Five tips to mastering time management which can lift you and your business – Knight
The stronger you are at managing your time and focusing on the things that might save you time, the more you will achieve.
And this does not just mean better results in a business sense but also in terms of life outside of work.
A growing proportion of our time now revolves around sending, responding to and deleting emails. How many times you have heard a colleague or friend complain or even brag about the mountain of emails they have accumulated just because they were out of the office for a certain period?
Quite a few I’m sure.
So, for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on five simple email tips to help people sharpen up their time management skills and spend less time sifting through a raft of potentially avoidable emails.
Tip 1 – Decide if an email is the best form of communication
Too often an email is sent without enough thought. Email is a great tool, but it can often be overused and misused. Communication is not about merely sending an email; it is about ensuring that a specific message is received and understood. Just because an email has been sent does not mean a communication has occurred.
Take a moment to think if email is the right method of communication for a particular proposal, question or response. Consider picking up the phone or walking over to someone in the office to have a conversation. This could well save you time in the long run and result in a better outcome.
Tip 2 – Use email rules to filter certain emails into other folders
When I first ran a large marketing team, I created a rule that all emails where I was cc’d went into a separate folder. I was finding that those emails were not really for me, just people advocating responsibility. That one simple rule saved me a lot of time because I rarely looked at those emails, because I didn’t need to. Set up other similar rules to help separate the important emails from the chaff.
Tip 3 – Keep your emails short
And keep them clear. Otherwise you will prolong the email trail because people have not understood it. If it is too long, go back to tip 1. Others should then follow suit.
Tip 4 – Deal with it
It is easy to have a quick read of an email and then think you’ll deal with it later. You might forget, for one, but if you do that a lot, you are wasting time. Just deal with it there and then, bearing in mind previous tips.
Tip 5 – Use attachments wisely
Firstly, don’t fall into the trap of forgetting the attachment, as you’ll have a barrage of flippant remarks in your inbox. Secondly, give a concise summary of your attachment and what people should do with it. Remember, communication is not just sending a message.
Hopefully one or two of these tips may work for you, save you time and help free up more space in your diary to see more clients and write more business.
If others also follow your lead your inbox will only end up containing emails that are brief, to the point and information you actually need.
Now that would make all our lives easier, wouldn’t it?
Questions to ask when considering the value of a CRM system – Murphy
A CRM system captures and digitises client data, turning it into useful, actionable insights that can improve a broker’s business and reveal where value is being generated.
However, with a variety of systems available, it can often be hard for brokers to know which one is right for them and their business.
Each firm has different requirements and understanding a business’ needs can help narrow down the options.
The choice will depend on what is already in place, what is needed, and how those requirements may change in the future.
So, here are some key questions brokers need to ask when considering which system is right for them:
Individual functions and features, or end-to-end?
While cherry-picking means new systems can be easily slotted into a brokerage’s current setup, in the long run this may not be the most effective solution for a business.
End-to-end platform solutions require more front-end change, but their integration and cost-saving benefits make them the best option in the long term.
They tend to be the best way to deliver a smoother experience for clients and mean that brokers do not have to switch between different systems, saving time and giving them more hours to spend on advice rather than admin.
These platforms also give the best access to data and analytics, available for the whole process.
The biggest benefit of end-to-end platforms is that they provide CRM functionality alongside everything else an adviser needs.
How is the system accessed? Is it only onsite, or can it be accessed anywhere through cloud-integration?
For some brokers, choosing a CRM system based in the office is the best fit, but for most, flexibility is an important consideration, especially as flexible and remote working becomes more popular.
Cloud-based systems let brokers access the information they need from anywhere, at any time.
They are just as secure as those reliant on physical servers, and have the added benefit of constant and retrievable back-ups.
Cloud systems also make integration of third-party services easier, an important consideration given the increasing information sharing that is happening across the mortgage process, and a key step if an end-to-end platform solution is required.
How much value does it add to improving client relationships and generating new business?
Most brokers spend more time than is necessary, and more time than they can spare, on maintaining client relationships.
Renewal reminders, meeting organisation, information sharing, and document transferral all take up too much time.
Some CRM systems can automate these processes to take the burden away from brokers.
Intelligent systems which can read and act upon data are able to execute processes automatically, giving brokers back an incredibly valuable commodity – time.
CRM systems are designed to help improve customer relationships – knowing the answers to these questions can help brokers understand exactly what they need.
FCA’s U-turn on mortgage advice rules is ‘utterly unfathomable’ – Bamford
I suggested the perceived move away from advice by the FCA in the paper could be a ‘mis-read’ from the industry and that, when it listened to further industry feedback, it may accept that any move towards encouraging execution-only business was a retrograde step.
Regardless of whether the tech exists to do this, or not.
Now, however, that doubt no longer exists.
Utterly unfathomable U-turn
The FCA’s consultation on mortgage advice and selling standards gives no reasons to mis-represent the regulator.
Its ambition is clear and it is seeking to change the rules around advice in order to deliver what it sets out in the final report.
No-one can be in any doubt, because it exists in black and white, that the regulator wants to see more execution-only business and it does not care that this could result in consumers getting unsuitable mortgages.
When you write that down, it seems utterly unfathomable.
A regulator, which enshrined the importance of advice in the mortgage market via the Mortgage Market Review (MMR), U-turning in such a deliberate and pre-meditated way.
Cheapest is best myth
And the evidence it presents for such a move?
It believes certain consumers could have got a cheaper mortgage themselves if the execution-only tools existed to allow them to source it.
It has been told that the advice rules do not allow for such tools and it wants to therefore create the environment where this technology exists.
It might say otherwise, but this is all about a perception that ‘cheapest is best’ and it wants to row back on a distribution channel – namely mortgage advice – which it perceives not to be recommending the cheapest mortgage.
This is despite the fact that no-one in the market believes the cheapest is best myth and (lest we forget) its analysis of the market comes from 2015/16 data.
Filled with dread
We are specialists in the high loan-to-value (LTV) mortgage sector, used extensively by first-time buyers, and these are individuals who have never been through the mortgage process before and will have a raft of options available to them.
Is the FCA really suggesting that these new borrowers can find the most suitable product if they are left to get on with it themselves?
The thought of large numbers of potential first-timers trying to secure the first and cheapest deal they see via an execution-only tool fills me with dread.
It surely cannot be right for a regulator to be promoting this distribution avenue for first-timers, can it?
Advisers will have countless examples of clients who came into their office, or called them up, with a clear idea of securing a mortgage which was completely unsuitable for them.
And if we drag everything back to price, and the ease of securing a mortgage via technology, then we are, in my opinion, opening up a huge can of worms.
I am not an adviser. This is not a view based on self-preservation as some may argue against advisers who raise it.
But it is based on common sense and the importance of advice in a marketplace which, not just for first-timers but for all borrowers, is more complex and competitive than it has perhaps ever been.
Encouraging consumers to do it themselves seems utterly bizarre and, for the life of me, I can’t quite get my head around why the regulator would be so intent on this course of action.
Maybe over time, they will be able to explain themselves.
Until then, it will be no surprise to hear many within the mortgage market raging against it.
Securitisation thriving within healthy and diverse funding market – Phoebus
Although Brexit is still causing some confidence issues, this positive outlook is a far cry from the doom and gloom of the 2009 ABS conference held in London where, I think it could be said, we were all knowingly awaiting the Armageddon of the credit crisis that was slowly looming up on us.
Fast forward to 2019 and what a change in outlook.
Funding is available not only to those originators that have proven themselves as prudent, but also to new entrants that have brought in historically proven management teams that investors fundamentally trust.
To be fair, the recovery of the securitisation market has not been without its ups and downs.
One of the major causes of the start of the credit crisis in 2007 is linked to the non-performance of sub-prime loans that were securitised.
I remember working in Seattle around that time and presenting at a meeting where one lender or investor picked up on my accent and pointed out that “You limeys will buy anything that’s going”.
Although the securitisation market started to recover from around 2012, Bank of England figures at that time confirmed that European securitisations dropped from circa $1.2trn in 2008 to circa $322bn in 2012.
Clearly this drop was causing liquidity issues across the continent and late in 2013 the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the European Commission called for the revival of the securitisation market using stricter standards than previously used.
The Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), launched in 2012, and the Term Funding Scheme (TFS), launched in 2016, affected the securitisation market as cheap funding became readily available to UK lenders.
But generally, the positive backing of three such major entities caused an upsurge in transactions which continues into today.
So what next?
There is a lot of discussion here around how technology can enhance the securitisation process.
The use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) will become more common, a well-known example of which is blockchain.
DLTs provide a common database across multiple locations or participants, effectively meaning that each party can individually sign-off their part of a transaction via a cryptographic signature, fully date and timestamped without the need for a central sign-off point.
One benefit of this is that the initialisation transaction time can be achieved more quickly. Additionally, reporting to investors throughout the life of the securitisation can be achieved more rapidly and in real-time.
Overall, it does look like DLTs can create large scale cost savings within the total securitisation cost.
Finally, it is pleasing to see so many UK specialist and challenger banks here at the conference – a great indication of the recovery of the securitisation market.
The success of these institutions has been testimony to the diversification of the market and has led to a healthy increase in lending products outside of purely prime residential mortgages.
For new entrants, the funding of these loans can be via deposits, but as balance sheets grow, portfolios will be securitised.
It would seem that the market has returned to a healthy mix of funding techniques which can only be of benefit to all.
Shariah-compliant finance explained – Haresnape
This rules out interest on the basis that money should not be generated from money and instead should be put to work to generate a return.
While HPPs are not yet universally understood, their popularity is growing. This is partly due to the transparency of the products and also because of the growing number of UK providers.
What is the difference?
When a property is bought this way, the bank buys the property in partnership with the customer. There is technically no borrowing.
Instead of levying interest, the bank charges the customer rent on the portion of the property they don’t yet own.
The customer also pays an additional amount each month to acquire the bank’s stake in the property over the finance term.
So the proportion of the property owned by the bank shrinks over time, as does the rent the customer pays. At the end of the term, the bank transfers complete ownership of the property to the customer.
Increasing property equity
One benefit of this method is that customers can increase their stake in the property at the value that applied when they purchased it.
This is greatly preferable to conventional shared-ownership schemes, where occupiers must buy additional equity at the current market value.
There are also other benefits such as no early repayment charges, excluding legal fees, should the customer wish to refinance or simply repay in full from other sources.
And rent payments are only reviewed quarterly for customers, if they are outside of a fixed term agreement, the equivalent of a fixed-rate mortgage.
Buy-to-let and expats
Gatehouse Bank has offered Shariah-complaint finance since December and has seen significant demand, including for landlords, with buy-to-let plans offering the same benefits.
A key part of our strategy is to target under-served markets, and we have been able to assist homebuyers and landlords who have found it hard to arrange financing and proceed with a property purchase, including expats and international residents.
Shariah-compliant finance is considered mainstream in many developed nations and we believe the market opportunity is significant for UK residents, expats and overseas buyers.
Millennials increasingly value face-to-face financial advice – Calder
In the early days, borrowing needs were relatively straightforward with product ranges limited and very much restricted to the high-street to reflect consumer habits.
The emergence of the intermediary market in the 1980’s helped transform a market previously dominated by building societies, as limitations were exposed in their lending quotas. This lending gap, and increased demand, resulted in banks extending their product portfolios.
A move swiftly followed by other providers spotting the available opportunities and entering the mortgage market. Innovation and additional complexity soon followed with the introduction of variable mortgages and a more flexible approach to mortgages and finances in general.
This paved the way for the intermediary community to scale new heights as a new breed of specialist lenders rose to prominence.
From there I’m sure most of us can remember the impact of niche markets such as buy-to-let, non-conforming, secured loans and short-term finance – among others.
Mortgage market adaptions
This isn’t intended to be a history lesson, what I’m trying to outline is how quickly the mortgage market has had to adapt to differing borrowing needs in a relatively short space of time, and that certainly remains the case as another decade of lending comes to a close.
And there are additional considerations to take into account when it comes to the lending tree in the 2020’s.
Research from Barclays Mortgages recently revealed that three in ten homeowners are now living in inter-generational homes, with likely causes being young adults moving back in with their parents and an increasingly ageing population.
On average, 23 per cent of homeowners were suggested to have converted living space into an additional bedroom, with a quarter of respondents making these adaptations within the last two years.
With 2.4 million 20–34-year olds suggested to be living with their parents, an increase of 19 per cent since 1997, it’s no surprise that homeowners are looking to adapt their homes to create more space for their adult children to live with them under the same roof.
Although the number of inter-generational families differs across the country with more people living with adult relatives in cities such as London or Birmingham, with increasing housing costs likely to be a contributing factor.
Millenials valuing financial advice
This shift fits with recent comments made by academic and generations expert Dr Eliza Filby, as reported on the Mortgage Solutions website, when she spoke at the latest Women’s Executive Finance Forum (WEFF) leadership event.
Looking specifically at the issue of young adults, Filby described them as a “financially squeezed generation”, noting that where boomers were encouraged to invest in assets and save in pensions, young people now prioritise short-term experiences.
In other observations from the talk, millennials are suggested to be optimists and Generation Z – those born between the mid-90s and mid 00s – are realists.
It was also noted that millennials are growing up and beginning to value face-to-face experiences, including financial advice. This is a positive sign and one which the intermediary market should be taking note of.
As ever, lenders and intermediaries need to understand current trends and factors which are influencing multi-generational living, inter-generational lending and how families can stay in control of their finances as they plan for a change in their home – whether it’s a big move, a re-mortgage or home improvements.
That way they can try and stay one step ahead in being best positioned to meet their ever-changing borrowing needs.
More options needed to stop first-time buyers without family support being excluded – Adams
The former demographic is widely considered to have benefited significantly from an economic environment which has bequeathed them such gifts as house price inflation, free education, final-salary pension schemes, and the like.
Meanwhile younger people have been left to pick up the cost of austerity, large student loans, low wages, high rental costs, and so on, which have left them struggling to get on the housing ladder.
Of course, this is a very generalist view and there are plenty of pensioners living in poverty with only their state pension to rely on, while certain millennials are fortunate to have parents to help them secure a first home.
Neither situation is of course anywhere near ideal, but one wonders about some of the recommendations made by the House of Lords Select Committee on tackling intergenerational fairness.
This is particularly in relation to the mortgage market and the suggestion that the market, and the regulator itself, should be doing more to provide products which help family members support their younger offspring.
No chance without parental support?
I support the committee’s view on building more new homes which might also be “accessible and adaptable for older generations” so that they might want to downsize into these properties.
However, I can’t help but feel that the committee has bought a line which effectively suggests that nowadays only younger people with family support can buy a home.
If that’s the point which we’ve arrived at, then I think there needs to be a fundamental rethinking of our priorities because I’m quite sure that there will be more people who cannot access parental support rather than can.
Are we now effectively saying that without a parental cash injection or guarantor, you pretty much have no chance of being able to become an owner-occupier?
A number of commentators have queried recently whether the first-time buyer mortgage market has already turned into one which requires parental support in order to purchase?
This report appears to be encouraging a further move in this direction, rather than also seeking to help those potential purchasers who do not have that support and may only be able to stump up a small deposit.
There is a strong argument to suggest already that the family-supported first-time buyer market is very well served.
There is hardly a lender that is not offering first-time buyer products which require a guarantor or savings from family members to be put away, or are willing to offer higher loan-to-value (LTV) deals if such guarantees are in place.
Not forgetting all those who accept gifted deposits and the like, plus we have a growing number of joint borrower sole proprietor-type mortgages and increasingly equity release is being utilised to support first-timers onto the housing ladder.
You might argue that the market is awash with options for those who have family support.
What we tend not to have are plenty of mortgage options for those who cannot go to a parent or family member and ask for their financial help.
Cater for those not supported
High LTV mortgage product numbers have risen over the last 12 months, but the levels of business being written are still relatively small and high LTV for many lenders means 90 per cent, rather than anything higher.
The biggest obstacle for first-timers is getting a deposit together which is large enough to meet high house price valuations, and is enough for the mortgage to be affordable.
There is an opportunity for lenders to offer both higher LTV products and to ensure their pricing does not mean – as it currently does – that those with small deposits pay up to 50 per cent more each month than those with, for example, a 75 per cent LTV product.
Lenders are always going to provide plenty of options for those with access to parental support because it significantly reduces their risk.
Instead of calling for more of the same the select committee should be urging them to cater for those who are not so fortunate.
Downsizing changes coming and review of equity release products underway – Hodge
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.
Promoting execution-only is not treating customers fairly – Hunt
One of those appears to be that we have the same regulator that introduced the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) – which placed advice on a pedestal – now seemingly suggesting that many consumers don’t need that advice.
Instead it is focusing much attention on why clients are not always recommended the cheapest mortgage and a desire to change its rules to facilitate more execution-only business.
That seems like a fundamental change in direction and one that, if it makes it through to new rules, will have a big impact on our sector and the lives of advisers.
Bizarrely, at the same time, we have a government which, in two new guides for prospective home buyers and sellers, outlines the work of advisers and how they might be useful.
This is especially so if the individual is self-employed or has some unusual circumstances which might curtail the number of mortgages available to them.
Is there a discrepancy here? Why do we have a regulator seemingly intent on eroding the importance of advice, when it was the one that created an environment where advice was deemed all-important?
How is this TCF?
I read with great interest the comments of Robert Sinclair at FSE Manchester where he talked about the ‘deceitful’ and ‘dangerous’ consultation paper on these advice changes.
These are strong terms, and knowing Robert well, he would have thought long and hard before using them, but they clearly outline the depth of feeling on this matter and how important it is for the industry to push back against the proposed changes.
Is Robert right? Are we effectively seeing a regulator attempting to reverse-engineer the market into a place where execution-only is far more accessible and therefore acceptable, simply because the levels of such business are much higher than it anticipated?
It does seem odd, especially when you read the words of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) itself which recognises and accepts that an increased amount of execution-only business is likely to mean that more consumers get unsuitable mortgages.
How can this be right or deemed to be treating consumers fairly?
We must make the case again
Having worked within an environment where advice has not just been prominent but widely accepted as right for the vast majority of clients, it seems that we are going to have to make the case for mortgage advice all over again.
No-one is going to make the case for us.
Our industry has to do this and it has to use all the positive examples of what mortgage advice can deliver to clients.
For instance, I saw a tweet from a broker which highlighted how they’d saved a client over £7,000 in mortgage payments over a 24-month period.
For a regulator seemingly obsessed with price that might fit the bill, but the bigger message cannot just be on cost, it has to include all the protections that come with advice, which clients simply will not get by going execution-only.
Taking it for granted
There are many positives that we in this industry might take for granted, and if we are doing this, then so will our clients and mortgage borrowers in general.
That cannot be allowed to happen – regulatory changes are unlikely to go in our favour this time, but that does not mean advice is not still the best option for the vast majority of people.
It’s perhaps time to put that message forward again because those who might wish to push execution-only options, and cut out the adviser, are about to have those wishes granted.
Equity Release and Inheritance Tax planning can make for uncomfortable bedfellows – Moore Blatch
The largest inheritance issue most people face is the equity in their homes.
The current Nil Rate Band for inheritance tax (IHT) of £325,000 combined with the Transferable Nil Rate Band give a potential £650,000 IHT saving for a married couple or civil partnership.
The limit increases if the residence passes to descendants by an extra £150,000 IHT allowance per person.
This allowance is called the Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB) and is due to rise to £175,000 by 2020. It can be transferred to your spouse or civil partner.
However, this RNRB applies to estates up to £2m reducing the amount that can be claimed for estates above this limit.
Conflict with trusts
Equity release allows owners to reduce the value of the property on their estate for Inheritance Tax (IHT) and at the same time still to benefit from the full value of the property by continuing to live in it.
Other homeowners may have sought to use trusts as a way of estate planning.
However, a little known, but significant, issue arises where equity release is considered by those who have already undertaken some tax or estate planning, for example by setting up trusts.
Trusts are common and can be vital to secure the wellbeing of surviving partners, reduce their tax exposure, or ensure that people can direct their wealth where they want after their death.
A common example is where a partner leaves in first instance a share of their property on a ‘life interest trust’ to their current partner¸ so that the survivor can live there until their time comes, and the ultimate beneficiaries of this share of the property will be their children.
Potentially disastrous outcomes
One would think that such arrangements should be straightforward, but problems occur when trying to combine equity release with the tax planning solution.
This is specifically the case when a widowed person chooses to remarry. These second relationships require great care in order to avoid unforeseen and potentially disastrous outcomes.
For example, if a party leaves a life interest in a property to their partner but the equity release product was only in his or her name, the equity release product will become payable on that party’s death and therefore must be repaid then.
This could then force the surviving partner out of their home.
Previous relationships and children
Another common problem occurs when a couple have had previous marriages or relationships and children.
It is common for the new partner to stay living in the house after their death but then for each partner to want their share to go to ‘their own’ children.
The danger that arises when these issues have not been sufficiently well thought through, is that any trust drafted to take account of the equity release product might result in a situation whereby the outstanding loan repayment comes only from the share of the last surviving partner – causing extreme family friction after death due to the financial imbalance created between the families.
Problems also occur if a property is placed in a life interest trust with a view to seeking to avoid care home fees.
This can have huge financial risks and could be a completely pointless exercise if the owner is also looking to use equity release.
The trust would prevent the property being available for equity release and might even deprive retirees of a valuable option to release funds in their later years with which to live comfortably.
These are just three examples of how common estate planning tools and equity release need very careful consideration.
They highlight situations in which perfectly reasonable attempts at estate planning can fail if suitable advice is not taken at the outset and at points of change in any given circumstances.
Specialist legal advice can help prevent many of the issues and indeed resolve some of the problems inadvertently already created.
Equity release can be a very viable solution for IHT planning and the family home, but the danger comes when equity release becomes the de facto financial solution especially if other IHT planning strategies are already in place or being considered.
Any broker that is asked about equity release and estate planning would be advised to recommend to their client that they also seek legal advice to go alongside the recommendations.