Impact Of Royal Commission Findings Regarding The Mortgage Broking Industry And What It Means For Australian Homebuyers
Mortgage brokers have been accused of using scare tactics after the industry warned the banking inquiry’s sweeping ban on commissions would lead to higher costs for borrowers, and big rewards for the culprits in this story, the banks.
In the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry’s report, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC took aim at “trail commissions”, a form of ongoing payment made by the lender to the mortgage broker for the life of the loan, describing it as “money for nothing”. One of the fundamental rules he set for the entire system is to get rid of commissions, starting with the mortgage broking industry.
Trail commissions will be banned from mid-2020 but the government stopped short of accepting Mr Hayne’s recommendation for a ban on upfront commissions as well. It believes banning the up-front fees will drive people away from brokers, and this in turn will erode competition and strengthen the hand of the big banks. Labor says it will act on every recommendation if it wins the upcoming election.
Australian financial expert, Len Elias of TLK Partners explains that mortgage brokers receive an average up-front commission from lenders of about 0.65 per cent of the loan value and a trailing commission of just under 0.11 per cent of the loan outstanding per year for the life of the loan. This amounts to about $4,100 for the mortgage of an average loan of about $357,000, he says.
Those applauding the industry changes point out that current arrangements create incentives towards recommendations not necessarily in the consumer’s best interest. Brokers should offer advice on how to compare loans and help clients make sound decisions, but that’s not what many consumers get, industry watchdogs argue.
It’s also been pointed out that loans through mortgage brokers, which make up around 60 per cent of the total, typically involve higher leverage, are more often interest-only and are more likely to slip into default. The entire $2.1 billion industry will ultimately be forced to move to a fee-for-service revenue model, where the borrower pays the commission to the broker instead of the bank.
The Finance Brokers Association of Australia responded strongly to the outcome, saying it would lead to huge unintended consequences for home loan borrowers and would simply put more power in the hands of the banks. The markets echoed this sentiment: while shares in CommBank, NAB, ANZ and Westpac surged at the news, shares in Mortgage Choice plummeted more than 25 per cent. The concern is that that the proposed changes will drive buyers back to the major banks, cut access to smaller lenders and reduce consumer choice.
It is estimated to save major banks about $1.6 billion in annual commission payments, but could also cost thousands of brokers their jobs. As it is, they’re bracing for the biggest shake-up since the Campbell Report 30 years ago.
Brokers account for about 59 per cent of deals and make more than $2.2 billion in annual commissions. There are currently about 25,000 small businesses and people working within the mortgage broking industry.
Consumers, on the other hand, will have to pay an up-front fee, although a recent survey of 5800 borrowers indicates 96.5 per cent of customers are not willing to pay a broker a fee of $2000. In fact, most are unwilling to pay anything at all. Even so, 96 per cent indicated that they were happy with their broker’s service.
“It puts the whole industry under a cloud,” says Mr Elias. “And astonishingly, the banks, who were the biggest culprits at the Royal Commission, are the winners in this scenario.”
Len Elias is a partner at TLK Partners, a company that takes care of the wealth management and accounting needs of ordinary folk, small and medium businesses, and high value individuals. TLK Partners, Chartered Accountants and Wealth Management Company website, or call (02) 8090 4324.
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