From brokers to business operator

by 21 May 2018

Stephen Moore, CEO of Choice Aggregation reveals the key factors that help brokers excel as business operators in an ever changing market place 

Currently the broking industry faces a number of once-in-a-lifetime challenges, not to mention unprecedented scrutiny. Compound this with significant changes to lender habits, a new generation of tech-enabled players, and all the usual challenges that self-starters face, and it’s safe to say that times have definitely been easier.

But the flip side of any challenge is opportunity, and with a renewed focus on customer outcomes, not to mention a suite of new tools to work with, there is plenty of opportunity to be found.

“Successful business owners work on the business, not just in the business. They take the time to step back from the day-to-day and focus on planning, clarity in direction, and what’s required for long-term success,” says Choice Aggregation Services CEO Stephen Moore.

While it’s often a case of easier said than done, Choice has long worked with brokers to help leverage opportunities. Choice’s proposition is built on the broker’s role as a business operator as well as an adviser, and, with each broker different from the next, Choice also takes time to understand the individual needs of its network members.

From those who are new to the industry to the decade-plus veterans, every business faces times of transition and challenge as well as prosperity: hiring the first team member, channelling tailored support, expanding interstate, outsourcing back-office processes, or even streamlining. 

In response to these needs, Choice works closely with members to achieve their growth aspirations, pioneering such solutions as a peer-to-peer learning program; monthly technical updates to help make sense of the latest regulatory developments; and its networking and discussion groups, the Top Group Summit and Top Group Advisory Group. Behind the scenes,Choice fights the broker’s corner, with Moore present on the Combined Industry Forum and other bodies.

“It is important to stay focused on what counts the most, and that is providing great advice and great experiences to customers” Stephen Moore, Choice

With technology playing an ever larger role, Choice has placed diligent focus on supporting brokers in leveraging digital platforms to deliver operational efficiencies and outstanding customer experiences.

Further aiding efficiency, the end-to-end business and client management tool Podium is designed for brokers to streamline compliance tasks. Inclusive of an NCCP function, it gives access to a marketing hub, which provides online education and training, social media and content support. Crucially, it provides the world’s largest CRM system; however, while handy, that isn’t a fast track to success.

As Moore says, “One of the most important assets that any broker business has is the customer base, and the more details you have on that the more useful it becomes.

“We can offer the largest system, but knowledge is the world’s best CRM.”

The real world

Get Smart Financial Solutions was founded by Rachael Bland in 2012 after more than 15 years working in the finance sector. Taking the leap to satisfy her professional ambitions, as well as continue to provide for her children, Bland’s initial strategy focused on her local area – and it paid dividends. In her second year she gained platinum status with the aggregator, a rare achievement for a newcomer.

Today, the business settles around $70m per annum, and Bland is the sole broker, working with a team of eight part-time staff. Recently, she  supported two team members in their transition to qualified loan writers, and is now looking forward to the resulting business growth.

She says, “The transition from broker to business operator occurs not only through the challenges you face day-to-day but also the support received from BDMs, lenders, and of course your aggregator.

“Choice’s support has been unparalleled; they have been like a family to me, and have been very much instrumental to the growth of my business.”

Choice welcomed more than 400 brokers to its network in the 12 months to October 2017, reaching more than 1,600 members. With more than 20% of brokers on the books for 10 years or more, success stories are commonplace. 

Will Unkles is principal at 40 Forty Finance, founded in Melbourne three years ago. In FY17 the business settled just under $20m and is on track to hit $40m this financial year, with a subsequent target of $60m in FY19.

“Choice’s support has been unparalleled ... [they] have been very much instrumental to the growth of my business” - Rachael Bland, Get Smart Financial Solutions

While his previous job as a consultant helped pave the way for 40 Forty Finance, like all good business operators Unkles knew where support would be required. His initial approach was to build strong connections with each lender’s BDM, cementing the notion that broking is a relationship-based business.

Further. he called on a personal networks in his local area, with a focus on first home buyers. Having identified his customers, Unkles developed a strong online communications strategy and offline he sponsored a local sporting club and held free-to-attend workshops to educate 18- to 30-year-olds on financial management.

Now ready to scale up the business and recruit a third team member, he’s turning to his aggregator for support.

“I think in a sense a lot of brokers do take the role of an aggregator for granted. The software we receive via Choice is really the foundation of my business, and there is no way I’d be able to run my business as efficiently and successfully without it,” he says.

Professional focus

Professionalism is about putting the customer first and designing a business process around target outcomes. It’s also about maintaining quality without compromise, and that is entirely dependent on long-term perspective: one eye on the present and one eye on the future, as Moore advises.

However, when it comes to being a business operator the most successful enterprises are aligned with their customers’ needs and are agile and intelligent enough to know what support they need and at what stage.

“In a changing landscape like ours it’s even more critical to be aligned to the right aggregator, and the right aggregator will be very proactive in helping you navigate the changing landscape,” Moore says. 

“My message to all brokers is that it is important to stay focused on what counts the most, and that is providing great advice and great experiences to customers.”