Daniel Hegarty, chief executive of digital broker Habito, said that it was shocking that so many brokers have no website, which he said should be considered the “absolute baseline” for any consumer-facing business.
He continued: “Mortgage advice should be accessible and transparent. Accessible now means online, 24/7, from any connected device – which is why we interact with customers via livechat including in the evenings and on weekends, and our artificially intelligent mortgage chatbot is always there for customers to talk through their options.
“A mortgage is arguably the biggest purchase in anyone’s life, so it’s essential that the industry starts to embrace technology in order to empower people to take control of their finances and protect themselves against getting or staying on the wrong mortgage.”
David Sheppard, managing director at Perception Finance, said that for smaller brokers there was some understandable scepticism around the use of a website. He explained: “A lot of brokers are sole traders and these will tend to get business from repeat clients and word of mouth, so to invest in a website and make it individual and drive traffic to it will seem an unnecessary expense. You can also spend a lot of time on it which is time that could be spent writing business.”
However, Sheppard argued that a quality website is essential for larger brokerages, but that the emphasis needs to be on getting a website that represents exactly what the brokerage is about.
He continued: “There are plenty of companies that can design and build a website but it is vital that it looks fresh and reflects the company image. An off-the-shelf website, whilst cheaper to put together, could have the opposite effect to what a firm is looking to achieve. Once the website is there though the ongoing cost also needs to be factored in. Having a good SEO firm and spending money on Google is a must if you want clients to find you.”
Getting some help
There are plenty of options for brokers looking to set up a website, with tech firms and networks offering their expertise.
For example Mortgage Brain offers a website building service for brokers, with the option of a full IFA website or just mortgages. The firm provides standard text for brokers which they can adapt if they see fit, as well as integrated best buy tables or a mortgage search option. There is an up-front set up cost followed by a monthly charge of £30-£50.
Mark Lofthouse, chief executive of Mortgage Brain, said that it was very surprising that such a large number of brokers don’t have a website “in this digital age”.
He continued: “It’s actually very low cost, with low overheads, for an adviser to get a professional website. All it takes is for them to get a customer that they wouldn’t have otherwise got for the website to pay for itself.”
Toni Smith, business operations director at networks First Compete and Pink, said that appealing to borrowers – particularly younger first-time buyers – makes having a decent website essential.
She continued: “We help our brokers design theirs by offering a referral service to a design agency that makes sure a website is suitable for a mobile, easy to navigate and includes an SEO set-up. We also make sure all websites are checked by our Financial Promotions team to ensure they don’t mislead customers.”
Lauren Bagley, Sesame and PMS marketing manager, added: “We recognise that many advisers need support to improve their digital capability. As part of our evolving technology strategy, we have launched a web solution for all Sesame and PMS members which provides pre-approved content, customisable layouts, tools and calculators. The websites are also fully responsive and cost effective, providing a perfect solution to enhance a customer’s experience and perception of your business. If I could recommend any course of action for ambitious firms right now – be visable in the same place as your customers – online.”