Speaking at the Mortgage and Protection Event in Salford last week, Jeremy Duncombe, managing director of Accord Mortgages, warned that many brokers are overlooking the tech solutions introduced by lenders in order to speed up the process.
He called on brokers to adapt to the technology that lenders had invested in, rather than rely on outdated methods, and warned that if they didn’t lenders may have to pull business development managers and the like off of the road, and instead set them up in central call centres so that they can deal with broker queries on the phone.
However, brokers have criticised the approach to technology from lenders, arguing that all too often, they have little option but to get in touch with lending teams directly.
I can’t rely on webchat
Lenders let themselves down by employing a “half-hearted” attitude towards broker tech, according to Samantha Bickford, managing director of The Mortgage Girl.
She noted that lenders employ a varied approach to webchat, with some only offering criteria information and not specific case updates, meaning she has to call the lender team anyway.
She added: “If case updates and the web chat function are really effective then yes absolutely this can improve a broker’s workload. A quick message to a BDM on web chat can give you the answer needed. Furness are a great example of how this works well.”
Scott Taylor-Barr, financial adviser at Carl Summers Financial Services, agreed that lender systems are variable in both quality and reliability, adding that lenders often do a poor job in communicating with brokers about those systems.
He continued: “Webchat is great, when it’s actually switched on. Not all lenders use the same quality of personnel to staff the webchat as you often get over the phone, leading to trust issues in terms of the information you are given.”
Lewis Shaw, founder of Shaw Financial Services, criticised lender webchat services, arguing that they can take a long time to actually connect, with contradictory answers often provided.
He continued: “Usually, if I’m calling a BDM or lending team, it’s to get a reply to a question that isn’t easily formulated in a couple of lines on webchat.”
Get on the phone
Stuart Powell, managing director of Ocean Mortgages, noted that all too often BDMs simply want to inform brokers about the latest criteria changes, and argued that brokers often simply want a quick answer to a client question and will look for the route that provides that, whether that be a call to a BDM or a webchat.
He added: “Mortgage BDMs should be on the phone and webchat available to brokers instead of on the road for half their working week.”
This was echoed by Shaw, who said that lenders would be better served by ditching webchat services and instead having more staff available over the phone. He continued: “Lenders have tried to over-engineer a solution to a problem they created by introducing webchat.”
Human contact essential
Shaw praised Halifax, Accord and Mansfield Building Society, saying that they stood out because brokers can always speak to an actual person at the lender for help with a case.
He continued: “Yes, tech is, of course, essential but don’t forget that brokers have myriad roles, constantly sat looking at screens, interest rates, working stuff out, acting as counsellors to clients, negotiating with estate agents, writing reports, dealing with solicitors and responding to email in the way only Sisyphus understands; it’s easy to overlook, but in this ever more technological age, it’s essential to have some human contact.”
Jane King, mortgage adviser at Ash-Ridge Private Finance, noted that lender tech systems are generally OK when the case is straightforward, but when a case has more complex issues they will struggle, meaning that she has little option but to call the lender to move things along.
She continued: “If a case is slightly outside criteria then a phone call is the only way to find out if it is worth submitting an application. The tech won’t tell you, it has to be an underwriter. I have several examples when webchat gave me a very different answer to my BDM and the BDM tends to be the better source of information.”
More advanced systems are “hit and miss”, according to Taylor-Barr, who noted that as not all lenders are signed up to specific platforms, it ends up being simpler to default straight to the lender’s own site.
He also warned that for future systems to gain traction with brokers, they will need to be adopted by a larger proportion of lenders, all agreeing to the same standards.
“The platform needs to be robust and someone needs to take responsibility for the data and outputs – many brokers will have had heated debates when an IT system has given contradictory information to the lender, but it’s neither who are at fault; the lender will blame the IT firm and the IT firm will blame the lender – the broker is left to somehow sort the whole mess out with their client,” he continued.
Jamie Thompson, founder of Jamie Thompson Mortgages, questioned how well lenders have done in telling brokers about the tech they have developed, and suggested that having BDMs back on the road might actually prove more effective in getting the message out.
Thompson added that having dozens of extra systems, with one from each lender, does not actually help brokers and called on lenders to devise solutions that actually address broker needs.
“Having your questions answered correctly and quickly is far more powerful than some novelty tech and can win a lender the business as the broker has confidence to place the case with them. Hats off to the lenders that actually provide that,” he concluded.
However, other brokers were clear that some lender tech is making a substantial improvement to their processes.
Rob Gill, managing director of Altura Finance, said that his firm had started using integrations with lenders to complete applications, which had both saved time for his adviser while also reducing the risk of re-keying errors.
This was echoed by Rob Peters, principal at Simple Fast Mortgages, who said: “For us, lenders’ online chat facilities can offer a fantastic way to quickly engage with the lender, whilst at the same time providing an accurate audit trail of the query and resolution, should a challenge occur at a later date.”