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Lenders must improve communications as service issues make borrowers nervous, brokers say

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  • 20/08/2020
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Lenders must improve communications as service issues make borrowers nervous, brokers say
A lack of updates, redeployed staff and the need to discuss cases before they are submitted has left brokers speculating whether they are being discouraged from working with overwhelmed lenders.

 

Brokers told Mortgage Solutions they appreciated lenders were trying their best despite the circumstances, but said this had strained relationships between themselves, lenders and their mortgage clients.

They also suggested better communications from lenders would help to ease the pressure and increase confidence as borrowers become increasingly nervous.

Payam Azadi, director and partner at Niche Advice, said he understood lenders were “under the kosh” but suggested extra measures left him questioning lender intentions. 

Regarding those who have asked brokers to discuss cases with business development managers (BDMs) before submission, Azadi added: “Brokers might wonder: ‘do they actually want that business?’ because if you have a case that’s urgent, you won’t place it with them.” 

He also implied the often higher repricing of certain mortgages was not only risk-based, but an attempt to “stem the flow” of business. 

Many lenders have urged advisers not to call as they are struggling to handle all queries, but some brokers fear this may cause cases to fall through especially with rate and criteria changes potentially making borrowers ineligible or unwilling to proceed.

Rachel Dixon, mortgage adviser at RH Dixon, said she had seen more clients than ever pull out of applications because they were nervous about their own circumstances and the market. As a result, she has begun to ask clients a list of questions so she can “cherry pick” the cases she feels most confident about.

She added: “We have this window of opportunity with stamp duty and we’re getting pressure on our end because clients are wanting to see us but we’re not getting deliverance at the other end. Everything is slow and grinding to a halt.  

“How will we manage our complaints?” she said. We’ve got six months until the end of the tax break but that’s going to be the next thing – getting everyone through before the deadline. 

Ashley Brown, director of Moneysprite, agreed: “Simply turning phone lines off or a daily lottery to secure funds is especially frustrating for advisers.” 

 

Volume lender struggle 

Azadi said that while all lenders were under pressure, it was mainstream lenders who were particularly hit as they are typically used to processing mortgages in large numbers. 

“Historically lenders were confident by the aid of technology, but now more and more cases have to be individually underwritten.

“That’s not a problem for specialist lenders but it is for a volume lender. All of a sudden, they have to put a series of manual processes in,” he added. 

 

Redeployed staff

To manage customer services, some lender staff have been reassigned to other departments but Moneysprite’s Brown said employees needed to be allocated back to broker channels to speed up operations. 

He added: Despite best efforts to manage expectations this still grates with clients and does not lead to the seamless service one would hope to deliver which can only be a bad thing for our industry. 

This is also a frustration for BDMs, Altura Mortgage Finance managing director Rob Gill pointed out, as he spoke to some who had been tasked with other duties. 

“Four or five months into the pandemic it’s clear lenders are still suffering with people working from home. Maybe they don’t have the infrastructure or people around us to help us do our jobs at our best,” he added. 

 

Managing expectations 

James McGregor, director at Mesa Financial Consultants, has been stricter with his own underwriting so cases could be “packaged and delivered as clean as possible” before it goes to a lender.

However, he saiit would be best if it was made clear from the outset how long a case would take to avoid issues and so the client could be informed. 

Adam Wells, co-founder of Lloyd Wells Mortgages, said he would also appreciate more communication as he was told he would be given an update on an application twice only for it not to happen. 

He said: “Everyone is understanding that with working from home, service levels might drop. The important thing is to be honest and manage people’s expectations.  

“A simple, ‘we hope to have your application assessed by close of business on Friday, but please don’t tell your client that as it could carry on until Tuesday’ would have prevented both myself and the lender looking unprofessional.” 

Wells also suggested this experience would make him less likely to use the lender in the future. 

George Roberts, mortgage and compliance director at Financial Advice Centre, said for him this meant not relying on answerphone messages or referring buyers to generic website statements when more specific information is needed. 

He said: “Going forward, lenders need to embrace this ethos and focus on finding ways to manage expectations, communicate and deliver service standards in a timely fashion using the technology available we all now use.”

 

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