What do mortgage broking trail and pinball have in common?

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.

Banking Royal Commission: Is the sky falling for mortgage brokers?

Within hours of the Hayne Royal commission’s final report being handed down, I was inundated with calls from clients and interested parties, all of the mortgage brokers. Although their words were different, there was a common theme: “Should I be worried? What has happened to the value of my trail book?”, they asked uneasily.

With the Commission recommending the abolition of trail commission on new loans – and the sitting Liberal Government pledging they will enact this recommendation from July 2020 – it’s no surprise that mortgage brokers are concerned. But brokers needn’t panic.

Brokers can take comfort in the knowledge that our valuation methodologies have always focused on the value of the trail in force; with no presumption of the new trail being earned after the valuation date. At times that conservatism may have seemed draconian; now it feels justified. As long as the existing trail is ‘grandfathered’, it continues to exist and therefore remains a source of value and at this time no changes have been made to valuations algorithms.

But what multiple will people pay for that trail? That is a question of supply and demand. Market forces always trump theoretical valuations. In the rising bull-market we experienced over the past few years, books often changed hands at premiums to valuation. This is no different from what we’ve seen in the property market. If there is panic selling or a rush to exit, books may trade at a lower price for a while.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that the Commission’s recommendations are just that: recommendations. Until the Senate passes new laws, their commendations are not binding; politicians can change their stance depending on constituent pressure (think Malcolm Turnbull and climate change); and with elections looming we don’t even know which party will be in power, let alone what will be traded, as politicians wrangle to be elected.

In the meantime, as long as funding lines don’t dry up, it’s business as usual. We continue to receive calls and emails from brokers seeking guidance, funding and exit options and buying opportunities. Brokers are resilient beasts (they have no choice!) so I expect that most will adapt rather than succumb.

I’m proud to share that only today we issued an agreement to acquire a book at a valuation agreed last year– so we are standing our ground and supporting brokers as they face the changes and transitions likely to arise out of the Royal Commission.

2019 is likely to be a challenging and scary time for many in our industry. And Australia may – depending on political manoeuvres – join most other countries in not paying trail commissions to brokers. While this could become our sad reality, it is not the end of the road for well-resourced and well-capitalised brokers. On the contrary, those brokers who are able to adapt are likely to flourish, as struggling participants exit, or are absorbed into larger groups, and the market thins out. Those with the means and the will to persevere will not only survive but very likely emerge larger and stronger.

Unlike the fictional Chicken Little who created hysteria with her scaremongering -“The sky is falling!” – I am confident that the Hayne Commission’s findings do not spell the end of the broking industry for all.

Whether you’re a mortgage broker, financial planner, rent roll business owner, accountant or other cashflow business, we can understand and support your specific business goals and needs.

Contact us

Suite 401, Level 4, 59-75 Grafton Street, Bondi Junction NSW 2022

1300 139 003

info@trailblazerfinance.com.au