Brendan O’Donnell, managing director of Liberty Network Services, talks to Australian Broker about its key theme for the year, what it means to be a ‘FutureSmart’ business in 2020, and what the future of broking could look like in Australia
Q: First of all, what is Liberty Network Services and how does it support brokers?
Liberty Network Services (LNS) is a high-touch distribution alternative to traditional aggregators. It offers a range of benefits, solutions and opportunities for brokers to help more customers get financial and grow their businesses. Whether you’re an experienced broker or only recently joined the industry, LNS also provides high-quality training, coaching and development tailored to your business and individual requirements.
Our unique distribution model recognises the importance of brand and the rapidly evolving digital and connected world we live in. We aim to give our advisers extensive support from our agile technology and specialist marketing teams – these are the areas that are rapidly changing and require constant review.
For LNS, smart technology is an essential part of our business and plays a vital role in how we support advisers so that they can succeed. And so, throughout 2020, we are investing in some exciting, relevant and practical applications that will ensure Spark, our in-house loan application portal, continues to be an industryleading broker platform.
Brendan O’Donnell, managing director, Liberty Network Services
“Successful brokers don’t look at customers as one-time transactions” Brendan O’Donnell, Liberty Network Services
All too often, we hear that many of the platforms offered by larger aggregators are overly complex and difficult to navigate. But Spark has been built to offer fast, streamlined functionality. Consistent training and support ensures that LNS advisers have the latest skills and know-how to leverage our significant investment in technology and marketing.
Q: Utilising new technology to grow business will be a key theme for LNS throughout 2020. Why?
‘FutureSmart’ business is a key theme for LNS because we recognise the value it can bring to our advisers and the many ways it can help them to grow their business. At LNS, we recognise the importance of future-proofing broker businesses – so this will be a key theme guiding many of our initiatives in the new year.
Q: What does it mean to ‘FutureSmart’ your business, and how does this apply to brokers?
Following last year’s royal commission, the scrutiny and regulation of our industry will remain top of mind. With the expectations of customers everincreasing and finance options expanding, it is more important than ever for brokers to be smart about building their businesses.
But being FutureSmart is not only going to be about technology and digital marketing; it is also about making sure that brokers are better equipped to meet the changing needs and expectations of customers. It’s about going beyond the traditional home loan and engaging in finance solutions that meet the customer’s short-, medium- and long-term needs. This also includes the dynamic smallto- medium business market where customers have blended business and personal needs.
We have long touted the benefits of diversification, and in this climate we continue to encourage advisers to look beyond just home loans and expand their ability to help more customers across commercial, motor, SMSF, personal loans and business finance.
But it also means being adaptable, prepared and freethinking in your approach to your business and providing for the needs and best interests of more customers. There are endless ways that we help brokers improve their businesses, providing benefits for time management, information gathering and customer communication. In particular, the ability to track and measure customer data with ease and efficiency has been a huge advancement – and it is something I believe will continue to unfold over the years to come.
Already, this new development is changing the way we support our advisers in building their businesses and vastly improving the outcomes of their marketing efforts. In partnership with our in-house marketing and data science teams, we can drill down into customer data to create effective strategies for our advisers’ digital marketing campaigns. By reviewing our results in real time, we can make any necessary adjustments in order to quickly obtain better outcomes for the adviser and customer.
Q: How are the expectations of customers and brokers changing in 2020, and what should brokers be wary of this year?
Broking has always been a people business, and I can’t see this changing any time soon. However, the way brokers communicate will continue to evolve, as customers’ expectations will shift from consumption to connection. Brokers who recognise and embrace this shift will avoid the trap of focusing only on the transaction and will be able to build enduring customer relationships.
Successful brokers don’t look at customers as one-time transactions. Instead, they recognise the value of nurturing them into lifelong customers. LNS advisers achieve this by maintaining consistent, considered communication through targeted EDMs, social media marketing and more. Brokers can keep in regular contact with past customers with ease and simplicity.
The power of a phone call and meeting customers face-to-face remains key to the future of broking and requires a new set of skills. At LNS, we encourage our advisers to be active in their local communities and build real connections with customers.
Brand, and the need to set yourself apart from the competition, has also never been more important. For this reason, we encourage our advisers to be free-thinking in their approach to customers, and we support them with differentiated local area marketing.
From multilingual print and digital advertising to roadside billboards and personalised social campaigns, there is no cookie-cutter approach when engaging with customers and potential prospects. By targeting, automating and scheduling, brokers can dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on marketing and administration, freeing up more time to nurture leads and make new connections.
Q: What does the future of broking look like in Australia?
Looking to the future, personalised speed of service will be a key factor that set brokers apart from the competition.
Already, customers of today have become accustomed to fast – if not instant – service, and this is only going to become more important. This is particularly true in the broking industry, where timesensitive deals are commonplace.
At LNS, our advisers understand that fast turnaround times can determine whether a customer’s offer is accepted, and that sometimes we need to act quickly to help advisers achieve the desired outcome.
Understanding this, our advisers utilise a range of tools to help them respond to and action a range of customer enquiries with speed and efficiency. Thanks to Spark and its digital tools, LNS advisers can submit and keep track of loan applications from anywhere.
Q: What other key themes can we expect over the year to come? How might they be addressed?
While speed of service and the growing expectations of consumers will be front of mind for brokers this year, there is an important balance that needs to be made with compliance and regulatory requirements.
Almost one year after the royal commission, the industry is in a stronger position – and consumers continue to back the broker channel. But brokers need to be vigilant and conscious of compliance needs at every step.
At LNS, we offer regular updates, insights, training and guidance to advisers to ensure they provide good customer outcomes to help more people get financial. We constantly monitor applications and the overall process to maintain compliance.
Q: What else is LNS doing to support the industry this year?
At LNS, we take a holistic approach to supporting our advisers to build their businesses. In our recent ‘Mood Barometer’ survey conducted with our adviser network, 81% reported that they believed being an LNS adviser positioned them to succeed and grow their business, with 77% reporting expecting their business to fare above average in 2020.
While technology and marketing support, backed by a suite of products and a national brand, are important contributors to their success, we recognise that soft skills and personal development are also vital.
With a diverse and inclusive culture, we are proud to have been involved with the MFAA Opportunities for Women campaign, promoting greater gender equality in the industry. With almost 30% of our adviser network being female (a growing proportion), we recognise that we still have a long way to go to maximise the opportunity. Partnering with the Work180 female recruitment platform in our recruiting efforts, as well as targeted digital recruitment and initiatives for International Women’s Day are just some steps being taken.
Wellbeing and mindfulness are other areas that LNS critically focuses on, as strong and healthy relationships with customers can only exist if the adviser is balanced and resilient. In today’s broking environment, providing opportunities for our advisers to learn mindfulness techniques to help them better engage with their business stakeholders and customers is vital.
Our annual conference, with a focus on advisers being FutureSmart, offers opportunities for both professional and personal development.