A changing broker landscape

By Dave Furnival, head of broker and intermediary services

A wider market with increased choices requires greater sector understanding with a proactive approach

In recent years, we have seen a cultural shift for SMEs. Changes in the way consumers shop and browse have begun to feed into business practices, and as a result, customers who trust reviews on sites such as Amazon or CompareTheMarket for their home insurance are looking more and more to intermediaries for their business needs. Instead of a traditional ‘middle man’, brokers are seen as experts with a knowledge and a care about their work. For both start-ups and established businesses, there is more choice than ever before, with over 160 lenders to choose from – and that can be daunting. The broker model works for customers because it cuts down on time and allows them to test the market as well as tapping into the broker’s knowledge of that market. A model that saves time, and delivers swift access and good advice at the right time, can be invaluable.

The competition and importance of the sector is a key reason that we’re really pleased to have been recognised as the Best Business Bank at the NACFB. Since NatWest re-entered the broker market two years ago, we’ve focused on developing the right proposition for all of our customers and this award has given us confirmation that we’re on the right path. As a proactive bank that responds quickly to the demands of both brokers and our customers, having a strong broker lending proposition is part of making sure that we are there to back British business exactly when and where we are needed. It’s an efficient organisational model, allowing us to use our network and tap into a range of expertise. In fact, my team delivers 20% of new-to-bank business lending across NatWest. This year, our deal volume and deal completion has risen over 100%. But we know there’s more to do.

Professional brokers pride themselves on the quality and depth of their networks, so we’ve aimed to replicate that in our dealings with them. We provide all customers with a broker development manager. From that, it’s an efficient process to connect applications for finance with our network of around 1,000 managers across the country, who have expertise in sectors including agriculture, manufacturing and leisure. From a call to a broker, we can be speaking to a customer within days, not weeks. This service and speed to market is where we’ve built a real edge, and helped support our broker partners.

As we look forward to 2018, we can expect more change and more disruption to our marketplace. We need to embrace this change. Thanks to the introduction of open banking, we will see changes in the way that consumers use our services; it could even drastically change the traditional broker model that we know. The trust and relationships we’ve built with the broker community are an important part of meeting that challenge, and I look forward to speaking to even more of you in the year ahead to show how we can work well together.