This week, speaking on Mortgage Solutions Television, Luke Christodoulides, senior corporate account manager at NatWest, suggested that service levels from lenders have never been better, with improvements in the use of technology playing a big part.
And brokers have agreed that lenders have made a “concerted effort” to improve their processes, though flagged up some areas that are still ripe for improvement.
Removing postal delays
David Sheppard, managing director of Perception Finance, said there was no doubt lenders had enhanced their IT offering, which was making a real difference to the decision-making process.
He noted that simply having the ability to upload documents into the case was hugely beneficial, as it cut out any queues that come from the postal service, as well as waiting to then be manually added before being looked at by underwriters.
He added: “With automated valuations and the reduction in documents that are needed we have seen a concerted effort by a lot of lenders to tackle the areas that can delay the house buying process. That said, the true test of this will be when the market is back to normal business levels as it is easy to have good service standards when the market is slower which it appears to be right now.”
Andy Wilson, founder of Andy Wilson Financial Services, agreed that having the option to upload certified documents and get them signed off within hours rather than days sat in the postal queue had made a significant difference.
He continued: “Early assessment of a new case by the lender also helps to let brokers know what documentation is missing, and what else is needed so they can get it from the client for upload at the earliest opportunity.”
Access to underwriters
Wilson also pointed to brokers now having greater access to case handlers, who can sign off aspects of an application and generate an offer without having to pass the case on to “overworked underwriters who often slow the offer issue down for no reason other than volumes of work”.
He added: “In my view, Halifax stands out in this area as a lender who can turn cases around quickly.”
Room for improvement
Sheppard argued that lenders could improve service levels still further by tackling the “unnecessary questions” that pop up in the application process.
“We still have lenders that will ask for the address of their current lender when this does not add any value, and for residential remortgage cases they will ask for the address of where the borrower wants to remortgage when this will already have been put in on the address history screen,” he added.
Wilson added that further improvements to communication would also be welcome, noting that the sooner a broker is able to park a case as the mortgage has been offered, the better.
He continued: “Clients are also more grateful knowing that one of their main home buying hurdles is out of the way too, and by communicating to clients early on exactly what documentation they need to provide, they can get their offers much faster.”
James Mole, managing director of London Belgravia Wealth Management, suggested that service standards “come and go in waves”, and cautioned that too many lenders make it difficult to call them both pre‒ and post-enquiry, preferring brokers use a web messaging service.
“I cannot tell you how much this frustrates me on a daily basis. Those that pick up the phone get more business, for sure,” he added.