We are currently enjoying a buoyant market, with levels of business not seen since the late 1980s. However, it seems that all this activity and growth in business is hindered by age-old problems of creaking processes and outdated new business systems.
Lenders often support increased demand with attractive product offerings. While consumers welcome this stance, there is a need for caution when the drive for growth and market share is delivered without sufficient support and resources in place. Inevitably, the resulting poor levels of service severely affect the reputation of everyone involved at point of sale.
Surely now is the time for intermediaries to vote with their feet and boycott the poor service providers. Unfortunately, we tend to forget the frustration suffered when a new, attractive product comes along.
Intermediaries should take a long-term approach to improving service, and support the technological developments designed to aid the mortgage process. There has been so much talk about the changing face of technology and, as an industry, we have identified technology as a way in which more business can be transacted, in less time and without inhibiting our ability to offer terms to a wider audience.
The Mortgage Brain consortium may represent one good example of speeding up the process of common trading practices. But it is equally important that lenders match their lending ambitions with appropriate resources and that clear and consistent communications are issued to provide early warnings of problems. If we all have our expectations of service managed in a realistic fashion, it will avoid much disappointment.
Common trading practices have not been successfully introduced and are unlikely to appear miraculously tomorrow. However, the past two years have seen the emergence and rapid growth of a new type of lender, such as Intelligent Finance and Virgin One.
Everyone who has participated in this ‘new lender’ experience will have seen the service benefits.
Application data communicated over the phone as part of a decision-in-principle procedure has been identified as a key reason for the excellent service offered by Virgin One ‘ currently, its turnaround time from application to offer averages just six days.
But, dedicated phone support lines and rapid decisions on receipt of fax and online enquiries also illustrate that high service standards can be met with appropriate levels of staffing and clear communication channels. I am sure it is no coincidence that many first-time borrowers return time and again once they have ventured into these ‘new service environments.’
Martin Maynard is managing director of Mortgage Next