Aussie 'keeps its distance' from CBA

Aussie Home Loans chief executive Ian Corfield insists the broker's customer service has been unchanged by Commonwealth Bank becoming a dominant shareholder, despite expectations it will sell more CBA-originated products.

Aussie Home Loans chief executive Ian Corfield insists the broker's customer service has been unchanged by Commonwealth Bank becoming a dominant shareholder, despite expectations it will sell more CBA-originated products.

After the CBA lifted its stake in Aussie from 33 per cent to 80 per cent this year in a deal valued at $185 million, consumer group Choice voiced concerns, and the competition watchdog conceded the sale would lessen competition, albeit not substantially.

One objection was that the CBA would use Aussie to sell more "white-label" or Aussie-branded products funded by the bank, entrenching it as the country's biggest home lender.

Six months after the deal was approved, Mr Corfield said, the mortgage broker was using CBA's balance sheet to fund Aussie-branded products more cheaply.

But, he said, CBA's shareholding would not compromise the independence of the broker, which sells loans from 19 lenders, including rivals to CBA.

"Over time I will expect to be selling more Aussie mortgages but ... that will be in the context of still offering consumers a whole range of mortgages," Mr Corfield said.

"The CBA did not buy this business to turn it into the CBA. They are not short of branches, they are not short of ways to sell mortgages."

White-label loans make up 8.5 per cent of the mortgages Aussie sells, a small rise on the 7.9 per cent share before the deal was approved.

Last month Aussie cut standard variable mortgage rates on its white-label products to 5.15 per cent, a move that was helped by access to cheaper funding from the CBA.

While the Aussie acquisition was not material for the CBA, analysts were lukewarm towards the deal, as selling loans through mortgage brokers is less lucrative for banks because of commissions paid.

According to UBS analysts, the CBA's percentage of new mortgages that come from brokers is the lowest of the big four at 38 per cent, but has risen from 34 per cent a year ago.

The bank's push to write more mortgages through Aussie comes as the mortgage market heats up, with investors attracted by low interest rates and rising house prices.

Mr Corfield said competition between lenders was likely to continue as the property market recovery gathered momentum.

"At the moment you've got the big four being very competitive with each other, but I think the next level of competition will be to see more of the smaller lenders fighting harder," he said.

He played down talk of a property bubble, saying price growth was concentrated in certain regions and types of buyers.

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