A Canadian trek to an Australian broker conference illustrates shared struggles and solutions

By Lisa Gordon

 

WHEN IT COMES to broadening their business horizons, seven B.C. mortgage professionals aren’t afraid to cross borders in search of inspiration.

In fact, this fall saw them making the long journey Down Under, where the Finance Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA) was holding its 2017 National Industry Conference on November 24 at the Sea World Resort on the country’s beautiful Gold Coast.

Australia Map: Gold CoastCMBA

This Group of Seven (mortgage brokers for the purposes of this story, not Canadian artists) included Gord Wintrup, president and founding partner of Bayfield Mortgage Professionals in Langley; Jan Dale of Dominion Lending Centres in Coquitlam; Suzanne Bebbington of Bayfield; Stefanie Drdul of Bayfield; Inder Matharu of Bayfield and his wife, Rubbi; and Cathe Laing  of Marathon Mortgage in Vancouver.

All are part of an informal West Coast group – composed of brokers and lenders – that meets monthly to discuss industry developments and stay abreast of the latest trends.

When Wintrup heard the FBAA’s executive director, Peter White, address local brokers at a CMBA event last year, he realized there were similarities between the Canadian and Australian mortgage broker experience.

“He came up just before our latest Form 10 Disclosure Statement was going to be mandatory,” Wintrup recalls. “There was a lot of fear of change, and Peter spoke for about a half-hour and advised that they had a very similar form come in a year prior, and brokers in Australia had adapted to the change. It was no big deal.”

Wintrup was intrigued and later contacted White to see if it might be possible to attend the next FBAA conference “to see what else they’re doing down there that is similar to Canada.”

He rounded up his Group and flew to Australia, where they were warmly welcomed at the one-day conference.

The event, themed “Go Beyond,” revealed the country’s mortgage industry is strong, with 50 per cent of business conducted by brokers.

“They successfully faced a lot of the challenges we are now facing,” explains Wintrup. “We are about to face the qualification rule in January, where everyone has to qualify at two per cent higher than the posted rate – they’re already doing that, and have been for the better part of the year. It’s affected some brokers, especially the ones who weren’t working at it full time.”

Ultimately, he says, the Australian industry seems to be about one year ahead of Canadian happenings.

“They do loan origination as well as mortgage finance and they are already dealing with the stress test. They are also facing possible further government disclosure in the future, and that is along the lines of the ‘know your client’ guidelines that apply to financial planners. They don’t have it yet; they’re lobbying against it, but if it’s going to come, they want input into how it will be implemented. In spite of all these challenges, they are adapting.”

Increased paperwork is another common thread between the two countries. One broker told Wintrup that a mortgage application used to take two hours; now, it means seven to eight hours of work.

We’re much the same here. We’ve adapted to those changes; it’s the reality.”

Adaptability is another common characteristic, and Wintrup believes there is a lot to learn from staying in close contact with the Australians.

“I would like to see our association, CMBA, align closer with other associations in the world, such as the FBAA,” he says. “Their executive director had just returned from a meeting with an association in San Francisco just before the conference. They do so much of that – it’s very progressive.”

Now that he’s ventured Down Under, Wintrup plans to revisit his new mortgage mates in a couple of years. Of course, there are other reasons to head to Australia in November beyond professional collaboration.

“We snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef, sailed on a tall ship and did an exhaustive survey on the excellent Australian wine. It was just amazing.”

In Memoriam: It is with deep regret that we must note the passing of Cathe Laing in December 2017. Cathe was a valued member of the mortgage broker community and a friend to many. She will be greatly missed.