Accountants voted top referral partners

A Mortgage Business poll has found accountants are the strongest referral partners among five key professions in the financial services industry.

Of the 191 readers polled, 33.5 per cent said accountants make the best referral partners, with real estate agents a close second-favourite at 32.5 per cent.

It is worth noting that during the four-week polling period, accountants and real estate agents dominated the votes intermittently before accountants came out on top when polling closed last week.

Financial planners were the third choice, with 14.7 per cent of readers voting them their strongest referral partner, followed by mortgage brokers (11.0 per cent) and lawyers (5.8 per cent).

Pepper Australia director of sales and distribution Mario Rehayem told Mortgage Business that in his previous life as a broker, his number one referrer was an accounting firm.

Mr Rehayem explained that the strength of the leads from an accountant means they are more likely to convert due to the relationship the customer has with the accountant – it comes down to the customer experience.

“The customer is very trusting of their accountant, much more than they are of their real estate agent,” he said.

“In business, I chase the customer's emotional connection and overall experience. When you look at the interactions an accountant has with their customers, you need to understand that the interaction is personal; their customers will divulge personal information that they would most likely not divulge to anyone else. This customer experience is identical to that of a broker."

The personal nature of the accountant-client relationship creates a bond far stronger than the one between a real estate agent and their client, Mr Rehayem said.

“An accountant is neutral,” he said. “They have earned the trust – there is an emotional connection, which is usually unbiased. Accountants are not seen as salespeople.

“If you are emotionally connected to an accountant and that accountant notices that you are paying too much on your loan and suggests you call a broker they know, you are going to call that broker.”

During his time as a broker, Mr Rehayem supplied a laminated cheat sheet to all of the accountants he had referral relationships with.

On it were printed the typical loan amount tiers ($0 to $250,000; $250,000 to $500,000 etc) and what the repayments should look like for interest-only and principal-and-interest over 30 years. This cheat sheet was a great quick reference guide for the accountant.

“What accountants don’t want to do is take up their time working out if their [client's] rate or repayment is too high," Mr Rehayem said.

“The accountant would sit there going through their client’s statements and look down at their reference guide and see if the client is paying too much – then suggest the client gives us a call.”

Mr Rehayem said that in his eyes accountants are “huge” sources of leads for brokers, hence many accountants have become silent partners in broker businesses.

The convergence or relationships between brokers and accountants have become increasingly prevalent in recent years.

Where real estate agents and financial planners were once considered the mainstay of a broker’s referral network, accountants are now proving to be trusted business partners.

In October last year, national accounting group Chan & Naylor announced a joint venture with brokerage Origin Finance.

Chan & Naylor Finance now offers broking services to Chan & Naylor clients, although both joint venture partners also continue to trade independently.

Origin director Graeme Salt told The Adviser that the joint venture gives Origin access to new clients and allows Chan & Naylor to consolidate its existing state-based finance businesses.

Chan & Naylor Finance has also revealed plans to offer branded home loans and bespoke investment loans.

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