The mortgage broking industry is becoming increasingly competitive as more and more Australians turn to brokers for a fair deal from their lenders. With rising interest rates, the workload of a mortgage broker is only going to increase. So, how can you succeed as a broker and manage your clients effectively?

Mark Bouris recently sat down with Bridget Wallington, who is the state general manager for mortgage broker distribution at Westpac and St George, to get some insight from her 25-plus years in the finance industry.

As Bridget highlighted whilst featuring on the Broker Room Podcast, Brokers turn to their Business Development Managers (BDMs) throughout the broking industry for assistance on the technical complexities of the various products offered to borrowers, as well as being crucial in providing support to brokers who need to navigate atypical lending scenarios on applications that don’t fit perfectly into a lender’s policy.

The value of a BDM-Broker relationship

Brokers often face circumstances where a particular client might not fit perfectly into a particular lender’s criteria. That is when brokers must lean on BDMs as a valuable tool for assistance. By working closely with BDMs, brokers can better their service offering to customers.

Bridget leads two teams of BDMs “who go out and encourage brokers to support our lending office. And I help the BDMs troubleshoot applications, build up their relationships and help with customer complaints.”

Building a relationship with a BDM from any lender, aggregator or supplier is extremely beneficial to any mortgage broker’s business, particularly if you’re not across a particular lender’s policy.

“Obviously, there are a lot of nuances” to a particular lender’s products, “Every broker can read a policy on our website, but it’s when you have those deals that you’re not quite sure about as a broker,” said Bridget.

“As we know, life is complicated, and lending can be complicated. So, the ability to be able to call your BDM, run your scenario past them and have some sort of assurance that a deal will go through with us is important,” said Bridget.

“It’s also important when you have a deal in the pipeline if we’re asking for additional information, and it may be unclear. We’ve got a lot of self-serve options, but the BDMs can help you through that process of ‘what do I need to tell the assessor or what do I need to tell my story with this customer?'”

Do BDMs fight for your deal?

Mark was keen to point out that brokers can get frustrated having “to chase things up” because there’s “a lot more legwork work to do now, compared to previous years, particularly given we’ve got rising rates and all sorts of weird things going on in the economy.”

So how involved does a BDM get in championing your deal with an assessor?

“They’ll give you a quick no if it’s not ideal for us or if your deal is just too far outside of our lending policy. If it’s just a little bit outside of policy, they may be able to seek an exception. So, we’ll have a chat with our senior credit team and see if the deal is a possibility or not.”

“And if it is yes, or if there’s any other deal that does fit neatly into policy, our BDMs are there to help manage that deal through the pipeline, through all the different stages, to unconditional docs, and then to settlement.”

“Our BDMs are spending a lot of time doing that at the moment because things are complicated. As we know, the market has been really busy. So there are a lot of applications in the queue.”

Understanding a BDMs role

Bridget gave some unique insight for brokers to understand the day-to-day role of a BDM, saying that “It’s not an easy job, you have to love it.”

“I love talking to people and I love trying to solve problems. You need to be resilient because we know customers get emotional if they’re settling on a property, and it’s getting quite close to the wire,” said Bridget.

“A BDMs role is to be out there. Ideally, we’re not in the office very much at all. We need to be out there going to see a broker in their office because then we can understand, ‘how do you work? Who in your office do I need to know?’ Because it might not just be you (the broker), it might be your processor that I need to get to know as well.”

“My combined team helps bring in about 100 applications a day. So, it’s a high-volume, high-pressure job. And that’s why sometimes it might feel like they’re not responding as quickly as you would like, but they’re doing their best, given the volume that they’re dealing with.”

How can a broker get the edge and build a relationship with a BDM?

When it comes to building a strong relationship with a BDM, Mark asked Bridget what some of the best steps are for a broker: “Should I text them? Should I email them? Should I take them out for a beer once a month, or have coffee with them? What should I be doing? Because I’m trying to get the edge over other brokers,” said Mark.

Bridget said a combination of those simple steps goes a long way, “but you shouldn’t do all three of them in a half-hour block.”

For Bridget, the most important thing for a broker to build a solid relationship with their BDM is to treat people “with respect.”

“Take the emotion out of it. We realise home loan applications are emotional, but be ready with what you want. So when you’re making that call to us… we just need to know: ‘what is it that you need? Where are we at? What do you need from us?’”

Setting up a business model today

For any broker, a successful business will require a number of things, but Bridget said that she sees the most success with brokers who focus on workflow and processes.

Bridget’s advice for brokers is to utilise “the tools that are available, and then work out what you are best at.”

“Brokers typically are great at sitting in front of people and having great conversations with them, but may not always have time for doing paperwork. So they’ll have a workflow where it then goes to processors who are experts at that. Those are the brokers that we see are really successful.”

Mark agreed that the brokers he knows “are really successful in our group, they have good people skills” but also have efficient processes in their business to handle the relationships with BDMs and the loan processing part of the job.

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