Women in Broking: Bridget Headland, Vision Money in Queensland

In the first of our Women in Broking series, we interview Bridget Headland, founder and director of her own financial brokerage, Vision Money, operating in Darwin and Brisbane.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a mortgage advisor?

I worked within the finance industry, a different role to start with and then I was offered a position within the broker world – I leapt at it. The thought of being able to run my own show, be responsible for my own sales and work with clients that were looking to ‘beat the banks’ put a smile on my face.

What challenges did you face when starting out or along the way?

The start is always the hardest, finding my networking feet, telling people what I was doing and also focusing on the long-term approach that you have to have in this industry is hard. Creating trust with clients and referrals is something that takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. Being a young, blonde (at the time), female starting out in the broker industry had its challenges… Starting out had its challenges. I had to ask people to put their trust in me and my knowledge of the trade, which takes time. But now, after eight years, I have no need to advertise. I receive all my business via word of mouth, repeat business and some great business connections.

Which aspect of your role do you love the most?

I’ve managed to surround myself with some very successful people within the broker and property worlds. Working with these people doesn’t feel like a job! I also have some great staff and clients – people who truly value my time and who I enjoy being around.

Describe your career highlight to date and what it meant to you.

Before starting my own brokerage Vision Money, I worked with one of the largest mortgage broking companies within Australia. I managed to secure some great accolades and used the skill sets learned to help me open the door to my own business – we now have 3 offices located across Australia. Since bringing AFG on board as an aggregator I was able to join them on the Chairman’s Club Trip, this was an absolute highlight. This topped off a big year for Vision by where both myself and Vision were recognised as a Telstra Business Finalist within Australia.

Why should other women consider a career in the mortgage industry?

The industry is rewarding and engaging and, as a new mum, allows me to have great flexibility. I’ve been fortunate enough to take my daughter into the office from three weeks old, the port-a-cot was set up out the back and some clients were none the wiser about the sleeping baby!

What makes a good mortgage broker?

A good mortgage broker is personable, honest and willing to go that extra mile. Communication is key – if a client needs to follow you up then I believe you have failed at your job!

These days clients don’t want someone who is flashy and showy. They want someone they can relate to and to get honest feedback and information.

When I chat with my clients and I’m discussing a certain product or service, I like them to know I have tried it first. If it’s good enough for me, my family and my friends, they can be rest assured I’m talking from experience.

In your view, why is it important to have a mix of male and female mortgage brokers?

It’s the same within any industry: you need diversification – different genres, backgrounds and belief systems. Not everyone will be able to relate to a male broker, just like not everyone will want to work with or can relate to a female broker.

I do believe that as a female broker you tend to be able to empathise with the female client who wants to protect her home, her nest, and ensure it’s the best thing for her family.

It’s my opinion that having both genders in the broker world creates innovation and enhances the services we provide back to the client.

SMARTer integration and automation

Our SMART program is unique. You won’t find it anywhere else. We know because we built it. SMART is completely integrated into your lodgement engine — simply process your leads and applications then any aspects of the SMART program that you’ve chosen to utilise are automatically triggered.

That means your leads are reminded of the benefits of having you on their side, your customers are reminded to get in touch with you at crucial times in the life of their home loan, and you can easily see how your book compares to the combined $133B nationally or at a state level.

Not one of our 1,400 brokers already on SMART? Do you have your own marketing support services you are paying money for? How can SMART help?

Here is a sample of the services all included under the SMART umbrella:

  • Copywriting of marketing material.
  • Design and copywriting of social media materials — ready for you to post.
  • Writing, scheduling, triggering and sending emails to;
    • Welcome new entrants to your database.
    • Inform your database of RBA movements within minutes of each announcement.
    • Thank your customers at lodgement.
    • Thank your customers at settlement.
    • Many more automatically triggered email events.
  • Running a competition to increase the response rate of your settlement feedback.
  • Writing, designing and posting or emailing a lifestyle newsletter publication to your database.
  • Analysing data to find the catalysts for a discharge and triggering a communication at the right time with the right message to
    your customers.

The question we ask is, can you afford not to be on SMART?

For our brokers who use our SMART marketing program, the results speak for themselves. As the graph above illustrates, on average our brokers on SMART are now seeing well over double the cumulative portfolio growth of our brokers yet to join.

Our broker portfolio growth can stem from many things including that we think we recruit Australia’s best in the business and have an increasing market share of the country’s brokers. It could well also stem from the fact that the SMART campaigns, websites, analytics and materials work so well and help deliver this impressive growth differential. Regardless, there is no question SMART is helping the trend and we like to think we’re a key driver behind these great results our brokers are enjoying!

How to make a smart switch

Switching home loans could help pay down your mortgage sooner, providing you are refinancing for the right reasons and understand what’s involved. Here’s our guide to refinancing to help you make the right move when the time comes.

Know the costs

Paying 0.5 per cent less per annum on a $250,000 principal-and-interest mortgage will save you around $23,000 over the life of a 25-year loan1. That’s a sizeable chunk of change back in your pocket over the long term, but there are usually up-front costs associated with switching loans, especially if moving to a new lender.

Know the costs of exiting your current mortgage loan before switching. Depending on the type of variable rate loan you have, the lender may apply fees if you choose to bow out. If you are on a fixed rate loan, a cost will usually apply when paid ahead of the agreed timeframe.

You should also factor in any set-up costs for your new loan, which can be several hundred dollars, and any ongoing account fees.

Only once you have factored in all of the associated costs will you be able to assess whether you gain financially by refinancing, and that’s where a broker can help you make the right decision.

Compare products and service

A lower interest rate is a great reason to switch but it shouldn’t be the only deciding factor. Make sure the new loan is flexible enough to meet your needs and help you get ahead as quickly as possible. Some benefits to consider:

  • Can you make fortnightly repayments? You could pay off your loan quicker making payments every two weeks instead of monthly.
  • Can you make lump sum payments? Any extra repayments above and beyond your regular schedule will shave dollars and time off your loan.
  • Does the new loan offer a redraw facility? It’s great to stash extra cash in your mortgage to pay it down quicker but if you think you may need it back at some point, make sure your new loan lets you access those excess funds.
  • To fix or not to fix? We’re still enjoying low-interest rates on the back of the historic lows the Reserve Bank of Australia cash rate is at, but make sure with any change you consider you have some wriggle room for if rates do rise. Make sure you’re future–proofing at every turn.
  • What features are important to you and think about the ones you could do without. Why pay for the bells and whistles attached to a loan if you don’t use them? Different features when it comes to technology, service and availability rank differently for everyone, so figure out what’s important to you and a broker can help you match it with the right product and the right lender.
  • Working with a broker to sharpen the pencil. Just one of the benefits of having a broker on your?side when it comes to your finance is their ability to work with the right lenders on the right price when it comes to things like your rate and your ongoing fees.

Switch to save

Many borrowers refinance to consolidate debts, bundling credit card balances, personal loans or car payments into their mortgage, which usually carries a much lower interest rate. The benefit is lower minimum payments on your debts overall, which can be a benefit for cash flow. But that doesn’t mean you are saving on your home loan. Try to make the most of the lower rate to knock down the total debt quicker so you are not simply adding to the duration of your mortgage. And make sure you cancel any credit cards once you have transferred the balances into your mortgage so you are not tempted to rack up more debt.

Direct your debits

If you switch to a new loan, make sure you also switch any direct payments and debits. It’s easy to lose track of what’s being paid, and how and when. Run through the most recent three months of statements for your original loan to identify any direct payments, and notify the biller as soon as possible so you don’t jeopardise your credit rating. You should also give your employer your new account details if your wages are paid directly into your mortgage.

Check your borrowing power

One of the biggest oversights borrowers can make when shopping for the right home loan deal is their current financial situation. Has it changed since you took out your original loan? If the answer is yes, and it’s not for the better, you may find your borrowing power has shrunk, which could limit your refinancing options.

You may have: started a family and no longer have two full-time incomes; switched careers and now earn less; started your own business, creating a less regular income stream; accumulated other debt, such as credit cards or car finance; or eroded your credit rating through late payments. Any of these factors can impact your borrowing credentials and may give you fewer bargaining chips than when you took out your original loan.

Do a thorough assessment of your total income, expenses, outstanding debts and credit rating so you understand your true financial position before shopping around.

Talk to your broker

Take the time and stress out of shopping for a new loan by letting your mortgage broker handle it for you, at no cost to you. A broker has access to multiple lenders with multiple products, allowing them to cast a wider net than you probably can on your own to find a home loan deal that suits your needs and circumstances. Brokers can also often gain access to lenders who are happy to take on self-employed borrowers, or those who don’t advertise heavily to consumers but still offer competitive home loans. The benefits of having a broker on your side are numerous; and the reason that now more than 52 per cent of Australian borrowers use a mortgage broker to arrange their finance.

1 https://www.westpac.com.au/personal-banking/home-loans/calculator/mortgage-repayment/

Compliance training

We pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of industry and regulatory change and take even greater pride in protecting our brokers’ business and reputation by ensuring best practice in all we do.

We are continuously working to integrate and automate compliance as much as possible via FLEX. These improvements are there to help make compliance easier, however, there are other business requirements that you must meet in order to both protect yourself but also to future proof your business as well. This area is becoming more and more important, as increasing regulatory focus on the industry occurs.

When we use the word ‘compliance’, we refer to all our business obligations to meet regulatory, advertising, responsible lending and privacy requirements. What can you do to help safeguard your business and your team against the risk of noncompliant behaviours?

  • Ensure that all staff complete the AFG compliance training modules and take advantage of the latest training pathways as they come online – watch your inbox for the next series on its way soon.
  • Use all the integrated compliance tools within FLEX and the electronic lodgement process.
  • Access and review the suite of compliance tools and resources available on Learn.
  • Use SMART as your marketing program. SMART includes provision for all mandated subscription legislation and helps you avoid the risks of manual data entry and duplicated databases.
  • Talk to your BDM about what more you can be doing to stay safe and stay aware.
  • Utilise AFG’s Compliance team and resources, including audit services.

As part of our focus on Conduct Risk, in particular, we will continue to communicate to you both regulatory expectations, as well as our own expectations of acceptable practice. Together with an internal focus on data and risk analytics, compliance and risk management are becoming points of differentiation and competitive advantage for AFG. Valuable training will shortly be provided to you via our new learning management system and we encourage you to take a look at it.

Broker Fact Find

Are you taking full advantage of Broker Fact Find to do the legwork to help you speed up a deal? Broker Fact Find is your online customer tool that lets your customer take care of the data entry basics at a time and place that suits them. It helps streamline the application and approval process — saving you time and money and helping fast track your client’s deal.

You know it all too well — collecting customer information can often slow down the loan process. It takes time for the customer to supply their details and then more time for you to enter it into FLEX.

At the press of a button in FLEX, your customer is emailed a secure link to the Broker Fact Find website that’s branded with your logo and details. The site intelligently asks the right questions and asks for additional information depending on your customer’s answers. When your customer has completed the questionnaire it’s automatically emailed back to you and FLEX is updated with their data which has populated through.

You can also enter in your customer’s details directly into the Broker Fact Find tool and push this information back into FLEX.

The Broker Fact Find process: Saving you time

  1. Broker generates a unique Broker Fact Find link from within an Opportunity in FLEX or the FLEX Mobile app. The minimum information required to be entered into FLEX prior to this is contact name, mobile and email address.
  2. Your customer completes their contact and financial information within a web portal branded with your broker information.
  3. That data is automatically added to the Opportunity and the Contact record where applicable, saving you time and ensuring the customer details are correct.
  4. Proceed with the deal in FLEX or simply leave the customer as a contact record to receive marketing materials from you via SMART if applicable.

Speak to your BDM or RM today if you’re not already taking full advantage of this clever tool.

Majors back in the hunt: Competition Index – August 2017

In a sign of renewed commitment to the broker channel, major lenders have taken back control from the non-majors with a lift in market share across the last month according to the latest AFG Competition Index.

After a low of 63.39% in June 2017, the majors have risen each month to round out the quarter at 65.90%,” said AFG General Manager of Residential and Broker Mark Hewitt.

“Fixed rate products have recorded the largest increase with the majors now claiming 74.8% share in this category. ANZ is taking the lion’s share of fixed rate business jumping from 10.51% in June to 20.82% by the end of the quarter,” he said.

This rise has largely been at the expense of Westpac, which recorded a drop of more than 7% over the same period.

“Westpac also fell back in the Investor category, dropping from 16.92% in June to 12.91% at the end of August. ANZ have also taken the lead in this category, with a lift from 13.22% to 19.99% over the quarter.

“ANZ is also appealing to those seeking to refinance,” he said. “Their market share amongst refinancers has jumped from 15.22% to 18.5% across the quarter.”

Amongst the other major lenders, CBA rebounded from 12.45% total share at the start the start of the quarter to finish on 14.25%.

In the non-major category, AFG Home Loans finished the quarter with a market share of 8.85% as a result of share gains in refinancing, investor and first home buyer categories.

Suncorp also proved competitive over the quarter averaging almost 5% total market share.

“AFG also welcomes Credit Union Australia (CUA) and Homeloans Limited to our panel and we look forward to introducing these lenders to our brokers”.

“The presence of these additional leading non-major lenders provide increased choice for consumers looking for finance,” he said.

How to avoid property pitfalls

If you have seen the movie Money Pit, in which Tom Hanks and Shelley Long play a hapless couple whose home renovations plummet from bad to disastrous with every swing of the hammer, it’s easy to see why buyers should be beware.

But it’s not just hidden and costly repairs that can snag home owners and investors. we lift the lid on other potential pitfalls.

Title check

It’s worth enlisting a professional conveyancer to undertake a title search when buying a property. The title search will reveal any easements (shared access) or covenants (restrictions). Easements could include the right for pipes to be buried on your land, while covenants can specify building materials or restrict building height. Easements and covenants are not necessarily deal breakers, but you should be aware so you can plan around them, especially if renovating or rebuilding.

Off the plan

There are pros and cons to purchasing off the plan. While many punters have notched up solid returns in the short and long term, it remains one of the more speculative ways to buy, especially in markets with high volumes of new apartments in the pipeline.

If buying off the plan, make sure you do your homework on the local market and have sufficient financial back-up to withstand any dip in value on your purchase price once built and any shortcomings in the projected rental return.

Weather resistant

Avoid being a fair-weather buyer who collects the keys having only seen the property on sunshiny days. Rain can quickly transform a poorly-drained property from bliss to bog. If you don’t get to inspect the property in wet weather, be bold and ask neighbours how the property holds up in a downpour. You should also always check council flood maps to see if the property is at risk of flash, creek or river flooding. Some councils do a better job than others of collecting and sharing flood data. If council flood maps are not publicly available, a council planner might be able to give you historical information about your property.

A professional building inspection can also help detect any drainage issues.

Know your neighbours

It’s hard to know who lives over the fence or down the hall until you move in, but bad neighbours (at the risk of another movie reference) can make or break your dream home.

At the risk of snooping before you move in, try and get a read on who else lives in the street or complex. If flanked by households of renting students, you could be in for some late-night parties, which may be tolerable if a midnight party-goer yourself, but less welcome if you have a young family.

Close inspection

Be sure to invest during the cooling off period in a pre-purchase pest and building inspection by a licensed and insured professional.

Professional inspections can unearth evidence of pests – including termites and rodents – and structural issues such as dry rot, rising damp, roof leaks, asbestos and poor drainage.

There is no cooling off period at auctions, so book an inspection and read the report well ahead of auction day.

Body corporates

If buying an apartment, villa or townhouse, do your homework on the body corporate – the fees for each quarter and how the body corporate operates. A well-run body corporate can help avoid surprise costs for unforeseen repairs and prevent disputes over common areas.

Check there is an adequate sinking fund to cover repairs and refurbishments and sufficient strata insurance to cover total replacement of the apartment building or complex in the event of a catastrophic fire or natural disaster.

You should also request copies of at least the previous three body corporate meetings to get a read on any potential issues.

Beyond your means

Be careful not to commit beyond your finances. Interest rates are at record lows and will inevitably rise again. Make sure you leave a buffer in your budget to manage any increases or change in personal circumstances, even if your lender lets you borrow more initially.

Ideally, your mortgage repayments should be no more than 25 per cent of your total household net income. Talk to your broker to assess your affordability in line with your personal circumstances.

The RBA has opted to leave the official cash rate on hold at 1.5%

With spring traditionally a busy time for the real estate market and for rate moves, all eyes were on today’s Reserve Bank of Australia board meeting, where once again it was decided to leave the official cash rate unchanged for the 13th consecutive month.

The RBA avoided the temptation to follow other developed economies and increase rates due to continued concerns around low wages growth and the impact of rising power prices on households.

Regardless of whether rates move up, down or stay the same, your mortgage broker’s role remains unchanged. Your broker is always on hand to ensure you still have the right financial solution for your current circumstances.

If you’d like to have a chat about what today’s news means for you and your finances, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your broker.

Automating business growth

We like to think we’re breaking new ground in the mortgage broking space in a lot of what we do.

From our machine learning applications, our Business Intelligence tool, the new AFG Business platform on its way to help grow commercial volumes, the new broker websites with clever email capture functionality to our ongoing integration with business partners.

All the tech works for you, together as one

One of the industry-leading benefits of creating our own platform is the ability to build in integration where it can help you and your customers. Such as the ability to order Deppro reporting from within FLEX, or send a lead directly to TAL. Not only do these enhancements benefit your business, they also help you to provide a more holistic offer to your customer. This gives your customers the peace of mind that you can help them when they need you and builds a loyal tribe of customers who will come back to you again and again.

It’s not just about connecting customers with finance. Our business partners can help you to provide a complete service to your clients:

Allianz – general insurance

Simple, low-touch, direct-referral general insurance solutions for your customers that make it easy for your clients and easy for you. Help your clients protect their investments with building home and contents, landlord, and car insurance.

TAL – Insuranceline income and life insurance

The opportunity for you to offer income and life insurance protection products through InsuranceLine, a TAL direct life insurance brand.

DEPPRO – and your investor clients

DEPPRO offers comprehensive, easy-to-understand Tax Office compliant depreciation reports which can help your investment clients maximise their ROI as well as reward you at the same time with additional commission each time a customer takes advantage of one of these reports.

Equifax – integrated credit reporting

The new partnership with Equifax allows you to directly access a credit report for your client through FLEX. This fully integrated solution sees AFG brokers enjoy a reduced group rate for the reports with access at the push of a button. The reports will help you make better and faster decisions in terms of the right finance solutions which should lead to an improved application to settlement ratio as well as higher levels of client satisfaction. The AFG Privacy Consent form includes appropriate wording to enable you to obtain the necessary consent from your client before requesting a credit report.