The lost art of listening


Technology is important to brokers helping clients with loans, but communication is far more critical, says Dean Koutsoumidis, managing director of Equity-One, a non-bank commercial lender and sponsor of the Broker of the Year – Productivity award at the 2021 AMAs.

As technology advances every aspect of our daily lives, it is comforting to remember that some things are still best led by us mere humans.

One of these wonderful skills that we seem to have developed over millions of years (I need to watch more of the Discovery Channel) is the ability to listen to each other. The bond created and maintained between humans is intrinsically connected to the ability for us to connect – but connecting is not all lost in the digital age. In fact, there has never been a greater opportunity to stand out from the crowd simply by being human and listening.

But how exactly does this relate to mortgages and mortgage brokers?

In my day-to-day business, I handle commercial transactions. Recently, a friend was finding matters somewhat difficult when dealing with her bank.

She was trying to get her first home, and, as we hear all around us, it was quite a steep hill for her to climb. She asked if I could refer her to someone outside the bank environment, and I recommended a colleague to her.

Two months later, and wham – homeownership. So, what happened exactly? What was this broker voodoo?

The real answer? It was the broker’s ability to listen.

The challenges of my colleague’s new client weren’t exclusively financial, and these were not the impediments stopping her from accessing the property market. It was understanding the requirements in a way that made a difference to her – and being provided with enough knowledge/tools to be able to move towards achieving those goals.

Cool, huh? And here’s the coolest thing about it – none of this relates to how advanced we have become in the digital world and how fast we can turn around loan approvals, etc. The real good stuff happened when two people came together and talked and listened.

When dealing with brokers, I cherish the reminder that the transactions we assist them with are really helped along by simply talking to them.

Equally, we need them to be able to talk to us.

While the tools that help us daily, such as emails, WhatsApp, texts, etc., are super nifty and help get things done fast, the importance of human engagement at a personal level still holds true today. The benefits it offers can be harnessed by brokers in building their businesses.

This is no more evident than in segments where brokers specialise in certain community groups, when language, perhaps, is a challenge for some clients who are trying to get a foothold in the Australian property market for the first time. Connecting with people, and the magic that occurs thereafter, is as powerful today as it was eons ago.

This reminds me of the frustration we all feel when our internet or network service is down for a while. Heaven help us if Netflix is offline. Lost connection? Nothing grinds the collective teeth of the population as much as this. (OK, I’m being a bit dramatic here.)

It’s interesting, then, that we don’t feel the same instant frustration when we have lost connections personally. We have little experiences of this when text messages are misunderstood, or an email conveys a different tone than was otherwise intended by the writer.

This is the real ‘lost connection’. The difference is that it has happened over a long period of time, and we, as living creatures, do find ways to adapt. That’s why it’s so refreshing, and powerful, when we remember the brilliance of listening to someone – in person,  and then the rest isn’t so hard.

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