However despite the downbeat picture, there were positive overtures for the post-lockdown future and brokers noted that outside factors were playing a part in cutting down business.
In response to the question: “How much of your typical business load are you now conducting?” 81 per cent of adviser respondents said they had seen their business volumes significantly impacted by the pandemic restrictions, with 18 per cent doing no business or being furloughed.
A quarter of brokers had seen workloads halve, while 39 per cent were conducting just 25 per cent of what they are used to doing.
Only nine per cent of brokers said they were doing normal or close to normal volumes and another nine per cent said they were doing around 75 per cent of their normal business.
The majority of brokers Mortgage Solutions spoke to fell into the minority however, with many saying they were still conducting normal or close to normal volumes of business.
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This was the case for Matthew Hillyer, associate director at Largemortgageloans.com, who said “to [his] surprise” this was partly due to receiving several complex enquiries such as commercial or private bank deals before the lockdown started.
“These can take much longer to place and work through the credit, valuation and legal processes,” he added.
He said “healthy levels” of enquiries for remortgages and capital raises were keeping him busy, as was his strong existing client base.
Andrew Nicolaides, director of Elite Mortgage Finance, suggested it would be brokers who relied on new business and purchase applications who would see the most change.
He said: “I have built a strong relationship with my clients and about 75 per cent of my business is generated from existing customers remortgaging which has not been affected as much as new purchase applications.”
Lilla Dilliway, director at BlueWing Financials added to this, saying: “Someone who hasn’t been doing it for long or with a smaller client base will feel a bigger hit.” She also said a broker’s business model could be a factor in how they were affected.
This was evident for Jo Jingree, mortgage adviser at Mortgage Confidence.
Jingree said she had not been trading for long and relied mainly on property purchases, as a result, her business volumes have dropped to between a quarter and a half of what was normal for her.
Brokers said the industry’s swiftness in adapting to the situation also helped to keep business ticking over, as Hillyer praised lenders for how they have changed criteria and processes over the last six weeks to fit borrower circumstances.
He said: “The equity release industry, for example, has reacted incredibly quickly to change its processes to ensure new applications can be taken from start to completion even during lockdown and with no face to face contact required, in spite of having more requirements and legal safeguards than a standard loan.”
Nicolaides also pointed out that although many deals were reactively withdrawn from the market at the start of the lockdown making business hard to conduct, some have been brought back with changes in valuation processes and tighter criteria allowing certain mortgages to still be completed.
Additionally, a broker’s ability to adapt to the environment is just as important when it comes to keeping business stable through the pandemic.
Nicolaides added: “For those conducting the same amount of business I believe they have not been affected as they were able to adapt in the current market by using technology in way of online ID and anti-money laundering checks, Skype for face to face meetings or DocuSign for electronic signatures and document transfers.”
Although Jingree aligned with the majority who had seen a reduction in the amount of business being conducted, she said she still had a lot of purchases enquiries coming through to her.
Nicolaides and Dilliway said they were experiencing the same, both seeing continued enquiries for future purchases. However, buyers appeared to be waiting for market conditions to change before proceeding.
“This morning I’ve been on the phone back to back with enquiries, whether business will come of it, I don’t know,” Dilliway added.
As much as market conditions may be having an effect on the amount of business a broker can conduct at this time, it was also suggested that lockdown life itself might make it difficult for a broker to keep business volumes the same – even if they wanted to.
Jingree said for her, juggling parenthood and work meant something had to give.
“There is negative press around parents complaining about schools being closed and it’s unfair – parents aren’t complaining about looking after their children, we know they are our responsibility.
“But a lot of us built our business or work on the basis of schooling and childcare and that is part of the problem,” she said.
She added this made it hard for her to market herself and seek the new business she wanted, as she knew that would mean making herself even more busy.
“Your attention is being split; one minute I’m making bumble bees out of toilet roll tubes and the next minute I’m negotiating with a lender over why they won’t lend to a client,” Jingree continued.
“It’s funny but it’s hard, switching between the roles. If I didn’t have that I would market myself better for remortgage business.”