Skipton Building Society held a business leaders’ lunch at China Tang restaurant last week, where senior figures in the mortgage industry discussed current affairs in the market.
Debate chair Victoria Hartley began the discussion on the topic of the cost of living, where attendees agreed current mortgage stress tests meant most people would be able to withstand rising rates, so it was up to advisers to lessen any panic.
Delegates said this created an opportunity for brokers to show their worth by acting as a counsellor or voice of reason.
Changing rates difficult for all
Sally Laker, managing director of Mortgage Intelligence, said instant demand enabled by technology made the rising rate environment difficult for all parties in the mortgage sector.
Comparing the situation to the 1980s when rates rose to tackle inflation, she said: “The whole world has changed in the last few years.
“We were watching the interest rate go up day by day. And I think it’s not the same. Yes, there’s this rising inflation, but each time we have a drama, it’s totally different circumstances.”
She said in those days, lenders had time to make changes as updates were communicated by fax but now, leaving a soon to be withdrawn rate available for too long would leave them “bombarded”.
“What we don’t want is for them to get totally absorbed and have service problems.
“Managing that service, when everything’s instant, is hard. And for brokers, managing customer expectations. Clients think, ‘why has it changed? You said, it was going to be this [rate]?’
“So there’s a bit of readjustment on the fact that technology, while fantastic, makes everything instant and that might be where we lose out,” she added.
Laker said she was recently speaking with a lender who had not experienced a rising rate environment, so it was taking a while for them to figure out how to approach it.
She added: “I think it’s tough on both sides. As a distributor, we want to keep brokers really happy. But we also want to do our best to help the lenders.”
Chair Victoria Hartley, group editor at Mortgage Solutions, asked if lenders could help brokers by giving more notice before products were pulled.
Michelle Brooks said it “would be nice” if lenders gave more of an advanced warning but acknowledged that borrowers expecting immediacy also created a challenge.
Limiting distribution for better customer outcomes
Hartley asked attendees their opinion on the incoming consumer duty rules, set to be announced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in July. She asked as suggested by AMI CEO Robert Sinclair at the British Specialist Lending Senate whether this could lead lenders to limit distribution to better performing, quality assessed broker firms.
Rachael Hunnisett, national accounts lead at Skipton Building Society for Intermediaries, said there were “obvious benefits” to limiting distribution in some cases such as testing products with firms which have certain expertise, but ultimately it was about the customer.
She added: “What consumer duty must do is drive consumer choice and support better customer outcomes. And the link between those mustn’t be blurred in my opinion.
“It’s really important that we keep our eyes on what we’re trying to achieve in this paper, which is better customer outcomes. Does a smaller pool of people drive better customer outcomes? I’m not convinced.”
Melanie Spencer, head of Finova Payment and Mortgage Services, questioned how consumer duty would differ from treating customers fairly rules. Jane Benjamin, director mortgages at Connect for Intermediaries, said it was “sad” the FCA were coming out with this as it suggested they were still seeing poor behaviour despite existing policies.
Kelly Wicks, technical director of financial services at Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward, said it “wasn’t an even playing field” as not all firms were going through the same due diligence process.
Sarah Tucker, managing director of The Mortgage Mum, said this was why she was glad to be with a network as they could create and implement compliance practices.
Spencer suggested this could lead to more scrutiny on directly authorised (DA) broker firms to make sure they were being compliant. Benjamin said it would be a bigger challenge to smaller, one or two person DA firms who may currently be preoccupied with the busy market and not prioritise preparing for the rules.
Mental health and self-congratulation
The discussion then moved on to mental health, where attendees said it was important to put boundaries in place at work to protect wellbeing.
Wicks said: “We’re so focused on doing right by our customers that we forget that actually it is okay to not be available. And the desire to respond instantly to people, all you do is set an expectation.
“I’m constantly saying to our ops team, it’s okay to take a couple of hours or 24 hours to respond to things. You are not expected to be available every minute of every day. And the minute you start becoming that, you set the precedent.”
Tucker said the human body was “incredible” at going into survival mode but said that was only sustainable for a short period of time.
It was agreed that the busy market made it harder and the suggestion was made that lenders could offer some support.
Hunnisett said Skipton was thinking of how it could use its partnership with Mental Health UK charity to aid its broker partners.
Additionally, Simpson said people at work should aim to be more honest with their feelings so conversations could be had.
Hartley asked about the concept of “putting on a face” and how people presented themselves on LinkedIn, particularly when sharing successes.
Spencer said she was “quite particular” about what she shared on the platform while many agreed branding created barriers.
Referencing a recent post she shared about her upbringing and leaving school at the age of 12, Hunnisett said she felt “really strongly about women in financial services really representing their true selves”.
“What we hide by not doing that, is not representing that there are women in our industry, and not showing that side of that our industry to young people who want to come through.
“Talent mobility is such a big issue that we, all around the table, have a responsibility to try and use the platforms and the tools and we have available to have our name out there, even if we’re really uncomfortable with it,” she added.
Skipton Building Society held a lunch on Thursday 19 May, at China Tang in London, bringing together business leaders across the mortgage industry.
Jackie Ashmore, mortgage proposition manager at Quilter Financial Planning
Clare Beardmore, head of broker and propositions at Legal at General Mortgage Club
Jane Benjamin, director mortgages at Connect for Intermediaries
Michelle Brook, managing director at Brook Financial Services
Donna Callaway, head of distribution development at L&C Mortgages
Sally Laker, managing director at Mortgage Intelligence UK
Kelly Wicks, technical director of financial services at Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward
Jo Carrasco, business partnerships director at Stonebridge Group
Sarah Tucker, managing director of The Mortgage Mum
Melanie Spencer, head of Finova Payment and Mortgage Services
Maddie O’Dwyer, senior marketing assistant at Skipton Building Society for Intermediaries
Rachael Hunnisett, national accounts lead at Skipton Building Society for Intermediaries
Charlotte Harrison, head of mortgage products at Skipton Building Society for Intermediaries
Victoria Hartley, group editor at Mortgage Solutions (debate chair)
Shekina Tuahene, commercial editor at Mortgage Solutions
Oonagh Sheehan, commercial manager at Mortgage Solutions
Valentina Forero, event assistant at Mortgage Solutions