FHOG creates ops opportunities (for now)

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The First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) is opening up roles for loan and credit processing specialists as banks try to cope with a sudden surge in mortgage applications. But external recruitment has only picked up slightly because banks are focused on redeploying existing staff to meet their back-office needs.

New loans issued to first-home buyers rose by 15.9% during February compared with the same month a year ago, to reach a record 14,484, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

The Big Four banks are struggling with mortgage application volumes, according to Martin North, managing consulting director and executive general manager, Fujitsu Consulting. "CBA worked all weekend recently to deal with the backlog," he adds.

Some banks are having to fill mortgage-related vacancies with customer service specialists, says North. "It's a different skill set, but if they have knowledge of how a bank runs, that will be an advantage."

Bob Olivier, director of recruiter Olivier Group, says banks are mostly looking within their ranks to employ mortgage processing specialists. And when they do recruit externally, they usually don't make the roles permanent. "The banks are also recruiting specialists from mortgage originators who've lost jobs in the last twelve months," he adds.

Olivier also warns that the FHOG employment bubble is set to burst if the subsidy isn't extended beyond June 2009.

Andrew Blades, general manager, Bradman Recruitment, says the FHOG has created additional back-office roles in loan processing, assessment and compliance, but agrees that the employment activity could be fleeting.

"There's been a slight increase in new recruits, but most of the banks are trying to do it in-house rather than go out and bring in new people to avoid making people redundant," adds Blades.

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