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Understanding dyslexia: how lenders can support staff and intermediaries – Clark

by: Gemma Clark, intermediary proposition manager and broker support team member at Nationwide
  • 19/04/2024
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Understanding dyslexia: how lenders can support staff and intermediaries – Clark
Dyslexia is primarily thought of as a learning difficulty affecting reading and writing, but it takes many different forms.

Click here to view the video of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association’s (IMLA’s) Inclusivity and Diversity Group session on dyslexia, facilitated by Nationwide Building Society and The Mortgage Mum.



Dyslexia is primarily thought of as a learning difficulty affecting reading and writing, but it takes many different forms.

People with dyslexia may find it hard to match letters to sounds, to remember how to spell words, or they may even see letters moving around when they’re reading. Some may have trouble telling left from right. Remembering lots of instructions can be particularly hard. Some may need more time to remember the right word, and some may struggle to organise themselves. 

But seeing things differently can be very positive – people with dyslexia may be very good at identifying patterns and solving problems, imagining objects rotating in their head, telling stories, making people laugh, taking things apart, understanding how they work, understanding how to put them together again, inventing, making things, and seeing the bigger picture, for example. 

Many people feel uncomfortable identifying as dyslexic for fear they will be judged as less capable than others, when in reality many of the perceived ‘weaknesses’ dyslexics experience can be turned into strengths with the right support. And there are plenty of examples of famous dyslexics, from Bill Gates to Agatha Christie, Albert Einstein to Leonardo da Vinci, to name but a few, who are testament to what dyslexic people can achieve. 

Nicola Goldie, head of strategic partnerships and growth at Aldermore and co-deputy chair of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), said: “Dyslexia is a condition affecting 10% of the population or 700 million people worldwide, yet it is not very well-understood. As mortgage lenders, there are simple yet effective changes we can make to help our dyslexic colleagues and broker partners function more effectively, and assist them in turning the challenges they face into strengths.” 


My story: Lydia Witney, senior business development adviser, Nationwide

“I was diagnosed with dyslexia at a very young age at school, because I was slower to pick things up than my classmates. 

“I chose not to disclose my dyslexia when I interviewed for a job in the mortgage collections and recoveries department at Nationwide in 2018. My previous job was not in financial services and did not involve numbers. I knew that, coming into Nationwide, I would need to deal with numbers, such as reading out large sums to customers over the phone. I am very dedicated and knew I could work on my numeracy skills to get it right. But I didn’t know how educated my interviewer might be around dyslexia and didn’t want to tell them in case they thought I couldn’t do the job. 

“During training, my manager picked up on some of the challenges I face, which she also experiences as a dyslexic person. She pulled me aside and told me about her challenges and her journey. Naturally, I then opened up about the problems I was having. Nationwide put in measures to help (see below), and introduced me to their Dyslexia + support group, which has more than 200 members. My confidence grew, and when I saw a job come up in the intermediary relations team, I applied for it. I was happy to disclose my dyslexia this time. In the interview, I laid it out clearly: here are my challenges, this is what I can do about them and here are the other things I can bring to the role. 

“I have since been promoted, am very happy in my job and feel I am doing well. I’m also in the process of completing a Level 2 apprenticeship in Leadership. If you’d told me five years ago I’d be back in education, I would have laughed. All the way through school I struggled learning new things, and shied away from doing A Levels and going to university. Nationwide helped me grow in confidence and now I’m trying to see my dyslexia as a strength and use it to my advantage. I have started talking about and learning about my dyslexia, and now I’m keen to educate others and help spread awareness.” 


Lydia’s challenges

  • I spell erratically, so I rely on spellcheck, and ask people to ignore spelling mistakes in my emails. 
  • I mix up my words without noticing. For example, I recently tried to arrange a meeting for next Wednesday but kept saying next Tuesday – in my head I was saying Wednesday, but kept saying Tuesday. 
  • I get sensations of mental overload. If I am very busy and I’m in a noisy environment, I can feel overwhelmed and just switch off – I need to go away and come back with a fresh head. 
  • I can forget whole conversations and important dates – wholly unintentionally. I can completely forget what I’ve been asked. 


Lydia’s coping mechanisms 

  • In an interview, I will explain that I need to write the interviewer’s questions down, so I can refer back to them as I’m answering. 
  • I am completely open with my manager, and will have a call with her if, for example, I receive a really important email. I will tell her what I have taken away from the email and check whether there is anything else I need to know. 
  • I use lots of visual prompts and colour co-ordinate absolutely everything – my diary is so colourful it could make you feel sick. 


What can you do as an employer? 

  1. Give clear and precise information (ideally bullet points, if not verbal) and check for understanding.
  2. Create a working environment with no distractions or provide access to a quiet space – helps with mental overload issue. 
  3. Provide suitable technology, such as online calendars and organisers, and digital recorders. 
  4. Build planning time into each day, which lets the employee manage their time and feel in control of their workload. 
  5. Provide audio or video versions of job ads as well as written ones. 
  6. Keep interview questions brief. 
  7. Provide practical hands-on training, rather than written instructions. 
  8. Install dyslexia-friendly fonts on computers and set them as default in word processing software. 
  9. Print information on coloured backgrounds. 
  10. Allow dyslexic employees to use visual aids such as diagrams, drawings and flow charts. 


How can lenders support dyslexic intermediaries? The Mortgage Mum suggests:

  1. Provide access to business development managers (BDMs) or LiveChat, as this is critical for talking through criteria that the broker may struggle with or misinterpret on the page. 
  2. Encourage BDMs to be mindful that some brokers may be dyslexic but undiagnosed or reluctant to speak about their condition. 
  3. Make criteria as easy to understand as possible and iron out ambiguities wherever possible. 
  4. Present criteria in a clear format that is not too text-heavy – eliminate the waffle. 
  5. Use bullet points rather than text-heavy chunky paragraphs. 


For more information, tools and guidance, visit the British Dyslexia Association website.

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