The recent postal strike had a definite impact on the mortgage industry.
Mortgage Talk found that it had to telephone lenders more regularly to check whether they had received applications and supporting documents, and that this by itself had an effect on the speed with which lenders could process cases.
And once the dispute was over, the backlog of mail caught in the postal system meant that many lenders were estimating it would take ten days before things were back to normal. This proves the value of credit scoring, submitting applications and instructing valuers online wherever possible – although certain supporting data still needs to be sent in the post.
Having said that, I anticipate that the Christmas period may prove a little quieter, as some borrowers wait to see if interest rates move upwards again next month. Still, this will not affect those completions already pencilled in for the Christmas period, where things will still be extremely busy for us, especially with new-builds.
We encountered minimal disruption to incoming applications as a result of the postal strike and have no backlogs. And being based in Bracknell meant that we could still issue outgoing mail.
Also a number of applications are received online or at different locations throughout the country, via remote processing units, which shields GMAC from any localised postal problems.
Regular contact with both the local sorting office and the Royal Mail website keeps both staff and intermediaries updated through email.
GMAC has the capacity to cope with any peaks and troughs in business volumes that lenders sometimes experience. It has experienced a significant increase in applications of late but is confident that it will continue to provide a strong platform on which it can maintain high standards of service for any demand shift caused by any external factors including an interest rate hike.
While the recent postal strike was inconvenient to borrowers and lenders, its effect on our front-end business was minimal. Many introducers have access to alternative document delivery services, such as DX or private couriers, or were able to find alternative ways of getting information over. Equally, our ability to service existing accounts was little affected as the vast majority of customers make payments through the direct debit system.
However, there was doubtless some degradation in the overall level of service although I feel sure borrowers will understand why.
The run up to Christmas has always been a particularly busy time for lenders and introducers alike. After all, borrowers understandably want their mortgages completed in good time to enjoy the holiday. As such, we are well used to dealing with the increased demand and I do not feel this will be greatly affected or changed by any extra demand caused by the likely prospect of rate rises.
Our business was not affected in any way by the postal strike because our sales consultants are linked to head office by Mortgage Pro, our bespoke software. Consultants send applications to head office electronically, so it was business as usual.
Full applications for mortgages and general insurance are received for processing without recourse to the postal system. We processed all new business generated during the strike because it arrives on the head office system as soon as the consultants press the send button.
We can also send fully packaged cases to lenders using the same technology. We are currently trialing this enhancement with a few of our lenders so in the event of another strike our business will still be processed, while others will be relying on normal mail. Using our receiving software does not compromise lender system security, and I believe that postal strikes should not affect anyone”s business levels any more.
We were largely unaffected by the recent postal strike in terms of our key processes. Solicitors use the DX system anyway so that kept vital elements like offers and certificates of title moving. Accord also uses a private carrier for non-urgent mail so it was able to switch to them.
Although further interest rate rises may fuel an already frothy remortgage market, I do not anticipate the Christmas mail bulge causing any headaches.
Over 75% of Accord”s business comes through online so it has everything it needs to start processing straight away. Valuations are instructed automatically and received straight into the system, without the need for a postal safety net. So, provided the payslips or P60 arrives within eight days of the electronic application, we will still be well placed to get an offer out within our ten-day service standard.
I would generally expect to get about 2,500 enquiries to our call centre and there was an increase of about 10% during the postal strike, although this was still within capacity.
The Chelsea has 34 branches, all of which reported discussions with borrowers about the strike and delays, but there were no overwhelming issues that impacted on normal service levels. I am pleased to say that Chelsea has robust contingency measures, so no borrowers should have been disadvantaged.
With regard to Christmas, the same applies. It will be interesting to see if the recent base rate has the desired effect as there seems to be little evidence of a slow down currently. If there is a last minute rush it will not be any different from the rest of the year as it has been very busy for everyone.