Our reliance on technology is becoming increasingly acute, whether it is online banking, booking a holiday or even just comparing insurance quotes.
And it would be fair to say that the financial advice industry has now embraced technology too, and sourcing products online is now something that is almost taken for granted. Compared to just last year, there can be few advisers who are not now fully conversant with the benefits of a broadband internet link, and the developments in online trading.
It is no great surprise, therefore, to see that the technology providers are now forging new cross-sector links in order to develop all-encompassing systems. The time savings that this will open up should allow intermediaries to offer an increasingly slick service and eventually sort out the entire mortgage and all the ancillary products in one face-to-face meeting with the client. The announcements from Mortgage Brain, The Exchange and Sesame are the precursors to this and it looks like we could see the launch of fully integrated systems within the year.
While technology that will assist sales is always going to grab the headlines, there is a myriad of other new developments springing up to push us further down the road to the ‘paperless’ office. The latest of these include the website from Equifax that could drag our archaic credit information rules into the twenty-first century by allowing consumers instant access to personal information that was previously only readily available to lenders. It is almost unbelievable that we in the UK have laboured away under this system for so long without complaint, when millions of borrowers in North America have long enjoyed easy access to personal information held on them.
Then there is the labour-saving website that will constantly seek to save your clients money on their mortgage. While this may not be necessary for everyone, it is a good example of the way the industry is moving. With thousands of mortgages available at any one time, it will be increasingly difficult to remain aware of all the changes. And it is another indication that we should be looking to North America to see how the domestic market will develop. Thousands of advisers across the Atlantic now have the autonomy to move their client’s mortgage if they feel they can save them money.
But before the market starts getting too carried away, we have not quite reached a technological utopia, and there are still significant discrepancies between lenders’ websites (see feature on p33). Before we can say we have truly arrived, some lenders will need to step up the pace.
Ben Marquand, editor