The Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) and the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) are among the leading voices to denounce bullying, hate speech and verbal attacks within the industry.
It comes after Nationwide recently said it has seen a general increase in hate speech towards employees, including a small number of incidents where frontline staff such as BDMs had been subjected to abuse by brokers.
The lender said maintaining service levels in the current climate has been a challenge, but cannot be a catalyst for “vile, personal abuse”.
There are now concerns that the stamp duty holiday deadline at the end of March could ramp up the pressure on all parts of the homebuying process at the start of next year.
The higher levels of stress and anxiety may create more situations where tensions spill over and cross the line from grievance to abuse.
Kate Davies, executive director at IMLA, said: “The challenges of the crisis have inevitably placed more pressure on us all and in some cases tempers have run short.
“However, we owe it to ourselves and our colleagues to keep these situations under control, or at least apologise when it is time to do so…
“The mortgage industry to made up of a wide range of people, all of whom are professionals and should be expected to behave as such. That means remaining courteous to everyone we deal with, even when things go wrong, and problems arise.
“We’re all human and I’m as guilty as anyone of getting frustrated when things don’t work as they’re ‘supposed’ to. However, to be abusive towards colleagues and others such as those manning customer service lines during this difficult period is certainly never acceptable.”
Robert Sinclair, chief executive of AMI told Mortgage Solutions that “abuse of any type is not acceptable” and it is important people “take a step back” where necessary.
He said: “There’s a boundary when [complaints] become deeply personal – and it crosses the line.
“It’s an issue for the industry in its widest sense because we’re regulated, there’s a duty of care to customer and colleagues… Nobody should expect to be abused for fulfilling their job.”
Helen Harrison, head of intermediary distribution at Santander for Intermediaries, said: “The current property market is set to see a record number of completions within the first quarter of 2021, and we know that a busy market can lead to some challenges.
“We appreciate the important role that everyone in the process has, from the brokers we work closely with, through to the removal company the customer chooses, and it is now more vital than ever that we work together to help our customers towards their homeownership dreams.”
Abuse in the industry can also mean serious career consequences.
Nationwide said it has removed brokers from its panel in cases where they cross the line and become abusive.
Depending on the circumstances the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) can also ban individuals for non-financial misconduct.
In many cases if a broker is removed from panel, the regulator is notified as to the reasons why.
Brokers experience abuse from clients
Of course, advisers can also be on the receiving end of abuse – in some cases from their own clients.
Again, with the additional stresses the mortgage market is currently under, managing emotions among customers has often been a challenge in itself – and this could increase going into the new year.
Gemma Harle, managing director of Quilter Financial Planning, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has undoubtedly caused people to be under a huge amount of stress and when people are stressed, they can behave in a way that is out of character.
“The crisis has defined the entire year for mortgages and created complications that no one could have foreseen. Moving or buying a home is always a difficult period but this was made even more challenging as people faced the impacts of furlough, a clogged market, and strict lending criteria.”
Harle said, however, it is unacceptable for brokers to be disrespected, and the company has produced material from behavioural economists to help advisers have difficult conversations with clients.
She added: “However, it’s not always possible to manage a client’s emotions and has highlighted some behaviour is just not okay.
“Any incident like this would always be investigated thoroughly but sadly these kinds of incidents often go unreported. This serves to only make the situation worse as mortgage advisers face a cocktail of increased demands and workload, whilst needing to remain calm and support their clients through major financial and life events while often working at home alone.”
Quilter launched a mental health support programme for advisers and partnered with Spill, specialists in workplace mental health at the start of the pandemic.