Beating the banks

Beating the banks

As part of its annual year-end survey, Dominion Lending Centres polled its network in December to find out what brokers from across the country feel are their greatest challenges for 2012. Find out what they plan to do to overcome these challenges and turn them into opportunities

By Cindy Freiman

With challenge comes opportunity. And there’s no doubt 2012 will present its share of challenges for mortgage brokers across Canada.

Top Challenges for 2012

Clearly the No.1 challenge identified by the hundreds of brokers who participated in the survey includes competing with bank branches and bank road reps. In fact, 30 per cent of survey takers identified this as their greatest challenge for 2012.

In second spot, 13 per cent of those surveyed believe that the challenging market, economic uncertainty and the need to counter negative economic news from the mainstream media is worthy of attention this year.

Rounding out the top three concerns for brokers at 12 per cent is lead generation and the need to build their databases.

Another nine per cent are worried about further possible changes to lender guidelines spurred by Ottawa, while eight per cent are homing in on the need for greater education of consumers on what brokers can do for them throughout the home-buying and mortgage-financing processes.

This is where educating everyone you come across in 2012 about what brokers have to offer over the banks is vital to the sustainability and growth of our industry. If borrowers don’t understand what you do, how can they be expected to consider using a mortgage broker at all?

In the latest research report from CAAMP released in January, lack of consumer awareness/understanding of the channel was the No.1 challenge identified.

“Low consumer awareness and understanding are perhaps the most important challenges facing Canada’s mortgage broker channel,” says the CAAMP report. “Just five per cent of Canadians say they have a full understanding of the services provided by mortgage brokers.

It’s fair to say, therefore, that people often visit banks by default because they have no grasp of their options.

Overcoming Challenges

It seems there’s going to be a whole lot of networking, building of referral partner relationships, and attending of industry and community events this year. This was the No.1 response from the national Dominion Lending Centres survey, with 19 per cent of respondents indicating they would be leaving their offices behind more often in 2012 to build relationships and a larger presence in their communities.

This is great news, because becoming more visible in your community and expanding your sphere of influence is an essential part of continually growing and fine-tuning your database. The major benefit banks have over brokers, as everyone knows, is the hundreds of years of advertising and presence the banks have built in the eyes of consumers.

Whether you’re participating in charity or local sporting event fundraisers, the key is to get out into the community and make a presence for yourself. Simply throwing money at a cause will be more expensive and have much less of an impact than if you’re putting in the hours to support what you truly believe in.

Next, 17 per cent said they were going to become more visible through local advertising and marketing, branding and social media.

But regardless of how brokers build their presence in 2012, it’s important to also make a rule for yourself to exchange business cards/contact information with as many people as possible so that this expanded presence can translate into more database contacts.

Once these contacts are entered into your database, it’s up to you to touch base with both existing and new entries on a consistent basis to ensure you have more than just a list of names in a spreadsheet.

There are some interesting statistics contained within the latest CAAMP report about remaining top-of-mind with consumers. One figure claims that 90 per cent of existing mortgage borrowers surveyed said they would like to receive post-sales communications from their mortgage provider.

CAAMP’s research continues to show that the optimal frequency of communications is between four and six times per year. This doesn’t mean you’re covered for communications for the year by sending out a monthly newsletter. That would technically only count as one type of communication in your aim to make it to at least four and as many as six touches per year.

There was a tie for third spot as the most popular answer to this Dominion Lending Centres survey question relating to overcoming challenges. Some 15 per cent of those surveyed say they’re going to kick customer service into high gear for 2012 and offer clients better service while highlighting their expertise and showcasing the better choice brokers have to offer those requiring mortgage financing.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it truly is the little things you do day in and day out that will make a difference to your clients. Responding to calls and emails in a timely manner, ensuring whomever answers your phone is polite and efficient, and keeping your clients in the know throughout the mortgage financing process are just a few important steps you can take to ensure you’re viewed as a true expert with whom your clients want to continue doing business.

It's also back to basics for 15 per cent of survey takers who claim they’ll be much more proficient at building and working their databases in order to spur repeat and referral business this year.

Although it’s great to say you’re going to build and work your database, you need to make this part of your business plan to ensure you’re measuring the effectiveness of each touch point and trying new ways to get your message across. After all, what gets measured gets done.

Finally, 12 per cent are planning to seek out some quality training and coaching, and focus on goal-setting this year to ensure they meet or exceed their own expectations.

Regardless of what you choose to do in 2012 for the betterment of your business, the focus should be on trying something different or fine-tuning something you embarked upon in the past that may not have worked as well as you thought it could have.

Make sure you join forces with others in the industry to share best practices and ideas. Living in a bubble and being concerned about sharing ideas with peers will only ensure you spend too much time reinventing the wheel – without the benefit of discovering what worked and what didn’t work for other brokers. It’s important to remember that other brokers aren’t your competition – banks are.