brokers that you have a huge support network around you with your lending partners, your BDMs, your aggregation partners and, most likely, your family and your friends as well.
“You need to take care of yourself. You need to make sure that you are prepared, ready and able to deal with this situation.”
Just as many lenders have adapted their VOI processes, now could be a good time for brokers to look at their own systems and procedures.
“Take care of yourselves, learn the signs, be there for people and be vulnerable if you need to be,” Buchanan says.
“But look at your business, its processes and its practices so, when we come out on the other side of this, you’re more efficient and ready than ever to help more customers.”
SFG’s two-part mental wellness webinar series will continue to run fortnightly over the next two months.