The backing of a supportive, knowledgeable and technologically superior broker network can help brokers develop their own successful businesses in a highly competitive finance services market.
It's not just workers and small business owners who are doing it tough as pandemic lockdowns continue to put a big strain on the economy; some brokers are under pressure too.
Paradoxically, the property market remains immune to COVID, and brokers continue to enjoy strong loan growth from refinances and first home buyers.
But those brokers who run their own businesses can find it difficult to keep pace with this customer demand for loans, especially in the face of increasing competition, regulation and long turnaround times from some lenders.
This is where being part of a well-organised, efficient, tech-savvy and supportive broker network such as Liberty Network Services can make a world of difference to brokers wanting to attract loyal customers and grow a successful business. More than just an aggregator, the wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Financial boasts a strong network and a diverse range of loan products.
Australian Broker caught up with Liberty Network Services managing director Brendan O’Donnell and adviser Lisa Deans to find out more.
“Liberty Network Services is an innovative, high-touch alternative to traditional distribution models,” O’Donnell says. “With the support of a national retail brand, LNS offers a competitive range of benefits, solutions and opportunities for brokers to help more customers get financial and grow their businesses.”
LNS was established in 2012 to fill a gap in the broking industry and provide a competitive option for brokers looking for greater support.
“Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, we sought to create a network where brokers [advisers] could expect to receive personalised support tailored to their individual needs and goals.
“We welcome advisers at every stage of their broking career – from those who are new-to-industry to seasoned experts with decades of experience.”
O’Donnell says that as the business has evolved, the network has worked closely with its advisers to provide the best possible support, and continues to exceed expectations.
“We see our advisers as true business partners, and to us, their success is our success.”
O’Donnell says LNS will soon reach 200 advisers across all states except the NT.
“We have a robust national presence, and our reach continues to grow. In the last 12 months we have welcomed many established brokers who sought greater support to face the many challenges of running a business during a pandemic.
“We’re proud to have supported advisers from across Australia to not only weather the storm but thrive during such difficult circumstances.”
LNS network sales managers (NSMs) are “the first port of call” to provide advisers with hands-on support and answer any questions.
O’Donnell says NSMs are matched with advisers within their area and are capped at 25 advisers to ensure they have capacity to offer the level of personalised support required.
“This support includes creating tailored business plans for each adviser, providing the information, guidance and support they need to succeed, plus weekly engagements to ensure their business remains on track,” he says.
“In our annual adviser survey, 94% believed their NSM added value to their business, and 87% recognised LNS as a genuine partner.”
Technology is a crucial part of LNS’s value proposition to its advisers, O’Donnell says.
“We’re heavily invested in developing bespoke tech solutions targeting adviser needs, and we’re continually updating to adapt to industry changes.”
The best example is the network’s seamless, easy-to-navigate Spark business platform, which has helped advisers increase productivity by up to 28%.
“Spark offers fast, streamlined functionality and is a valuable tool in helping advisers maintain their business while on the road.
“We pride ourselves on our amazing product manager lender panel data platform that provides 98% accuracy.”
In early 2020, LNS introduced a web-based customer self-serve feature called Know Your Customer (KYC), and O’Donnell says this has received excellent feedback from advisers.
Used by 87% of the network, KYC ensures greater ease, flexibility and convenience for customer information input.
“Already, it has proven to be a useful tool for advisers to further engage with customers and save time for customers and advisers alike, resulting in enhanced quality and professionalism.”
O’Donnell says new digital platforms have been a terrific win for the broking industry – many offer valuable solutions and improved speed and efficiency, allowing brokers to serve more customers.
In addition to the Spark and KYC platforms, many LNS advisers use organisational platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Planner to effectively track their pipelines, as well as video conferencing software through Microsoft Teams.
“These tools have been very useful in supporting advisers to manage their everyday operations, particularly if they work as part of a team,” O’Donnell says.
“We are also seeing exciting new developments in terms of artificial intelligence, which is becoming more prevalent and which will redefine how brokers engage with their customers in the future.
“Our data science team, using AI, will help to lessen some of the administrative heavy-lifting and provide useful insights, allowing brokers more time to spend working directly with customers.”
O’Donnell says LNS has a broad lending panel of up to 22 bank and non-bank lenders who have been carefully selected to ensure advisers can offer a comprehensive service with a range of flexible solutions for customers.
“With loan solutions for home, car, personal, business and commercial finance, our panel caters to an extensive pool of diverse customers.
“Each lender brings something different to the table, and our lending solutions can be tailored to suit all kinds of customer needs.”
This includes helping those clients who don’t fit under the vanilla loan label, providing flexible solutions for those with complex lending needs.
“For self-employed and SME customers, our advisers have made exceptional progress in supporting their customers with Liberty’s all-inclusive range of business lending solutions.”
Understanding the benefits that diversification can bring to a broker’s business, all LNS advisers are encouraged to offer a full suite of services, O’Donnell says.
Despite the ongoing COVID challenges, the property market has continued to boom, and the need for specialist lending support remains high.
“It begs the question: if a global pandemic can’t quash Australia’s property market growth, what can?”
O’Donnell says even though migration rates have slowed across the country, LNS has experienced 46% year-on-year settlement growth, with no sign of the upward trend slowing any time soon.
“In the coming years, I believe we can expect the property market to remain as strong as ever, with more buyers looking to tap into regional markets and get ahead of the competition.”
So, how can brokers make the most of this growth, and why should they join LNS?
O’Donnell says local area marketing is one of the most effective ways to take advantage of increased mortgage finance demand, and having a strong local presence is a highly valuable asset.
“All LNS advisers are supported to create their own personalised business and sales marketing plan with the guidance of their NSM.”
The plan is specifically tailored to target markets and takes into account various factors unique to each area.
“With the expert support of our in-house marketing team, LNS makes it easy for brokers to attract new leads while nurturing customers within their existing databases,” O’Donnell says.
Over the next 12 months, he says LNS will focus on supporting its advisers to grow their businesses, and there will be exciting developments to “supercharge” the Spark platform.
“The previous year has highlighted how essential a strong support system is in building a successful broking business. And we’re committed to upholding the camaraderie and sense of community within our network.”
Lisa Deans is an LNS adviser based in Peregian Springs on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. She joined the network in late 2018 and her client base stretches north all the way to Gympie and beyond.
“My service is spread among different types of loans, varying from first home buyers to investors, including SMSF loans, refinancing, car and caravan purchases, business loans and personal loans,” says Deans.
“While there are many wonderful things about working with LNS, to me the best aspect is the unparalleled support. The LNS team truly wants to see you succeed and will help you in any way to make that happen.”
Deans says she is always in close contact with her NSM, Jane Silvestro, and “she is always looking for new ways that LNS can support me in my business”.
“I feel so uplifted after a one-on-one chat with Jane, and that really helps me to focus on achieving greater goals in my business.
“The marketing team is amazing to deal with and very talented. Whatever your goals, they are always available to share their expertise and put in the work to make it happen.”
Deans began her broking career working with another aggregator.
“It can be a lonely road when you’re just starting out, and I found I wasn’t getting the support I needed to achieve my goals.
“So, when I learned about Liberty Network Services and what they had to offer, I didn’t hesitate in moving across. I firmly believe that the ongoing training and level of support I have received from LNS is the reason I’m still working in this industry today.”
In the last 12 months, Deans has enjoyed huge growth in her business and says looking at how many people she’s helped gives her the drive to help more clients make their dreams come true.
“Setting annual targets is very important to me, and achieving these goals gives me the confidence to set them higher each year to further grow my business.”
Deans praises LNS’s technology, CRM and other features.
“The Spark broker platform is an incredibly user-friendly system that streamlines the process from adding a client through to submitting a deal. It not only captures my database and makes loan processing a breeze, but it also offers a wealth of information on training, compliance, updates and more.”
Deans says LNS is unique in terms of CRM support as “they have an exceptional team of marketing advisers who package up and execute whatever I seek to do through a simple marketing brief ”.
“This is supported by Spark, the Liberty Store and the automated Customer Appreciation Program, which really help me look professionally sharp with my customers. This then helps me generate customer referrals, which have grown a lot in the past year.”
Deans says another great aspect of LNS is the terrific support she gets from fellow advisers, who champion each other’s success.
“Throughout my career with LNS, I have developed many wonderful relationships with different advisers, and there is always someone to turn to for guidance.”
The LNS Facebook Group is also a good place to seek advice, ask questions of other advisers and celebrate milestones.
Deans says LNS can help advisers in every aspect of their business, including marketing, knowledge, training, or “just a friendly chat with like-minded and caring people”.
“Being a broker can be a lonely journey if you’re going it alone, but when you join LNS, you are welcomed into a supportive and empowering team of both new and experienced advisers.”