Pushing the innovation envelope in later life lending – Wilson
Looking at innovation in the market, I can think of products that utilise the Bank of Mum & Dad for first-timers, or guarantor mortgages, or Skipton’s recent 100% LTV product which takes rental payments into account. Then there are those that offer the ability to buy with friends, or something as fundamental as buy-to-let mortgages which completely changed our market.
When discussing innovation however I am reminded of what Bob Young, former CEO of Fleet Mortgages used to say on this topic which was effectively there hadn’t been any for a long time. And that when people talk about wanting innovation, what they tended to want was actually lower rates, higher LTVs, and more flexibility on criteria.
Later life innovation
In part, I sort of agree, but I also think it’s fair to say that we’ve seen a fair amount of innovation over the last couple of decades, in our own part of the market, later life lending, whether it was current account or offset mortgages.
Can we really say that, for example, retirement interest-only (RIO) isn’t innovative, or what we might deem ‘hybrid products’ don’t fulfil the innovation brief? I don’t think so.
Talking of which, it has been truly inspiring to see later life lending providers pushing that innovation envelope with, most recently, Legal & General Home Finance’s Payment Term Lifetime Mortgage (PTLM) effectively working that hybrid model and coming up with a product for a younger demographic, who want to access their home equity, but can still pay fixed monthly interest payments up until retirement or age 75, whichever comes first.
It feels that products, and others which are inevitably going to follow in its footsteps, can hit a ‘sweet spot’ for those who – up until now – have been too young to access the equity they have built up in their homes.
The product can also fulfil a real need for those interest-only borrowers who may not have a repayment plan in place to pay the capital element when that mortgage comes to an end or may have a shortfall within that repayment plan.
Essentially, we have a client base who are currently between a traditional mortgage and a RIO, and these types of products are now a credible option for those individuals who, as I say, have not yet reached 55 but do have significant equity in their property.
What we are always crying out for in the later life lending space is more product choice, and I can’t help but feel that where L&G Home Finance are leading, other providers/lenders will follow, hopefully adding even more options.
This is particularly pertinent for that borrower demographic who are in their late 40s/50s, who may be eyeing their retirement up, but still have income to be able to service interest payments and want to do so, but who at the same time also want to be able to access higher LTV options, that are not available in the lifetime mortgage/RIO product space.
These borrowers now have an option which is a true combination of traditional/lifetime mortgage, with an element of RIO as well, if the client is seeking to pay off the capital on their interest-only product or they have a shortfall in their existing repayment plan.
It means they can get that lump sum earlier in their lives if required, they can – in the case of the L&G Home Finance product – access an LTV up to 55.3%, which is much higher than for other later life lending products, and they can of course continue to service the interest in full until a point in time.
Now, the criteria obstacles are a little higher here – they will need to meet affordability measures, but it’s likely they will have stable earnings and will be assessed on those now, even if their income does come down when they move into retirement.
One size doesn’t fit all
As mentioned, it feels innovative because it is, and it shows there are options available to lenders and providers and, certainly within the later life lending space, we have a community willing to explore this, to recognise that one size doesn’t fit all and is therefore willing to go there in order to help different types of borrowers. That will certainly be appreciated by later life advisers, borrowers and all of us active in this sector.
Landlords have a renewed appetite for fixed rates – Stanton
Landlords in general are demonstrating more confidence in mortgage interest rate stability over the next two years. In our survey, just 43% of landlords we asked think that rates will stabilise at their current levels. Only 6% think rates will rise, which is encouraging and shows a much more positive outlook compared to this time last year, when 34% thought rates would increase.
We can see this renewed confidence in a move from landlords reverting back towards five-year fixed-rate mortgages. Just over half of the landlords we talked to in this group said they would opt for a five-year fixed rate, an 11% rise from April.
In particular, fixed rates are regaining the popularity lost after the Liz Truss Budget last autumn when the rapid rise in mortgage rates put many borrowers off longer-term fixed rates. Before the Budget, 68% of landlords had opted for a five-year fixed mortgage. That figure was 46% last December.
However, the number of landlords opting for two-year fixed rates has remained the same as in April. Almost a third (32%) said they would opt for a two-year fix, although the figure shows growing demand since last December, when only 24% said they would choose this type of mortgage.
Fewer landlords, only 4%, chose longer-term fixed-rate mortgages (7/10 years) compared to 7% in April and last December.
A third of all the landlords in our survey told us they think rates will fall over the next two years. It will be interesting to see what happens next. This optimism may translate into more demand for two-year fixed rates and variable tracker products.
A (small rise) in trackers
On this note, our survey also revealed a small rise in landlords choosing variable tracker rates, with 13% reporting that they would opt for a tracker product compared to only 4% in April. Last December, this figure was 17%. This increase in those opting for these types of products shows some landlords may be hedging their bets that base rates will come down sooner rather than later, while others may see these products as a temporary solution.
As a business, we must continue tracking the market and pass on rate reductions as soon as possible. In the past month alone, we have reduced rates across our fixed-rate products four times.
Looking ahead, there’s very likely to be a General Election next year. A new government may bring change to the buy-to-let market. In the face of a shifting political landscape, buy-to-let landlords will be looking for certainty and stability more than ever.
The compelling rationale behind the growth of retirement interest-only mortgages – Hazell
However, among affluent and high-net worth (HNW) segments, RIOs are becoming an increasingly common option for older people looking to release significant equity in their homes as part of wider financial and inheritance tax planning, including those looking to gift funds, perhaps to children or grandchildren.
For borrowers, RIOs can often represent a more attractive alternative to selling down investments and shares, particularly when stock markets are volatile, and when they have one, if not multiple sources of income to service the interest payments.
For wealth managers and other professional advisers working with wealthy clients, RIOs can provide an alternative to disinvesting. For intermediaries active in affluent markets looking for a flexible option for their older or in-retirement clients, RIO mortgages deserve a very strong look.
Different from equity release
While on the surface RIOs appear similar, they differ from the equity release products which have been in the spotlight recently and which have been reviewed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) following negative experiences of some borrowers.
With a RIO mortgage, people pay regular interest on the borrowed amount, with the loan repaid when they move into long-term care, sell the property or pass away.
Under equity release, in contrast, interest rolls up, and borrowers end up paying interest on interest, which can prove significant as it eats into the equity of a property. If someone taking out equity release in their 60s lives into their 90s, there may be nothing left to hand on to the next generation.
An RIO mortgage allows a client to protect their equity. While they will initially pay a higher rate of interest than is charged on an equity release mortgage, they may well pay less interest in the long term.
A need to manage estate planning
Hampden and Co has offered retirement mortgages since 2021 to help wealthier people with a need to manage their estate planning later in life, particularly in relation to inheritance tax. These clients have reliable sources of income that can cover interest payments.
Similarly, many clients want their children to benefit from the passing of their wealth during their lifetime. Others simply want to access a lump sum without disturbing other assets and investment portfolios.
A lack of differentiation and understanding
One challenge to greater uptake in RIO mortgages has been a general lack of awareness of RIOs in comparison to the better-known equity release products, as well as an historic lack of differentiation and understanding of the key differences between them.
When thinking about taking a RIO mortgage, people must consider their income to ensure they can afford the interest payments throughout their retirement.
Borrowers may also consider the seven-year timeframe needed to optimise gifting and whether there is a benefit to taking out life insurance to cover any liability.
However, even in this interest rate environment, where rates have recently risen to more historically normal levels, the benefits of RIO mortgages remain, particularly when you consider the difference between inheritance tax at 40 per cent and a total cost of borrowing of, say, around eight per cent.
Falling inflation and rates give advisers more opportunities for a client review – Clifford
There’s no doubting the high number of mortgage rate changes we have seen throughout the last six months has impacted right across the board, certainly in terms of purchase affordability and activity, but also of course in terms of existing borrowers coming to the end of their deals and having fewer product options to choose from.
In this environment, it has been product transfers (PT) which have soared in number. Not so much because of popularity from large numbers of borrowers, but out of necessity, as affordability constraints have made remortgaging often more difficult to justify for both consumer and adviser.
It is perhaps no wonder recent data from the Bank of England showed net approvals for remortgaging – specifically for those remortgaging to a different lender – were down to 20,600 in September this year, a low not seen since January 1999, nearly two and a half decades ago.
A renewed perspective
However, even though it is less than two months ago, November feels like a different marketplace to earlier in the year. Certainly, over the course of the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a growing number of lenders passing on rate cuts to borrowers and also jumping over themselves to cut rates and win market share.
We now all see a growing number of two- and five-year fixed rates well below five per cent, let alone below Bank Base Rate (BBR), which has remained at 5.25 per cent, but which economists at Goldman Sachs are now suggesting could be cut from as early as February 2024. However, most commentators seem to align with summer 2024 being more likely.
Clearly any shift forward from forecasters quite recently suggesting we may all have to wait until early 2025 for a BBR reduction, is helpful news. While Goldman’s early 2024 prediction is not a widely-held view – indeed Monetary Policy Committee member, Megan Greene, reiterated a view many more appear to hold, that rates “might need to stay restrictive for longer”, on the exact same day – the fact these predictions are even being mooted, given the year we have endured, says something about the potential for a much brighter light at the end of the tunnel.
A positive shift
Mortgage rates falling is, of course, a huge deal, not least for an advisory profession which may have felt 2023 was one long PT-fest. Now, with a growing number of mortgage products priced below five per cent, and with competition and a need to lend likely to fuel further price falls, it may well be possible to provide existing borrowers with more remortgaging opportunities, rather than being confined to the PT option and nothing else.
Don’t get me wrong, it is positive that advisers have a growing share of PT business.
Our industry is not so far down the path from when lenders wrote the vast majority of PT activity, without adviser participation, let alone a procuration fee for so doing. If PT business totals around £250bn of lending this year, then this huge chunk of mortgage lending might be deemed ‘new money’ for advisers who, a decade ago, couldn’t access PT rates and certainly couldn’t earn a lender fee from them.
£250bn of lending that the intermediary community now participates in is a huge positive. However, it is positive that we are seeing rates continue to fall and affordability continue to ease, meaning advisers have a better chance to remortgage clients away from lenders in order to fully demonstrate the value they can add to their financial wellbeing and to offer proper consumer choice.
Plus, of course, with a remortgage client going through the full advice process, this provides the adviser with a much wider opportunity to assess other financial wants and needs, and to ensure the client is fully protected, covered, and has access to conveyancing or any other related services. With PT business that broader opportunity is clearly more limited, as advisers point out.
Overall, with a huge cohort of borrowers reaching the end of their deals in the next 12-18 months, combined with a very real need to keep mortgage cost increases to a minimum, inflation falling, BBR hopefully falling sooner than anticipated, swap rates tracking downward, and product rates also being reduced, will provide advisers with the far greater opportunity both for their business and for the benefit of their customers.
Representation matters: How women in mortgage tech inspire the next generation – Atkinson
More females are entering the industry as tech developers, digital designers, IT engineers and product innovators, for example. But, despite this, we’ve still a long way to go to make sure that women in tech can carve out a long-term career given that they hold only 11 per cent of all fintech board seats and represent less than 20 per cent of company executives.
This is where representation matters. When women see other women achieving and innovating, it fuels their ambitions and reshapes their idea of what’s possible. Women inspired by other women drives change and diversity. But to do this, women in tech need to share their real-life career stories so that others can relate.
It creates a domino effect of: ‘If they can do it, so can I’.
Seeing is believing: The impact of female role models
It is so important for girls and young women to have relatable female role models. I remember the excitement when Helen Sharman was announced as the first British citizen to become an astronaut in the 90s.
She represented endless possibilities for girls who wanted to go to space. She was, quite literally, a trailblazer. Women who have succeeded in tech are all a version of Helen Sharman. We are breaking down the stereotype that tech is a male-dominated industry and we highlight the many paths that women can take in their careers.
When a woman shares her story, she encourages others to follow, showing that the tech world, whether it’s in mortgages, banking or something totally different, is not just inclusive but also enriched by their presence.
Raising our voices
Women aren’t great at promoting their achievements, according to multiple studies. We undersell ourselves, which is no good for career progression. In the mortgage and tech industries especially, I suspect we are particularly quiet about how successful we are. This needs to change. Women making their voices heard isn’t just about gender equality; it’s about bringing different perspectives to the table.
It’s crucial for women in tech to speak up, share their ideas, challenge norms, and contribute to critical decision-making processes. By raising our voices, we help to shape a more inclusive and dynamic tech landscape.
Championing female recruitment
Employers have a key part to play in helping more women find a career in this industry. I am so passionate about this that I now insist that one in three CVs that are sent to me from recruiters are from female candidates. I also don’t believe that traditional interview situations are the best way for women to showcase their talents (as women undersell themselves, remember). So, all candidates are given a virtual skills exercise to complete which shows me how well they can do the job.
I am proud to say that I have a talented, truly diverse team of amazing tech pros who do a brilliant job at Mortgage Brain. Employers must actively support female recruitment by creating inclusive hiring policies, offering mentorship programmes, and ensuring a workplace environment where women can thrive.
By doing so, employers don’t just champion gender diversity; they foster a culture that values diverse perspectives.
I love being a mentor, seeing other women grow in confidence and strike out on their career path. As a woman looking for a career in tech, having a mentor can be a gamechanger. Mentors provide guidance, share insights, and they can open doors to opportunities. It’s about today’s leaders helping to shape tomorrow’s innovators, which is exciting. There are a number of organisations available to women looking for a mentor in mortgages, finance and tech, such as Working in Mortgages, Women In Banking and Finance or Women In Tech.
Making this industry more diverse and inclusive is the responsibility of us all. Women must share their success stories to lead the way for younger generations. Employers need to create environments where women in tech and finance can flourish, and mentors can guide and inspire those starting on their career path. When we prioritise representation in tech and finance, we don’t just lift women; we drive the industry towards a future rich in diverse thought, innovation, and boundless potential.
Join Cloë on Wednesday 6 December to hear about her career story as part of the Women Who Code panel event, Digital Transformation: Stories from Experts to Empower Your Career https://bit.ly/47PKLA2
The rise (and rise?) of product transfers and trackers – Bawa
As 2024 begins, brokers must be prepared to field what may well be the defining query of the year, regardless of if the borrower wants to move on to a new fixed rate or go for a tracker rate – to go for a product transfer, or to switch to a new lender entirely.
A new scene
First, it’s important to give some background as to today’s situation. UK Finance reports that, in Q2 2023, 88 per cent of renewal deals were product transfers, which compares to a 2022 average of 77 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Bank of England (BoE) reports that, as of September 2023, actual remortgages, in which the client moved to another lender, were at their lowest approval rate since January 1999.
Within these trends, the popularity of product trackers has steadily risen with borrowers. A greater appetite for product trackers is a logical response to the rate turmoil we have seen in the last year or so. With fixed rates rising so quickly and the greater economic background being so volatile, borrowers have been quite willing to pay a premium in the short term for the flexibility to move to a fixed product when rates settle down. Added to this is the fact that a host of lenders responded to this trend by introducing a host of features to their tracker offerings to make them more attractive.
Whether or not borrowers look to move to a tracker rate as the narrative shifts from ever-increasing bank rates to the BoE keeping rates at the current level of 5.25 per cent for now, the choice of going with a product transfer or changing lender will likely remain top of mind for many of your clients well into 2024.
It is thus important to outline why or why not a tracker might be suitable.
The pros and cons
Going with a product transfer yields many benefits. The most obvious is the saving of valuation and legal fees, which don’t have to be paid if the borrower stays with the same lender. Similarly, many lenders won’t have to perform a credit check, either. Generally, product transfers are quicker to transact as a result.
Another positive is that if a property’s value has increased, the borrower may qualify for a lower loan to value (LTV), potentially offering better rates.
So far, so good.
However, there are reasons for product transfers not being the best decision for borrowers, too. The main one is that lenders are constantly bringing out new products and improving existing ones so as to capture new business. If your client stays with their original lender, they won’t be able to take advantage of this.
Not only does this limit their options for rates, but in the make-up that new and innovative products can offer. And on the topic of fast and simple transactions, which we have listed this as a benefit, this does mean that a reassessment of needs doesn’t take place.
Quicker, yes – but it means that any changes in a client’s financial situation or needs won’t be accounted for, again limiting product choice.
Money saved but with limits
To summarise, product transfers are nothing short of a miracle when it comes to convenience and cost savings, but they do limit a borrower’s options if they want to make serious changes to the structure of their mortgage. Each of these factors must be explained carefully and clearly to your clients with their long-term goals in mind.
With rates chopping and changing as they are, it won’t be an easy answer to pin down. But that is why we are in this business.
Keep your guard up during the end-of-year wind-down – Rudolf
However, in lieu of any such ‘big ticket’ items to discuss – although there was of course the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill announced previously in the King’s Speech – I wanted to instead focus on what is likely to be coming up over the next month or so, namely pre-Christmas completions, but also the constant threat of fraud and the impact it can have right across the board.
Clearly, we are in that period now where many people are trying to get house purchases over the line in order to be in their new homes before the festive season begins. Twas ever thus, but what we don’t want to do is let our guard down or lose our vigilance simply because people want to get things done, and done quickly, and they are excited about a pre-Christmas moving-in date.
You may well have read about a ‘cyber incident’ just recently which impacted a legal sector specialist infrastructure service provider, and subsequently impacted the work of a number of conveyancing firms who use their services.
Such attacks have nothing to do with the time of year, but it should provide a stark reminder that every single business involved in the house buying and selling process has a potential target on their back. Even if you are not responsible for handling the large sums of money involved, you can be both targeted for the data you hold, and you can be ‘used’ in order to get to those who do hold the purse strings.
Conveyancers are clearly in the firing line when it comes to this, and the CA has a full Cyber Fraud and Fraud Protocol document which outlines the many types of fraudulent activity they might be subject to, how to spot it, how to stop it, and how to ensure the firm itself, and their clients, do not end up on the wrong end of this activity.
Some of the protocol is conveyancer-focused, but a lot isn’t.
I would urge any adviser business owner to download it from our website, and to run through it to make sure they are up to date with the threats. It could be vishing, or malware, or phishing, or smishing, or it could be cyber security threats; being aware of what you might be subject to is the first line of your defence.
The other point to make is around the protection we can all provide to our clients – after all, your client eventually becomes the conveyancer’s client. If they are fully informed and educated on what could happen, then it will ensure they are robust in terms of their data, their email, their security and their funds.
One key ‘gateway’ for fraudsters is through the information consumers make public via social media and the like. Carry out a quick search on Twitter/X right now and I guarantee you’ll be able to find people talking about ‘being in by Christmas’ or ‘hoping to spend Christmas in the new home’.
This might seem like the sharing of low-level details, but we all know that criminals can utilise this information to target email accounts, and from there they can look at which conveyancer they might be using, and subsequently they can pretend to be that firm and potentially get the client to move money to their account.
It sounds fanciful, but it happens a lot, and it has also been successful.
The closer consumers get to completion, the greater the chance of them ‘giving the game away’ in terms of what they’re about to do. They might even contact their conveyancer by social media, which again gives further information to the fraudsters.
We are talking about potentially huge sums of money here, and nobody is going to have a great Christmas if they are duped into sending their deposit to a criminal, rather than a conveyancer.
We have the opportunity to help prevent anything like this happening, and we shouldn’t be afraid to spell out the potential risks, what they might be subject to, how a threat might look, and what to be deeply suspicious of.
The ‘conveyancer’ writing to the client to tell them to send money to a different bank account to the original one has been a common source of fraud. It is very basic, and all conveyancers now tell clients they will never change their bank account details and if they receive a communication saying they have, then not to act on it.
However, this method does continue to work, and particularly if clients are new to buying a home, or in some way, vulnerable, then there is likely to be a greater chance of this working.
Overall, we all need to be on our guard permanently, and we all need to keep telling clients to do the same.
Moving from qualified to competent adviser status – Wilson
However, achieving CeMap is only half the battle. Before advisers can even begin to work with clients, give advice or recommend products, they will also need to have achieved competent adviser status (CAS) enabling them to provide advice and submit mortgage applications and any relevant protection without supervision.
The need for CAS status is a compulsory requirement across the entire financial services sector and ensures every adviser is able to meet the regulatory requirements and practical skills needed to successfully carry out their role.
Achieving competency status can be difficult however and is not something that advisers can do alone as they need to be assessed, supervised and receive sign-off from a senior professional during various stages of the CAS assessment process.
Assisted through the process
This means that newly-qualified advisers will need to find a mentor and firm with an academy structure that can help guide them through the CAS process by enabling them to access the training and coaching they need to build up their experience and knowledge, as well as meet the regulatory demands required to achieve competency status.
One of the ways advisers can work towards achieving CAS is by joining a broker academy within an appointed representative network that offers support and working their way up.
One of the many benefits of doing this is that it provides easy access to lead generation and a steady stream of clients which are often available via retiring and semi-retiring advisers.
Generating leads and establishing a client bank is not an easy task. Many advisers spend a great deal of time and effort over the years building and forging strong relationships with their clients, so having the ability to tap into this resource from the outset is an invaluable tool.
This enables newly-qualified advisers to build up a client bank right from the start while also reassuring retiring or semi-retiring advisers that their clients will be in safe and competent hands when their working days are long behind them.
This is an extremely beneficial arrangement for both parties as it provides a seamless transition from working full-time to retiring for the outgoing adviser, while also rewarding them with a passive income.
It also offers peace of mind that the needs of those clients they have worked so hard to cater for over the course of their career will be met with the continuity of care and service offered by the ‘next generation’ of advisers.
Achieving CAS status is no easy task, but for those newly-qualified advisers joining the mortgage industry, as well as those at the end of their career, being part of an established appointed representative network can provide the training and support they need at every stage of their career, while also ensuring the needs and demands of their clients will always be met.
Synchronisation: the next step in digitalising conveyancing? – Chadbourne
This is purely a consequence of the complex nature of any property purchase – while stakeholders want to put the borrower at the heart of the conveyancing journey, and want the technology to help them get there, the siloed nature of it up until just a couple of years ago made this hard. Digitalisation was piecemeal – no wonder stakeholders were struggling to see its benefit.
But there has been a lot of work done by third-party tech providers like LMS to address this head on in collaboration with the industry stakeholders themselves. It is up to us to make the technology not only easy to adopt and accessible to all, but also completely end to end if we’re going to make the whole journey seamless.
The missing puzzle piece
One of the missing puzzle pieces is fund settlement. As it stands, the process of completing a transaction requires buyers, conveyancers and lenders all completing and pushing numerous payments at different times.
Law firms and lenders on both ends of the transaction have to do this process manually, releasing the funds and the asset, while ensuring they verify the details of each account to prevent fraud.
Synchronisation sets out to reduce transaction cost and risk and increase efficiency with settlement of funds and lodgement of title happening synchronously. It digitalises the work and communications between lenders, conveyancers and HM Land Registry, with ‘synchronisation operators’ working to release funds and the asset simultaneously when certain conditions are met.
Such a platform drives efficiency and customer centricity, as well as reducing fraud and removing settlement risk by minimising potential access points for scammers and only releasing funds to verified bank accounts.
Until now, digitalisation has been relatively siloed but synchronisation changes the game. It connects various different elements of the process, allowing all stakeholders to ‘talk’ to each other simultaneously without compromising the end borrower. In essence, it moves the industry away from vertical or siloed digitalisation and towards a completely joined-up, end-to-end journey as the industry steps into the next phase of digital maturity.
However, this is a completely new process for every stakeholder and is not yet ready for implementation. No one has all the answers yet when it comes to delivery, and the best thing the industry can do is come together to ensure buy-in at every stage of the process. For it to work, we need true collaboration between all parties but no one can embrace something they don’t know.
Change on this scale, especially when it involves huge sums of money that often make up a borrower’s biggest economic commitment, is scary.
Where do we go now?
This is the direction in which the industry is heading, but everyone must go on the journey together. It simply will not work if implementation is haphazard, or any one provider tries to strike out on their own – the reality is that there isn’t anyone who has the expertise on this yet: it is still in its infancy.
In order to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction, it will be essential to create a community for the industry that will facilitate discussions. At the same time, it will be important to continue investigating the potential of the technology, the best and most efficient ways to integrate it into the current conveyancing journey, and the full extent of the impact it can have.
This is something that LMS has been doing over the course of the past year in order to inform these conversations. Its synchronisation taskforce has been established for this very goal, helping the industry work together to embrace change.
As with the development of technology across the conveyancing journey, it is up to tech providers to make it seamless. Collaborating, listening and working with all the key stakeholders is the only practical way forward. Synchronisation is not the only development needed for the sector, but it is a big step in the move towards complete, end-to-end digital conveyancing.
We have to navigate this change and make the most of it, together.
Understanding brokers is crucial to getting mortgage technology right – Castling
While the pandemic certainly played a role in forcing those across the industry to put greater emphasis on moving away from the pen-and-paper, labour intensive ways of working of the past, the truth is that some progress had already been made.
However, there remains room for much greater improvements when it comes to making use of technology, improvements which can deliver benefits for everyone involved along the mortgage journey.
What’s crucial to getting that technology right, though, is understanding how brokers work, what’s important to them, and building from there.
The need for speed
Speed has always been an important factor in the mortgage market. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a first-time buyer taking that initial step onto the housing ladder or an existing homeowner looking to remortgage, borrowers of all kinds want to know where they stand on the financing as quickly as possible.
This has only become more important in the current market, where buyers or refinancers need to move swiftly in order to secure their new home or avoid dropping onto an expensive standard variable rate (SVR).
However, for all of the talk from lenders about introducing improvements which mean that the process of borrowing can be sped up, the results have been somewhat varied.
It’s something that we have taken really seriously at Atom Bank, and the response to our use of technology shows that it is making a difference. One broker for example said that they were used to waiting two weeks or more for an application to reach offer stage, and so the fact that their client had an offer from Atom as soon as the page refreshed on the application was a huge surprise.
Another, who had struggled to place a case for a Scottish property at 95 per cent loan to value (LTV), was delighted when their client received an offer within 24 hours, stating that it was “refreshing” to get such a quick offer.
Swift progress on a case is more than just something that’s nice to have, it makes a tangible difference for all those involved.
For the borrower there is much less stress involved, much less time spent worrying over what the decision will be and what their alternative options are. And for the broker, a case progressing smoothly means they can spend more time with other clients or focusing on ways to boost their business elsewhere.
Putting technology to better use
These quick turnarounds don’t happen by accident, but instead through the smart use of technology.
A big focus for us has been on the development of the broker portal. We have recognised that simply having such a portal is not enough – it has to assist brokers in getting cases placed easily and quickly.
And central to doing that has been incorporating various automated tools, like automated valuation models (AVMs), automated income verification (AIV), which means that brokers can secure the financing their clients need much more swiftly.
Of course, technology alone cannot do everything. The mortgage industry has long been one built around relationships, and there will always be the need for a human touch within that journey.
It’s by combining that technological innovation with a personal level of service that lenders can not only stand out from the crowd but also deliver the best possible experience to brokers and borrowers alike.
Understanding broker workloads
It is easy for those outside the industry to think that all a broker does is pick out a mortgage for their clients and submit an application. Indeed, there are times when intermediaries perhaps believe that’s how lenders see them.
The truth is rather different. We know that brokers spend an enormous amount of time on ancillary tasks beyond the application: chasing the valuation, getting updates on the progress of a case from business development managers and underwriters all take time.
And it’s time that could be better spent serving the next client, or simply getting a break from the out-of-hours grind that is so common for brokers.
That’s why it’s so important to get the technology right. If lenders can develop systems that cut down the time spent not only on getting the initial application in, but also reduce the need to devote so many hours to those additional tasks, then it can make an enormous difference and move the industry forward.
It’s not just the client enjoying a smoother and faster experience, but the broker too. That can only be achieved if the lender actually understands the work of an intermediary and works alongside them to put the right processes in place.
But that trust and faith needs to be earned repeatedly, which is why providers should be determined to continue a relentless pursuit to speed up the mortgage journey and remove wasted time and effort for the customer and the broker.