According to the 150 brokers surveyed, the top three growth opportunities expected in 2022 are specialist residential with 62 per cent, specialist buy-to-let at 60 per cent and specialist bridging at 30 per cent.
The Crystal Specialist Finance survey found that ‘the commercial and development finance markets are set to explode with the benefits of a ‘relaxed planning approval environment.’
Intermediaries are also optimistic about businesses’ prospects, with 88 per cent expecting to see growth in the next year, 28 per cent of whom forecast ‘excellent growth’.
The study also explored how the impact of the health crisis could cause shifts in consumer behaviour, and what skills and knowledge brokers needed to see growth and success next year.
Jo Breeden, managing director of Crystal Specialist Finance said: “It is encouraging to see that despite more than half of our surveyed mortgage brokers finding the pandemic hard, they stated their outlook to be optimistic for the future.
“Now as we find ourselves back on terra firma and look towards the next 12 months, the mortgage industry has an opportunity to thrive in the fertile landscape ahead.”
The outlook for 2022
A positive 88 per cent of mortgage brokers expect to see excellent or marginal growth in the next 12 months, with a new second wave of demand expected as the ‘race for space’ continues with buyers still prioritising permanent home offices, larger outside space and more rural or coastal areas.
For those who fall through the cracks of high-street borrowing, this is where specialist lenders are uniquely placed to offer an invaluable safety net.
Martin Reynolds, chief executive officer, SimplyBiz Mortgages said: “Last year has really brought home the value of a helping hand and guidance and so the role of the mortgage intermediary is now even more central to the mortgage process than pre-pandemic.”
Digital tech ‘revolutionising the market’
Crystal found that ‘the coming revolution of electronic IDs and digital verification will offer a valuable alternative to manual processing and arduous hard copy document administration.’
Promising to speed up the mortgage process through one end-to-end platform, it will also make strides in tackling fraud with the technology combining credit reference and electoral roll data, digital fraud checks and biometric facial recognition.
Emma Cox, sales director, at Shawbrook Bank, said: “Digital technologies are revolutionising the mortgage market and changing the face of our industry. The pandemic has accelerated digital first technology and has ushered in a new era of tech savvy borrowers. By harnessing the benefits of a digitised mortgage journey, brokers can expect an enhanced user experience with flexible methods of communication, a simplified application process requiring minimal data input.
“Brokers that embrace fintech innovation are able to differentiate from those preferring more traditional methods, delivering more effectively on borrower expectations in the rise of a digital age and avoid being ‘left behind’.”
Ensuring success next year
Crystal found that 52 per cent of brokers said juggling their work/life balance had been their biggest struggle during the pandemic, with 66 per cent working more than 45 hours per week mid-pandemic. The third biggest challenge facing brokers was mental health and wellbeing with 32 per cent saying this was their biggest hurdle during Covid.
The work landscape is also changing for brokers with a reported 56 per cent saying they preferred to communicate through virtual meetings, while 67 per cent said phone calls were their preferred method of speaking to clients and colleagues.
However, 57 per cent of brokers still prefer coming into the office and conducting meetings face to face, suggesting that the current blend of virtual and IRL interactions will carry on well into 2022.
Self-service and automated chatbot tools will also become more commonplace in the finance industry, with 18 per cent of mortgage brokers saying these tools are now their preferred method of communication overall.
Breedon concludes: “Mortgage brokers and lenders alike have the ability and responsibility to help customers rebuild after the crisis. Together, we can act as the lighthouse to help those who still find themselves on stormy seas trying to navigate to the shore.
“A beacon which comes in the form of expert guidance, innovative digital customer journeys, and bespoke financial products that generously and sensitively take into consideration the unique circumstances consumers find themselves in.”