So, at the beginning of this year we undertook the largest piece of customer and broker research we’ve ever done to improve our products and service.
Even if you find a niche that works, you should never get too big for your boots and should always be willing to ask, ‘how can we do better?’
We also surveyed our existing broker base to find what we could start doing to really help them – with 73 per cent of respondents wanting guidance on underwriting criteria, so we responded by producing an underwriting guide and the Helping Hand campaign.
Tactical team changes
We also need to ensure the right people are in place and since Steve Pateman took up post as CEO in January, there have been a number of tactical changes to the structure of our team intended to encourage a more collaborative culture of working.
We’ve welcomed a product and pricing manager, group propositions manager and created several new roles which serve to not only improve our product range but expand upon what we’ve already got.
Building a team centred around research, understanding and commitment to doing the right thing for our customers is essential if Hodge is to grow as a business.
RIO needs better products
When Retirement Interest-Only (RIO) mortgages launched last year, they were predicted to be the lifeline later-life borrowers needed – a much needed addition to the market.
However, just 112 RIO mortgages were sold in 2018. Our research suggested this may be due to much needed adviser education, but ultimately, the products themselves needed to be better.
So, in May we cut rates across our range and introduced several features.
We’ve been able to make these changes based on customer and adviser feedback, it’s also encouraged us to reduce the age requirement on our RIO and 55+ mortgage products from 55 to just 50 years of age.
So yes, we do now have a product called 55+ which is available from age 50 – let that be a lesson to anyone thinking of naming a product after a key feature.
Downsizing and equity release rejuvination
Equity release needs some rejuvenation too. Currently the market is going from strength-to-strength – Key’s Market Monitor for Q1 2019 reports an incredibly strong start to the year with £840m worth of equity released, up six per cent year-on-year.
We’ve scrapped the application fee on some of our downsizing protection mortgage products and are reviewing the product as a whole to see how it could work harder for customers.
And as of the 24 June we will introduce a raft of changes to our downsizing range, all designed to ensure we can be as flexible as possible to suit the needs of our customers.
For the next six months expect to see more – more questions, more research, more support and more products offering real customer value.
When I took on the role of managing director for mortgages earlier this year I was set some challenging targets, but ones I was enthusiastic about working towards.
We’ve already made some big changes at Hodge, but this is only the beginning.