Lending market set to welcome Australia's biggest retail group

Woolworths looks set to enter the Australian lending space by actively recruiting for a key role for its financial services arm, Woolworths Money.

A job advertisement on LinkedIn for the position of marketing manager for loans states that the group is looking to give its customers “a real alternative to the big banks”.

“Our fresh take on financial services seeks to deliver a suite of products that are more rewarding and culture of service that gives our customers a better, all round experience,” it states.

The job advertisment has so far received 14 applications, according to LinkedIn.

“We are currently looking for a marketing manager for our Financial Services Division, to be responsible for marketing a range of lending products,” the job ad said.

“The successful candidate will be accountable for managing significant marketing spend whilst delivering innovative acquisition, retention, up-sell and cross-sell programs which will result in profitable and sustainable portfolio and product growth.”

Woolworths Money currently provides prepaid cards, credit cards and insurance. However, the job advertisement clearly states that the successful applicant will be responsible for marketing “a range of lending products”.

In addition, applicants must have “extensive experience working with customer data and analytics”, suggesting Woolworths will leverage existing customer data when designing products and targeting prospective borrowers.

Mortgage Choice chief executive Michael Russell said the strong digital brands are a concern.

“Google, Yahoo, Coles, Woolworths and Apple are the ones that alarm me in terms of their capability to quickly morph into a financial services business,” he said.

Meanwhile, Vow Financial chief executive Tim Brown told Mortgage Business' sister publication The Adviser that the aggregator welcomes any new competitor to the intermediary market, since it builds awareness for the whole industry.

“Tesco, the giant UK grocer, has successfully implemented financial services through their customer loyalty scheme, but this is linked to credit card usage and has struggled to get a foothold into [the] home loans market,” Mr Brown said.

Last month, Tesco Bank confirmed plans to launch through the UK’s broker channel.

The British lender has been offering mortgages directly through its stores since 2012, advancing more than £1 billion in loans since then.

Last year, retail heavyweight Coles had planned to beef up its financial services offering by entering the $1.2 trillion mortgage market in the near future.

At that time, Coles engaged a third-party distribution specialist to evaluate plans for the supermarket to begin distributing residential mortgages.

The major supermarket chain – which currently offers credit cards and home and motor insurance – would be playing in the largest profit pool in the financial services sector if it goes ahead with its home lending plans.

In its submission to the Financial System Inquiry, Coles outlined opportunities for Australian retailers to extend their financial services offerings.

The submission looked at offshore markets where other consumer brands, such as Tesco in the UK and President’s Choice in Canada, offer mortgages to customers.

“Tesco, for example, has now commenced offering mortgages after gaining regulatory approval from the UK Prudential Regulatory Authority,” the submission said.

Richard Wormald, general manager of financial services at Coles, is leading the development of the retail giant’s financial services business.

Mr Wormald has previously worked in the UK and was involved with Tesco’s move into mortgages.

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