Connective Asset Finance has announced the appointment of specialist lender, TrailBlazer Finance, to its panel.
The addition of TrailBlazer Finance introduces a funder whose sole focus is unlocking the value of intangibles to which lenders ordinarily give little or no value. This specifically benefits financial planning, property management, accounting and insurance brokerage clients who are typically hard asset-light but have built great recurring revenue streams. This allows them to monetise their recurring revenue without needing property to secure their loan facilities.
We recently launched a new low repayment loan for mortgage brokers and financial planners. Designed to boost cashflow, the Balloon Booster is structured like a balloon loan and features lower monthly repayments and flexible end-of-term refinancing options, allowing the balloon to be paid out or refinanced into a two-year loan.
Importantly, the loan product allows brokers and planners to better manage cashflow and maximise working capital at a time when many small businesses are struggling with their short-term cashflow needs.
Jeff Zulman, Managing Director of TrailBlazer Finance commented, “We know from talking to our clients that right now many brokers and planners need a short-term cash boost to free up working capital as they navigate the evolving post-COVID-19 market.
The Balloon Booster is designed specifically for this purpose. It is a low repayment product, with repayments 50 per cent or lower than those of our standard loan product. This helps our SME clients manage cashflow when they need it most.”
The new loan product further strengthens the specialist lender’s offering to its broker and planning clients, with Mr Zulman adding, “TrailBlazer Finance is committed to delivering the best possible solutions for these white-collar professionals. We are proud to be able to provide a product which is tailored to the needs of our clients, and the industry more broadly at a time when others are tightening their credit criteria and raising rates.”
Understanding the drivers and what they mean for your brokerage
For the mortgage broking fraternity, like most industries, 2020 continues to present a litany of challenges that colour the future with a particular shade of uncertainty that appeals to only the most hardened opportunists.
If we get down to it, how are the smartest and most adaptable mortgage brokerages adjusting to the myriad challenges being presented? And where are the opportunities to turn these challenges into upside and create additional value in your business?
Navigating the valley of death
One thing we have learnt from businesses who have teetered on the precipice and successfully navigated through the valley of death and out the other side, is they often emerged far stronger – and done so by embracing change not just once, but again and again. Think Lego, Apple, Disney and Amazon. Each has used setbacks as catalysts for innovation, reinvention and disruption.
Mortgage brokers have also had to overcome their share of market shifting adversity over the last decade – be it threats to trail, regulation cuts, a Royal Commission and an ever-heavier compliance and educational burden. So those that are still standing have already had their resolve tested and proven their resilience. COVID-fuelled recession is just another round of fire, albeit an unprecedentedly heavy one.
Where is the value?
So far, we have not seen any notable negative impact on the value of trail book and mortgage brokerages from the current COVID-19 market maelstrom. But there has been a clear split in the pack with an increase in brokers leaving the industry. As a result, we’ve seen an uptick in stronger brokers approaching us for larger loans to fund book purchases as they sniff out opportunities.
We have identified seven drivers of trail book value and what you need to look at when buying a book or preparing your own business for sale at the optimal value:
1. Seasoning. This is the length of time individual loans have been on the book. The longer they’ve been in your book, the higher the value.
2. Underlying run off. This looks at how quickly the book is losing loans. Focus on embedding those relationships.
3. Arrears and clawbacks. Frequency with which clients slip into arrears or loans are clawed back. A potential challenge in the current market.
4. Growth in underlying loans. Growth in the number and value of those loans. Hold tight to the loans you do have.
5. Growth in trail. A growing trail book is a valuable asset, particularly in a time of uncertainty. Tap into gaps in the market.
6. Not all loans are equally valuable. A properly structured investment loan, for example, could be a more valuable asset than a residential loan. Write loans where you haven’t previously.
7. Underlying spread of lenders, borrowers and products. Focus on the mix and diversity. Concentration risk is a negative.
And a dollop of better, smarter, faster will not go astray
Innovation is not necessarily about scrum masters and setting the world on fire. It can be as simple as getting the basics right. If you look hard enough, there are quick wins out there both from a resilience and value-building perspective. Check out our five tips to help prepare your business for what comes after COVID-19.
Take two minutes to get a sense of your trail book value
Check out our free trail book valuation calculator to get a sense of the value range for your trail book today.
You can also download our valuations flyer for further information.
It goes without saying that large and small businesses alike are facing unprecedented challenges in the current environment. Brokers are certainly well-versed in how to hand tough times. What we know from those times is that where there are challenges there are invariably opportunities. Sometimes it’s simply a question of finding a partner to help you realise those opportunities when they present themselves.
In 2014, Chris Booth caught wind of an unmissable opportunity. At the time, he and his other business partners were running a successful full-service financial advisory business, Announcer Mortgages (now Infocus).
When they were offered the chance to buy an undervalued client book, an acquisition that would allow them to increase their footprint and further diversify their business, they decided to try to pull together the funds to make it happen. Knowing the book would eventually appreciate, they hoped to engage, convert and grow as many clients as possible before selling the book at a higher multiple.
Chris Booth, Head of Lending, Infocus
Having pooled their income streams, Chris and his partners shopped around for lenders to fund the purchase. Unhappy with the options available to them, Chris spoke to the Executive Director at his aggregator who facilitated an introduction to TrailBlazer Finance’s Managing Director, Jeff Zulman. Using a specialist trail book loan from TrailBlazer, Chris and his partners were able to borrow against Announcer’s mortgage trail book, rather than risk personal assets, in order to free up the capital to buy the book.
“In the end, we proceeded with the loan purely because of Jeff and the team. They made themselves physically available to us throughout the process and it gave us great confidence, both personally and professionally, that we were making the right decision with the right lender.”
Making growth happen
At the time of purchase, Chris was working with another part-time broker. While the business didn’t convert quite as many clients as they’d bullishly projected, they did manage to sign on around 500 fee-paying full-service clients from that book alone. By the time he and his partners decided to sell the business three years later, Announcer had increased in size to three full-time brokers, their client roster had more than doubled and the business had grown by almost 130 per cent in terms of the underlying trail. They subsequently sold the business to Infocus in 2017, repaying any remaining debt and banking a tidy sum.
Words of advice for brokers looking to grow
While Chris is the first to admit the industry is in a very different place in 2020, post-Royal Commission and mid-COVID pandemic, he would do it all over again. As a small business success story, does he have any advice for other brokers seeking to grow their business through acquisition?
“Using borrowed money is a good way to acquire clients and build your business quite quickly. You have a warm opportunity to call which makes it so much easier than building a book from scratch. Would I buy a mortgage book right now? Absolutely yes, the multiples are good, even though the market has some unknowns after the Royal Commission.
Acquisitions done properly absolutely work. However, be ready for it to take far longer than you’d expect to work a client book effectively. Ultimately, you still have to win the hearts and minds of the clients. One of the biggest learnings from the financial planning industry is that they didn’t try to win the clients. You have to call and build relationships, be proactive and be positive. Building those relationships is everything.”
Let us help
If you would like to find out about how we can help your business grow with our unique loan products for brokers and other white-collar professionals, please contact us on 1300 139 003 or at email@example.com
In our business, we often get enquiries from people who think we deal in second-hand literary books. At TrailBlazer Finance, we actually buy, sell and lend against trail books – which are not even close to story books. But these mistaken phone calls to our office became the catalyst for us to support a charity which is doing life-changing work for people who often can’t even spell B-O-O-K.
A few years ago, our Managing Director Jeff Zulman read John Woods’ remarkable book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children. Jeff was inspired by how one person who recognised the power of words went on to establish Room to Read, a non-profit organisation focused on girls’ education and children’s literacy in Africa and Asia.
We later discovered that one of Room to Read’s annual fundraisers was a long trail walk in Sydney. There are too many coincidences here, Jeff thought to himself. We make money from books – albeit not literary ones – so why don’t we help others to read, write and benefit from books. In that moment, TrailBlazer Finance’s support for Room to Read was born.
According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, over 750 million people worldwide are illiterate. Two-thirds of them are women and girls. “World change,” says Room to Read, “starts with educated children.”They’re right: educating girls is much more than a gender equality issue.
As Damon Gameau’s recent documentary ‘2040’ makes clear, educating girls is a vital weapon in the battle against climate change. Why? Because empowering and educating women and girls means they are more likely to marry later and have less children, which leads to a lower population and less pressure on resources. In a recent Sydney Morning Herald article, Elizabeth Farrelly wrote that the film 2040’s “most surprising [moment] is the thought that the sixth most effective weapon (of a hundred) against climate change is educating girls…educating girls is worth 105 gigatons of Co2 due to its effect on fertility, population growth and land management.”
So now, your books – your trail books – are helping those less privileged than us to learn to read and delight in the power of words and literary books.We donated 100% of the proceeds from our recent webinar for mortgage brokers to Room to Read. This impressive organisation – which to date, has benefitted 16.8 million children and their communities – means that when you take a loan from TrailBlazer Finance, you’re also giving back: helping to combat the scourge of children’s illiteracy, to educate underprivileged girls and even to fight against climate change. Your trail book is valuable in more ways than you might have imagined.
A pinball machine sits in the reception of our offices. For stress relief, I am rather partial to the occasional game. It struck me that pinball is an ideal metaphor for mortgage broking: brokers are like the ball – constantly being bumped around at the whim of big external players, bounced off the bumpers to help others score points. For some brokers, the potential abolition of trail might spell “Tilt” or even “Game Over”.
But never fear, for what I’ve always liked about pinball is that it has five balls. So even if you suffer a loss, if you understand the game and how to play, you can keep playing. Here are some tips from a “pinball wizard” on how to play on in the current environment, and perhaps even earn bonus points and an extra ball.
1. The UK trail experience
In 2014, trail commission was banned on new products in the UK. Two years later, it was completely abolished. Yet concerns over churn have seen UK lenders pay retention fees to brokers, to encourage consumers not to switch lenders. In effect, these ‘retention fees’ are just another name for trail commissions. So even if trail is abolished in Australia, it seems likely that trail will reappear in another form – another ball.
2. Federal election pressure on the ALP
The Liberal party’s turnaround in their stance on trail clearly shows the power of political pressure. With the ALP still planning to remove trail for new loans from 2020, the Liberals’ win in the recent NSW state election could lead Labour to reconsider its position, as they try to win votes in the upcoming Federal election. Notice that the ALP rhetoric is starting to shift – they recognise that bumping the machine too hard could lose them lots of credits.
3. Our exclusive revenue projection calculator
We have built an indicative revenue projection calculator which is available here. Our modelling indicates that even if trail is abolished on new products, many brokers’ income will actually improve in the medium term due to the combination of larger upfront commissions, coupled with grandfathered trail payments. Think of it as a period of double scores and more points for playing on.
4. The FOFA experience
Even if the ALP wins the election and abolishes trail, they’ll have to enact legislation to this effect, which must then pass through the Senate. In the case of financial advisers, the FOFA legislation was supposed to be passed relatively quickly but ended up taking over 18 months. And even then, it was watered down from the original proposal. In short, even if the current trail regime does change, it is likely to be some time before any changes take effect. So there is time to play until the credits expire.
At TrailBlazer Finance, we’re optimistic about the future of the mortgage broking industry. We’re playing on, writing more loans than ever to help mortgage brokers grow their business. Whatever happens to trail, the game isn’t nearly over. In fact, I can see smart players racking up some pretty big scores.
The Royal Commission was charged with uncovering misconduct in the banking and wider financial services industry. The major banks were intended to be the primary target of the investigations. Instead, it seems the innocent bystander – the mortgage broker – stands accused. Not of wrongdoing, but of receiving potentially conflicted remuneration. By contrast, some of the testimony against the major banks was horrific. Yet, the Commission has chosen to penalise mortgage brokers over banks, leaving the banks’ core business largely unchanged.
Here’s why I believe Commissioner Hayne got it wrong for brokers, and what action we can take in response to Hayne’s recommendations:
1. The flawed user-pays system
First home buyers,those from low socio-economic backgrounds, and those with low financial literacy, are the ones who can least afford to pay for brokers’ services. They are also the ones who need brokers most. The user-pays system recommended by Hayne will harm those who need brokers most, when they are making the most expensive purchase of their lives. This especially at a time when acquiring, in many cases, the largest asset they will own. Let’s face it: stamp duty, mortgage tax, removalists fees and legals can’t be avoided. So, consumers being asked to reach into their pocket to pay yet another fee are going to struggle.
2. Reducing market efficiency
Let’s also do the simple maths on the costs of refinancing: today say $1,250 in administrative costs is charged; but if the borrower is required to pay a “loan arrangement fee” (regardless of whether this goes to a lender or the broker) –let’s add say another$2,500. If Hayne has his way, all of us who have a home loan will suddenly face a tripling of the cost of refinancing. The result? It will be cheaper to stay with a funder who has higher rates because the cost of switching is too high. Which means the broker who helps keep the banks competitive (by refinancing clients when banks reprice their back-book) are rendered ineffective by the tripled cost of switching. How does that help competition and keep the banks in line?
3. Consumers prefer brokers, not banks
Consumers have increasingly chosen to use mortgage brokers over going directly to banks. The broking channel has many advantages, including ease of use, cultural alignment and accessibility. Consumers have increasingly voted with their feet. It’s no accident that 60% of people prefer using a broker. Among those users, there’s a 96% satisfaction rating. With these figures, does the potential for conflicted remuneration really warrant the removal of commissions? This is akin to me deciding I would love to have a family and kids – but they might fight – and there may be “conflict”. So, let’s mandate celibacy!
4. Reduced competition
Very few banks have distribution networks across Australia, especially in rural areas. If consumers can’t access alternative funders because distribution channels have been cut off, then competition is restricted. Our small Australian market needs more, not less competition, to provide better choices for home buyers. Look at the case studies of the reduction in bank competition in the Netherlands or in jurisdictions where broker commissions were switched off only to be switched back on. Can’t we learn from others’ mistakes before we repeat them?
5. Built-in checks and balances
Commissioner Hayne is concerned that brokers could recommend loans with higher interest rates, or larger loans, in order to get bigger trail commissions. His solution? Abolish trail commission and eventually, abolish all upfront commission. But this misunderstands the separation in the role of the broker and the funder. It’s the broker who submits the loan and the bank that ultimately approves it. The broker certainly does not run credit. It is little wonder that the Productivity Commission concluded:
“Fixed fees paid by customers rather than commission structures have been proposed, and would eliminate conflicts, but the cost to competition would be high. Consumers would desert brokers, and smaller lenders (and regional communities with few or no bank branches) would suffer much more than larger lenders, if customers were required to pay for broker advice.“
So, what now?
If enforced, Commissioner Hayne’s recommendations will punish not the banks who charged dead people, but consumers and brokers. I see the punishment, but I am struggling to see the crime. It’s as if an industry has been judged “guilty” before any misconduct occurred! The debate has entered the political arena and the “talk tough” posturing is being used to win votes in the next election.
So, what can you do? Unite like never before. Rally the support of those who have happily used your services. There are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of happy consumers who can testify to the value of brokers. Call on them. Ultimately, politicians are interested in votes and re-election, so make it about consumers and voters, not you and broking.
If enough Australians express outrage, the Hayne recommended life sentence has a good chance of being modified and selectively implemented, rather than being blindly enforced.
Join me in the lobbying the Government here:
And show your support for the broker channel here:
As Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”