There is, however, no requirement for this method of delivery and, as far as the regulator is concerned, the rules are broken down into advised and execution-only sales.
Neither of these makes any reference to the method of delivery, although execution-only typically is transacted without any personal interaction.
So, with potentially fewer people wanting or requesting direct personal contact due to the pandemic, how can mortgage advice firms adapt from their traditional face-to-face method of delivery?
In reality, there is nothing different in the process other than the obvious, but firms will still need to consider the following:
Disclosure: Documents such as the Client Agreements and Privacy Notices can be emailed to the client. Where fees are charged these can be acknowledged, and consent given by the client, in a return email and therefore a record kept.
Know Your Client: This key difference in the delivery could be achieved either by a video link or a conversation over the phone. There is always a reluctance to send documents for the client to complete in isolation, as it is difficult to capture soft facts and sense check that the client understands the full purpose and need for full disclosure. However, documents could be sent to the client for completion and returned prior to a follow up video or phone call.
Client verification: Liaise with the lender to understand their stance on the acceptance of electronic verification. Both requesting original documents and asking the client to submit certified copies can be problematic, so electronic verification could be the perfect, simple, solution to this matter.
Suitability report: The content of the report will be the same as if the advice was delivered face-to-face. There is no requirement for a report to be signed by the client(s) but if this is your practice, it can be requested by postal or email return.
Submission: Requests for supporting documentation will likely be made in the same way, although, potentially, delays could arise when documents and signatures are travelling back and forth in the post. Due consideration to the timeline of completion should be notified to the client(s) in advance of the services being provided in order to ensure that service standards meet expectations.
Also, it is important to consider the various data protection implications of homeworking during a pandemic and the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has been at pains to emphasise that data protection should not be a barrier to increasing or different types of homeworking.
During a pandemic, staff may work from home more frequently than usual and they can use their own devices or communication equipment – data protection law does not prevent that.
You will, however, need to ensure that the same kinds and levels of security measures you would normally utilise within the office are also in place for the homeworker.
Restrictions can be overcome
If the current situation puts pressure on a client’s affordability, our current understanding is the vast majority of lenders will treat each case on its own merits and your client should be proactive about contacting the lender as early as possible before difficulty arises.
It is also imperative that clarity is sought on whether individual credit scores will be impacted by any payment holiday arrangement so that an “informed decision” can be made by the client(s).
There is without doubt much to consider in what is a particularly strange period in our history, but I believe there are restrictions that can be overcome, and also opportunity in the new low interest rate and the potential for discussion with your clients around many matters.