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‘Broker burnout’ is very real and the stress can ‘take its toll’ – analysis

  • 10/10/2022
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‘Broker burnout’ is very real and the stress can ‘take its toll’ – analysis
As part of World Mental Health Day (10 October), Mortgage Solutions spoke to a number of industry experts about stress, their own mental health and ‘broker burnout’.

While brokers are often seen as a hardy bunch, the current market is about as stressful as it’s ever been with products being removed at record speed, rates changing seemingly hourly and clients and customers more confused than ever. And brokers are very much on the frontline.

Advisers have spoken of ‘email anxiety’, ‘exceptional stress’ and ‘18-hour days’ while Rob Peters, principal at Simple Fast Mortgages, colourfully describes “current conditions…[as feeling] a bit like trying to balance a coin on your nose, while on a roundabout, in the middle of a tsunami.”


A quarter concerned for their mental health

A study by the Health and Safety Executive in 2021 found that 822,000 UK workers suffered from work-related stress, depression and anxiety – among the main work factors cited by respondents as causing issues were tight deadlines and too much responsibility, factors that most of those in the mortgage industry can understand.

Closer to home, a 2022 survey by the Mortgage Industry Mental Health Charter (MIMHC) found that almost a quarter of those in the industry (23 per cent) saw their mental health as either poor or of concern; more than half of brokers (55 per cent) of brokers were working more than 45 hours a week on average, with 13 per cent working more than 60 hours a week; and 27 per cent said that in a regular working week they never got enough sleep, which can lead to depression, anxiety and a range of metal illnesses.


Panic attacks

And in the current climate of pulled products and rising rates, these issues are only likely to be exacerbated.

Imran Hussain, director at Harmony Financial Services, said: “It’s fair to say all advisers in the mortgage space will confirm that the past week or two has been exceptionally stressful, with products being pulled at short notice or with none at all. It can take its toll on even the most resilient of us.”

And many are already feeling the strain. Lewis Shaw, founder and mortgage Expert at Shaw Financial Services said: “I know of brokers having panic attacks with the volume of enquiries coming in. On Monday morning, I got up and had email fear, and didn’t want to see what was in the inbox.”

Many feel that the current workload is becoming unsustainable.

Riz Malik, director at R3 Mortgages, said: “As brokers, we try to insulate our client from the stresses of property financing. However, the withdrawal of rates from the market at short notice has been exceptionally stressful all year, not just last week.

“We even had a lender pull their range with notification given on Sunday. How are we supposed to react? Even the weekends aren’t sacred these days.”

The long days, high pace and stress will eventually have an effect on even the hardiest broker. Mike Staton, director of Staton Mortgages was candid about his own mental health diagnosis.

He said: “It isn’t the flexible job that people think, when you are dealing with the public and providing a great service, you can easily find yourself working 18-hour days. This takes a toll on your mental health. I know, I have been there. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and been prescribed medication for this. The most important step I took was to admit to myself that I had an issue and seek help.”


Resilience, regular breaks and a ‘good rant’

Fortunately, brokers seem to be showing staunch resilience in the face of some fairly overpowering odds.

Hussain said: “We move on and fight another day to ensure we are here for our clients, now more than ever before.”

Ian Hewett, founder of the The Bearded Mortgage Broker, was more sanguine about the situation. He said: “Whilst communication from lenders can be painful, abrupt and not in a timely manner, there are certainly far more stressful jobs. The good times still outweigh the not-so-good times.”

Other brokers highlighted communications, a team ethic and a proper work-life balance as being crucial in maintaining one’s mental health equilibrium.

Shaw said: “Being a broker can be quite an isolating job, especially with more remote working, so it’s important to remember we’re all in the same boat and pick the phone up to a colleague, if you need a pick-me-up. The best thing to do is ring a mate, have a good old rant and keep calm and carry on.”

Staton makes the point that if a broker isn’t functioning correctly, they can’t help their clients or their family.

He said: “Make sure you can differentiate between work and home, that was the next biggest step I took. Sometimes, it might feel that Mr Smith needs his email responding to that he sent to you at 9pm, but is it worth your mental wellbeing? I think not.

“Customers are very important to your business, but you can’t support them if you are not functioning correctly and more importantly, you can’t support your family. I am glad I realised this and it’s the main reason I focus on me and my team to make sure we do not get ‘broker burnout’ during this crisis.”

And that focus on the team is crucial, according to Ricky Dosanjh, director at Reeds Financial.

He told Mortgage Solutions: “Our advisers have been encouraged to take regular breaks throughout the day just to maintain some sanity, ideally getting in some fresh air or other light exercise.

“I check in regularly with the team, but they all have access to me and know my personal phone is always on.”

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