Brendan O'Donell: The Strength of Brand

by Adam Smith02 Jul 2014
Brendan O'Donell

Liberty Network Services managing director Brendan O’Donnell on why brokers backed by a brand could have a leg up

Brendan O’Donnell is a firm believer in the power of branding. When O’Donnell launched Liberty’s branded retail model, Liberty Network Services, in late 2011, he said the offering would take the best of both franchise and aggregation models to offer brokers the strength of a recognisable brand. More than three years on, he maintains the proof is in the offering’s performance.

O’Donnell makes a case for branding in mortgage broking, and has said he expects further consolidation in the industry to see more branded offerings emerge.

According to O’Donnell, the strength of branding is threefold. First, he said, brands provide a network of support.

“A brand provides a good framework to enable brokers to focus on what they’re good at, because brands have to be committed to support,” he said.

O’Donnell said branded propositions also enable brokers to tackle challenges that would be too big for them to handle alone.

“Brands provide a profitable platform and give scalability and marketing tools to meet changing dynamics. If you’re not part of a branded proposition, it’s hard to keep up with remaining relevant,” O’Donnell said.

Thirdly, O’Donnell said brands provide a sense of comfort to customers, who tend to put stock in recognisable and well-respected brand names and identities. This delivers flow-on benefits to brokers under the brand, he suggested.

O’Donnell said the strength of the Liberty Network Services brand is being proven by the proposition’s performance.

“We’re just over two years old now, so we’re making good progress. We should reach 50 advisers in the next month, which in a two-year period we’re quite happy with. It’s a critical point for us to get to a medium sized business,” he said.


The proposition behind the business, O’Donnell said, has not changed. He argued that the brand still offers the best of both independence and support. And in offering aspects of both a wholesale aggregator and a franchise operation, O’Donnell said the brand can deliver support to brokers along with an attractive economic model.

“There are five distinct things we focus on to grow the business and to deliver on our promises. The first is that the economics of the proposition is very competitive. We’ve been fortunate in that our business model is such that it’s a blend of offering a range of Liberty products and a panel of lenders, so we can build the business off of the product margin rather than distribution margin. That’s important for those who need scale to continue building their business. The economics of Liberty Network Services are very attractive to the market,” he said.

Technology is another vital piece of the brand’s proposition, O’Donnell said. He argued that the branded proposition offered brokers the scale to have access to cutting edge technology solutions.

“We’ve built our own platform, Spark, off the iPad. We’ve built it off the back end of Apple and the iPad. No one else out there has the depth of capability we have with Spark.

There are many CRM apps out there, and many apps to access information that brokers can use, but when it comes to Spark we have something unique. The broker can receive leads and put the customer into Spark, and they can process the loan through the iPad application and submit it to the lender. They can access all the documents they need to submit the deal, and can with ease reduce the amount of paperwork they use because they have things like the ability to take photos of supporting documents, and documents such as the credit guide can be presented on the iPad and signed by the customer on the iPad,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said the company’s technology offering has been a major driver of productivity, as well as a major selling point. And while it may dictate a change in mindset for brokers who join the network, O’Donnell said even brokers who previously had little technology prowess have bought into the company’s offering.

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