The majority of brokers seem to be prepared for any IT mishaps, as 54.5 per cent said they had finished making their business resilient to IT meltdowns after being asked by Mortgage Solutions.
However, in response to the question: ‘Is your business operationally resilient in the event of an IT meltdown?’, a large proportion of brokers appear ill-equipped as 33.3 per cent said they had made no preparations.
Some 12.1 per cent said they were in the process of putting a plan in place.
Too much of a risk
Paul Flavin, managing director of Mortgages.Online said he was surprised that a third of companies were not taking complications with IT systems more seriously, considering the high threat of cybercrime and hacking to client data.
“Who, in this day and age, could survive without their phone, let alone their computer system?” he said.
Flavin’s firm makes sure everything is backed up. He said: “We have all IT cloud based as well as having two offsite back up hubs.
“Once every six months we do test the data retrieval capabilities to ensure that, in the event of a meltdown we are able to continue trading and have access to all documentation and systems.”
Despite the measures that have been taken to minimise the effect of any IT issues, Flavin acknowledged that it would never be completely fool proof.
He added: “I’m not for one minute saying that in the event of said meltdown we would not go through a certain amount of pain but, the pain felt is more discomfort than life threatening.”
Akhil Mair, managing director and specialist mortgage broker at Our Mortgage Broker said his firm took “necessary levels of action” to protect client data and had systems in place to maintain a high level of security and ensure business continued as normal.
“We continue to hear of data hacks worldwide, and it’s imperative that UK and international cyber companies maintain good levels of dialogues and take the necessary precautions,” he said.
Back to basics
Mark Watson, director of Watson and Co said it would be “back to the 80s” for his firm in the event of an IT meltdown as it wouldn’t be able to handle the volumes of business modern methods allow it to currently turnover.
He added: “We would all have to work much harder as we will not have active data to hand, and clients would need patience as we will be duplicating information. Could we sustain looking after the client levels we have? I think not, and costs will spiral.”
Watson said his only hope would be that any glitch would be temporary as if it is for the long term, his firm would have to “go back to a one-off transactional basis or smaller client banks” to make business easier to manage.
Andrew Nicolaides, director of Elite Mortgage Finance, said his business would be able to withstand any failures with its IT system but also acknowledged that if all were to go down, he would also have to resort to stripped down measures.
He said: “Everything is mainly internet and cloud based however, our systems can also work offline. Plus, we have access to our files as hard drive backups are also in place.
“We have a number of PCs should any fail along with two separate internet providers plus mobile data network if needed. We are also able to take a laptop and work from various Wi-Fi locations locally.”
He added: “Should all the above fail we could turn back to the likes of paper application fax and post.”
Mark Quinn, director of engineering, Mojo Mortgages, said he believed the third of businesses which were not ready for IT meltdowns were likely to be older firms with legacy systems therefore making “the job of creating resiliency much harder”.
Safety net of technology
Piers Mepsted, managing director at Financial Advice Centre, said while applicants, brokers and lenders alike would not wish to return to the days of paper-based mortgage applications and using a fax machine, the results of the poll were not too surprising.
“As we all grapple with keeping ahead of how technology can help us do things faster and make life simpler for clients – we all blindly trust the technology will never let us down.
“When things are running smoothly, we take it for granted that this will continue,” he said.
However, he said it was this reliance that should encourage businesses to have a “robust contingency plan” in place to protect client data and allow the acceptance of new business with minimal impact.
“This is a real and relevant threat to us all. Without a plan in place, we will be left thinking hindsight is a luxury we cannot afford,” he said.
John Phillips, national operations director of Just Mortgages said although brokers were not different to anyone else in being reliant on technology, he was surprised that a third had made no preparations.
He said: “They [brokers] owe it to themselves and especially their clients to ensure records are securely and safely stored, so it’s not good enough to rely on having them on your laptop and hoping for the best.”
It is expected that the majority of firms are already resilient or in the process of making themselves so, said Quinn, as most businesses developed their technical solutions with potential failures in mind.
To counteract any meltdowns, Mojo Mortgages also attempted to be one step ahead during the development of its own system.
He added: “Our infrastructure has been created to both defend against potential threats, and quickly recover from a total meltdown. Our disaster recovery strategy is tested on a quarterly basis, and in our most recent test, we were able to recover from total loss, back to live in three hours.”
Phillips said for advisers, being part of something bigger served is an advantage as not only was Just Mortgages’ data backed up on its own servers, but also on Openwork.
“We have a lot of processes in place to ensure that an IT meltdown doesn’t occur in the first place, but we’re also well placed to deal with any loss of data should the worst happen,” he added.