Education is more than a piece of paper

by BN17 Apr 2012

The goal of the education debate is simple: ensuring we can impart knowledge responsibly and accurately to consumers to secure their financial futures. There it is. It’s all about helping us help others. The debate about it – whether it be Cert IV, Diplomas or even Degrees - arises when determining how ‘knowledge’ is verified as being present in our toolkit.

For me, learning is a journey more than a destination, with pieces of paper along the way to mark milestones and flag benchmarks. I recently completed an MBA part-time which took me three sleep-deprived years of hard work. Previously, I completed a Bachelor of Business majoring in Economics and Marketing and in 2011 attained a Certificate IV in Financial Services.  While I’m proud to have achieved these along the way, the more I’ve learnt the more I realise I don’t know!  The journey continues…

 Market forces or regulation

 It’s my view that a higher education requirement is unnecessary in mortgage broking. Until recently we have enjoyed years of boom times in broking and lending. This has been followed by tighter regulatory controls courtesy of the NCCP and tighter funding parameters.

This has been sufficient to discipline the industry. Market forces will ensure that only those brokers with honesty, integrity and knowledge succeed.

I’m not a free-market nut. Professional organisations should embrace minimum professional standards and a simple cover-all is a Cert IV. If nothing else, it shows you can fill in a form correctly and that is a skill we all need! Other organisations may want to see a Diploma as a minimum, however industry participants will vote with their feet when choosing business partners.

My view may be different if I had confidence in the learning outcomes on offer. I have only had first-hand experience at Cert IV level. However, I have to ask what they are actually teaching at Cert IV level? What is being transferred in the transaction - knowledge, or simply fees? Let me ask the question a different way: Will those who learnt anything completing their Cert IV please stand up? Unless a course is hard to attain it won’t gain credibility.

 Businesses are individuals, individuals become brands

The brokers I deal with who have built successful businesses over time eventually become their own brand. They do this through offering honesty, integrity and knowledge gained by taking the time to learn, explore and apply the information they encounter daily. While broader marketing efforts are important, word of mouth continues to be the prime driver of business so it pays to build and apply knowledge.

On the broader topic of brand, if you’ve chosen to pursue Certificates, Diplomas, Bachelors, Masters etc, why not use it as a point of difference? Advertise the fact you’ve put in the effort. After all, it’s a competitive marketplace and customers can review many criteria in choosing who to trust with their biggest financial decisions. Exploit it.

At the end of the day, the best lenders and brokers are those who operate with a combination of honesty, integrity and knowledge. They ply their trade to help customers make informed decisions and only they will survive in the long run. Let competition sort out the rest.

 Michael Watson is operations and marketing manager of non-conforming lender MKM Capital.