Westpac is in the process of rolling out more branch-based ‘broker squads’ in an effort to gain cross-sell business from broker customers while mitigating channel conflict.
Originally piloted in WA one year ago, the broker squads are being rolled out across the country and will eventually number approximately 170 across Westapc’s 55 regions.
Westpac’s head of third party mortgage distribution, Tony MacRae, said the broker squads act as specially-trained branch hubs within a region that understand the broker channel.
“It is about bringing our key brokers and our key branches much closer together to overcome that whole channel conflict perception that may have existed in the past,” MacRae said.
“We have personal bankers in those branches, and their whole job is to understand the broking channel, so it is about building the relationship so the broker feels comfortable about dealing with the branch and the branch feels that, within the boundaries of respecting broker partnerships, they have an opportunity to win all of the customer’s business,” he said.
MacRae said having four or so specially selected branches to deal with brokers in each different region was partly ‘defensive’, in trying to overcome perceptions of channel conflict.
However, he said it was also proactively in line with the bank's cross-sell aims. “It aligns with the bank’s overall strategy of earning all of our customers’ business. So the closer we get the more comfortable the brokers feel in handing the customers over to us and the more comfortable we feel in being able to cross-sell products while respecting existing relationships.”
MacRae said ideally key brokers should feel like the branch is an extension of their operation, and branches should be looking at brokers as an extension of their sales force.
‘Broker Squad’ personal bankers are responsible for broker sign-ups, and must understand the style of business being introduced by brokers, any relationships a broker may have across different products, and how to respect existing relationships by not targeting that business.
MacRae said Westpac previously eliminated any incentive for branches to target broker business. “A number of years ago the way we measured branches was the number of products and widgets that they actually sold. Today we measure them on direct contribution and new revenue, so the loans brokers write go directly on to the branch book. Now they get the revenue for that so there is little incentive for branches to rewrite loans, which may have been a concern in the past.”
MacRae said that senior management understood customers would choose their distribution channel, and that Westpac was working to make channel conflict a thing of the past.
“There are a whole bunch of customers out there who through their actions determine that their channel of choice is brokers. So for us to ignore the customer choice would be crazy,” he said. “It is a pretty easy equation: Customers like that independence, and like having that advice that brokers can give. That is a significant slice of the market,” he said.
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