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Randomised BDM help desks weaken lender-broker relationships – analysis

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  • 03/05/2022
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Randomised BDM help desks weaken lender-broker relationships – analysis
Having a dedicated and named business development manager (BDM) is essential to building relationships between lenders and mortgage advisers as it forms confidence and trust, brokers have said.

 

Lenders often determine which brokers gain access to a dedicated BDM depending on how much business they complete, meaning some advisers find themselves pushed out from the priority list and lose the contact they once had. 

On the whole, brokers said they understood this model from a business perspective, acknowledging that smaller and specialist lenders were more likely to provide these services through region-specific BDMs.

Scott Taylor-Barr, financial adviser at Carl Summers Financial Services, used to work at Norwich and Peterborough Building Society’s intermediary sales teams and said lenders may not be willing to make a BDM on an £80,000 salary easily accessible to a broker who did not give them an equivalent volume of business. 

Taylor-Barr added: “It can feel unfair from a broker’s point of view because some lenders do have a BDM team but the only point of contact will be a call centre. But from a business point of view, I suppose it makes sense. If brokers were on the other side, they might do the same thing.” 

Colin Payne, associate director at Chapelgate Private Finance, who also has intermediary sales experience, said it was about BDM capacity too. 

He added: “I understand that you can’t fit 40,000 brokers into a 15-person BDM team. But at the same time, how often do [brokers] ring some of these lenders?” 

 

Operations reshuffle 

Some brokers noted that they had lost direct access to a BDM due to a restructuring of lender operations in favour of telephony or digital processes. 

Adam Wells, co-founder of Lloyd Wells said he experienced “lots of this happening”, for example, when his firm changed networks. Immediately, the six-year relationship with their BDM was severed and the contact stopped taking their calls overnight. 

At another lender, Wells lost face-to-face access with the BDM there while the telephone-based contact moved on to a new job. 

“We’re now left with only their live talk function for pre-application enquiries,” he said. 

He said he was grateful that his network was able to look at cases and escalate them on the firm’s behalf when needed. 

Wells added: “It really feels like BDMs powers have been removed over the last couple of years leaving some brilliant members of staff becoming lightning rods for when things go wrong.” 

James McGregor, director of Mesa Financial, said he also noticed that “a number of lenders now only offer telephony BDMs”. 

He said while this was typically fine for his firm, the complete transition to live chats were a “complete waste of time”. 

“Given that time is most people’s most precious asset, it can be extremely frustrating wasting all of your time on a live chat or on hold waiting an hour for someone to answer the phone,” he added. 

McGregor suspected that the cost of a BDM could be the reason for this. 

He added: “The best lender service is when you can speak with a BDM on the phone to get the quick answers you need, then if there’s ever a pressing issue you can then contact your field-based BDM to step in and help with a resolution.  

“Unfortunately, this type of service offering seems like a long-lost memory though. I believe it has more to do with lenders’ profit and loss rather than anything else.” 

 

Accuracy and confidence 

Rob Peters, principal of Simple Fast Mortgage, said some lenders opted to base their BDM helpdesk overseas, meaning language became a barrier. 

Peters said: “The operators often don’t understand the question that’s being asked when it’s a really technical question. They’ve been known to give incorrect information.” 

Taylor-Barr said while misinformation was rare, having a named or regular contact meant holding BDMs accountable and working through this. 

Peters said if he was unable to get the correct response from a lender’s criteria or web chat as an alternative, then he’d consider placing a case elsewhere. 

He added: If you’ve got a team of BDMs, and every time you’re going to contact them, you’re going to speak to a different person, it’s not as good as one-to-one personal contacts where somebody can help you get a case over the line.

Taylor-Barr said: “It changes how much business a broker might be able or willing to do with a lender.” 

Additionally, Taylor-Barr said the problem with independently checking a lender’s criteria either on their website or a sourcing system was individual queries could be confirmed but layering each aspect into one case often left brokers unsure. 

He said: “With a call centre you might get someone who knows what they’re talking about or someone who started last week. The BDMs who are out on the road tend to be the most experienced ones with any given lender – that’s a generalised statement but it’s what I’ve found. 

“You do get very experienced people on telephone teams but they’re the exception not the rule.” 

Taylor-Barr said as a result, some brokers may choose to go with the third best lender where they have a reliable contact rather than the top lender. 

 

Relationship building 

It was not thought that general digitalisation in the market had caused a move towards remote systems as brokers said it was more likely to do with costs. 

However, it was agreed that the alliance between a BDM and broker was invaluable. 

Payne said: “Don’t think we don’t need BDMs, because they were making contact with people during Covid and relationships survived because of that. 

“It’s all about relationship building and you really only get that with a one-to-one BDM.” 

Taylor-Barr admitted that some brokers were happy to never speak with a BDM but having worked on the other side, said he had “a lot of time for them”. 

“I want to use them as my sole point of contact,” he added. 

On the different job functions of a BDM, Peters said the requirement for some to visit brokers and sell a lender’s proposition was not as necessary as having a contact on call when needed. 

He also said having a balance was important. 

Peters added: “There’s a place for all of these types of services and propositions. In-person BDMs are great for dealing with specific complex cases.”

“Online web chat is great for dealing with easier queries if it’s manned by customer service staff, and has the right people on the end of it. It’s quick, and it has an audit trail. 

He said overall, it was imperative to strike the right balance between the services offered and communication styles to accommodate all brokers. 

“We need to balance that with having confidence in the responses that we’re getting,” he added. 

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