Leigh Hooley: New recruit with a focus on SMEs

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    Helping businesses across Australia stay in operation as they dealt with the impacts of the pandemic, the SME Guarantee Scheme provided access to vital funding. Building on the success of the scheme, the government is extending support for small businesses that were adversely affected by COVID-19 or the floods of March 2021 with the SME Recovery Loan Scheme.

    Liberty was recently accepted into this second phase of the program after being one of the first non-banks to sign up to the initial SME Guarantee Scheme. As part of its commitment to providing tailored solutions to help customers in di cult circum-stances, the group has established a dedicated business lending department to further support its brokers and business partners.

    After more than 20 years in the finance industry, with the last 14 in roles at banks, Leigh Hooley has joined Liberty as its group manager – business capital.

    Acknowledging the essential part that the scheme has so far played in helping businesses keep their doors open, Hooley says Liberty is proud to have supported business growth and recovery.

    “This is a difficult time for many Australians, and having the right financial support available is critical,” he says.

    “These schemes have responded to the need for more businesses to access capital, and Liberty is here to deliver. Being part of this program is another example of how Liberty is continuing to help customers rebuild and grow from these challenging times. We will continue to treat every application with priority so we can provide businesses with the funding they need as quickly as possible.”

    Growing appeal of low-doc loans

    Now more than ever, businesses are seeking flexible solutions. Liberty has seen a rise in the number of borrowers needing alt-doc or low-doc loans, particularly business owners, the self-employed and sole traders. Hooley says low-doc loans “can open up a world of opportunity” for business owners who want to grow their businesses, whether by rebuilding, changing direction, diversifying or expanding.

    As more customers become aware of these loan options, Hooley expects them to increase in popularity, and says brokers are well positioned to capture the demand and diversify accordingly.

    “At Liberty, our mission is to help more people get and stay financial – and specialist lending plays an important role in that,” he says. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this, but it’s about understanding their needs and being willing to go the extra mile to secure a great customer outcome.”

    The non-bank works closely with brokers to ensure they can provide the kind of support Liberty’s customers are looking for, especially in the current climate.

    When mortgage brokers provide an option such as low-doc lending, the core values remain the same, says Hooley. He explains that providing a personalised service is essential, as is taking the time to closely under-stand borrowers and their goals.

    “In doing so, brokers can help customers explore their options and the benefits that a low-doc loan may bring them,” he says.

    Helping mortgage brokers diversify their offering will continue to be a priority for Liberty in the foreseeable future.

    “More borrowers now recognise the benefits of working with a broker, and there’s greater awareness of the different services they can provide,” he says. “We’ll continue to work alongside our brokers to ensure they adapt and remain innovative to serve evolving customer needs.”

    Keeping flexible options a priority

    With respect to other priorities of the non-bank over the next 12 months, Hooley says the more it can help business owners, the better it can help the economy and communities across Australia.

    Understanding that “not everyone fits in the same box” and customers need flexible options, Liberty will be focusing on continuing to deliver a high standard of service.

    “I’m excited to join Liberty at a time when we are continuing to expand our product offerings to support even more business customers than ever before,” he says.

    “I look forward to playing my part in reinforcing the strong reputation that Liberty has established.

    “For more than 23 years, Liberty has prided itself on its flexibility to help borrowers in a variety of different circumstances. I’ve observed the growth of the company and its diversification to become a true leader in non-bank solutions.”

    The original Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme provided up to $40bn in lending to SMEs by guaranteeing 50% of new loans through participating lenders. It was extended to a second phase, which began on 1 October 2020 and is available until 30 June 2021. Liberty continues to support eligible customers through this scheme with a competitive suite of business lending products, including both secured and unsecured options.

    Meanwhile, through its participation in the SME Recovery Scheme, businesses that received JobKeeper payments between 4 January 2021 and 28 March 2021 or flood-affected businesses in eligible localities will be able to access greater funding to recover and invest for the future.

    Under the non-bank’s revised Liberty Business Care offering, businesses can apply for variable rates starting from 3.45% per annum, with increased loan limits of up to $5m and loan terms of up to 10 years. There is also the option to defer repayments for six or 12 months with accrued interest capitalised. Existing SME Guarantee Scheme loans and other eligible debts can be refinanced under the scheme.

    Original Article