In profile: Peter White

By Nick Gardner

As industry or trade associations go, the Finance Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA) has a reputation for being tenaciously proactive, taking the initiative to influence everything from broker training and recruitment to grass-roots education and partnerships with schools and colleges.

Lobbying on legislation is also a key part of its activities and it’s in this area that it has made significant progress recently in its pursuit of a fairer deal for consumers with Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI).

The driving force behind this and so many of its activities is CEO Peter White, a lifelong banker and broker who has vowed to campaign on fairer and more transparent LMI system and “never give up” until it is achieved – something that Wayne Swan and various other politicians have so far failed to do.

“I have been speaking to the government and the Treasury and have succeeded in getting agreement that disclosure statements for LMI must be in the Key Fact Sheet. That is now required and Treasury have all agreed but haven’t actioned it just yet,” says White.

“I am also pursuing discussions LMI portability and proactive fair refunds on cancelled policies as well. It’s without doubt a long and painful process but not one I will ever let go of. I am also meeting a senior representative from one of the big mortgage insurers, who have agreed to discuss this for the first time so I am hopeful of some progress soon. I am due to have a ‘chat’ with them before Christmas.”

Perhaps its no wonder White is persuasive. In addition to 35 years in every aspect of banking and he is also a martial arts expert in Zen Do Kai – handy for negotiating with particularly stubborn business contacts. He now spends half of his life travelling the country.

“I’m forever meeting with brokers, aggregators, lenders, speaking at events, seminars and doing TV appearances with the likes of the great Peter Switzer for example,” he laughs.

“There is always so much to do. My days start early with one of my kids getting up like a rocket and entail everything from drafting and checking press releases, skyping with our state presidents, meeting our marketing and legal guys, our BDM, attending to membership issues and increasingly meeting about improved technology – it is such an evolving area for us. The constant flow of emails and then dealing with government or legal submissions takes a lot of time, but I always try and get home in time to put the kids to bed.”

White has plenty of experience to draw upon and those who know him say there are few others better qualified to lead the industry body.

“It’s been 35 years in the industry now and they’ve been great times,” says the jovial White. “I cut my teeth in mainstream banking for CBA in Sydney’s northern beaches. Those were great days, when you did a lot of learning over lunch and then drinks by 4pm in the days when the banks shut early.”

The pub coaching did no harm since White worked quickly up through the ranks, as lending office for the Central Coast in NSW and then Supervisor of the Chatswood branch.

“I was always hungry for more experience so I moved around,” he says. “I had stints at Advance Bank, Associate Director at AIDC Ltd (investment banking), head of Private Banking & General Manager at FDA at Charterbridge Davey, and I helped establish the first branch for RAMS Home Loans before becoming the first CEO for Wizard Home Loans.”

In the 1980s White started his own brokerage on the mid-north coast of NSW and he also ran multiple motor finance sections for motor dealers while also keeping his hand in with some general broking.

“In 2003 I wanted to give something back to the industry that had supported me so well for so long as I approached the FBAA to see if they could use somebody with my background. Turned out they could, so I was appointed NSW President and then to National Junior Vice President and Chairman of the Board. These positions came up over a seven-year period and on a voluntary basis, but then in 2010 the opportunity to become CEO became available and I petitioned the board to take it on under reasonable commercial terms (mates rates, if you like) as I did not believe it was right to take a large CEO income from a not for profit organisation.”

The FBAA is now the premier trade organisation, 22 years after starting in Queensland with just five brokers attempting to form a group to lobby on industry affairs, it now represents over 11,000 brokers around the country. Although most activities are focused on current membership, White is always looking ahead.

Currently he is investing a lot of time in developing the student career and scholarship programs which focus on 600,000 high school and uni students around the country, attempting to persuade more talent to consider finance broking as a career option.

“It’s going really well and we’re raising broking’s profile among students when they look at the financial sector for job opportunities,” he says.

As for current membership, he says that he always advises brokers to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity and a passion for great service.

“I learned this a long time ago and it is as important as ever. Never be flippant or overlook all your compliance and regulatory obligations – the laws are there and must be complied with. Fortunately, all the ASIC bannings in recent years have not included any of our members, but you can never be complacent.

“Also, brokers need to stay in touch with clients, stay relevant, show how you can add value, but don’t bombard them. Not every deal will work out, but have faith that, if you conduct yourself correctly, things have a way of working themselves out over time. That’s the best advice I can give and if people follow it then brokers will be adding value to people’s lives for a long time to come.”

Published on: 12 December 2014.

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