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Brokers divided over whether market ‘horrendous’ or advisers just need to ‘toughen up’ ‒ analysis

  • 14/06/2023
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Brokers divided over whether market ‘horrendous’ or advisers just need to ‘toughen up’ ‒ analysis
Opinion is split among intermediaries on how bad the current product withdrawal and overall market situation is for broker mental health, with some arguing that those struggling may not be cut out for the industry.

Recent weeks have seen mortgage lenders across the market regularly pulling products with little notice, in order to reprice them at higher interest rates, with many brokers bemoaning the impact on their clients and themselves.

Some brokers have launched a new ‘untrade’ body off the back of the current situation, which they say will be used to ensure that advisers and clients “are fairly treated and democratically and transparently represented”.

The Broker Collective ‒ which is free to join through the LinkedIn group ‒  has pushed for lenders to agree to its pledge of providing at least 24 hours notice of product withdrawals, emphasising that the sudden withdrawals seen of late “can induce anxiety and stress for brokers”. 

However, there are some within the advice industry who argue that the latest upheaval does not compare to the likes of the credit crunch or Covid, and have questioned whether brokers feeling the situation are suitable for the sector.

How will we cope?

Justin Moy, managing director at EHF Mortgages, said that the hours have been long for a while now, so starting before 8am and not finishing much before 8pm. This is standard when there have been changes in rates during the day, with extra hours having to be devoted on Saturday too.

He added: “There is ongoing worry about how our business will cope financially, as overall volumes are down, the product transfers are not as lucrative, and just having a quiet day in the office gives you significant anxiety. I have had to lose support staff to balance our finances too.” 

Which borrowers do I ‘save’?

Monday was “quite simply horrendous,” explained Steven Morris, advising director of Advantage Financial Solutions, who said that there is little point for borrowers in getting mortgage advice right now unless they can apply within a couple of hours.

Morris added that brokers were in the difficult position of having to choose which client to ‘save’, given the speed of rate changes.

“Being a mortgage broker is like trying to stop the tide from coming in armed with a mop. Pointless.”

While the last few months have been difficult, things have “hit top gear” in the last week, argued Lewis Shaw, founder of Shaw Financial Services.

He added: “I spoke to one broker who said they’re getting anxious opening their email in the morning, and I understand what they meant. The worry is this could get worse before it gets better.”

Stepping away from work

Advising can be a really stressful career anyway, pointed out Richard Dana, CEO of Tembo Money, as emotions are often running high with customers around what is likely to be the biggest transaction of their lives.

He added: “We try to keep messaging and emails on the work computers rather than mobile phones, which means people can have separation from it when they are not working.  We also have daily team catch-ups and have a very active company messaging system that everyone can share their tricky cases on.”

It isn’t that bad

However, some brokers have questioned whether the situation is really as bad as their peers have suggested.

Jane King, mortgage and equity release adviser at Ash Ridge Private Finance, said that she had worked every day during a 10-day holiday, though argued it was only “mildly inconvenient”.

“When you run your own business you get used to being on call 24 hours a day, so working long hours has never bothered me. My clients have not been panicking but are concerned about future affordability. 

King suggested that the reaction of some brokers to the current situation was over the top, and that they should “toughen up a bit”.

Is this the right industry for you?

James McGregor, director of Mesa Financial, said that this has been the normal working pattern since March 2020, and that if brokers have not acclimatised to it yet then this may not be the right industry for them. 

He continued: “Yes we have done some extra hours, but we have also been proactive with every single communication we put out to our clients. As soon as we see the markets shift, we are in constant communication with our clients around what will be happening to the lending markets as a consequence. “

McGregor argued that brokers can usually see “the writing on the wall” for some time before products are pulled, so his firm focuses on managing expectations rather than “sitting there sulking”.

Richard Campo, founder of Rose Capital Partners, agreed that brokers need to make peace with the fact that this is not a nine to five job, as “there are times you have to work all hours, other times it’s calmer”.

He noted that he had survived plenty of crises in the mortgage market before, but welcomed the fact that people within the industry are actually talking about stress and mental health.

Campo continued: “Personally I got into meditation years ago and find that extremely helpful. Especially at stressful times I’ll meditate at lunchtime to ‘reset’ myself for the afternoon. Which is often needed as the ‘bad’ emails often hit your inbox overnight or in the morning.”

Are you working efficiently?

Martin Stewart, director of London Money, said that his firm tends to have two to three brokers all working the same case, which helps them be more efficient and tackle the frustrations that other advisers are reporting.

The sooner the broker learns to let go, the sooner they will understand that you can feed the team money and they in return feed you time,“ he added.

Stewart said that it was more stressful “watching other brokers get stressed due to them operating inefficient models” than dealing with product withdrawals, noting that lenders are having to act in this way due to commercial and operational pressures. 

The more experienced brokers understand this and so rather than wasting time on hold to the lenders, they use that time more wisely to manage client expectations,” he continued.

Does market upheaval damage the appeal of broking as a career?

Moy noted that he has seen plenty of new advisers enter the market but then have to leave due to the ongoing market conditions, and the lack of opportunity.

“Those with a client bank, a number of years in their role, and have seen similar conditions a few times before, will survive, just,” he concluded.

However, others questioned whether such periods of uncertainty impact the appeal of life as a mortgage broker.

I suspect that young people today would find this all a bit ‘off-putting’ when looking for a career but these are one off events that only pop up every few years and so if they have a good support system at work then it’s still a very satisfying career choice,” King added.

Stewart argued that the “hypocritical” nature of the mortgage advice sector would damage its appeal to joiners, arguing that brokers cannot “brag about how much we earn” and then bemoan the hours involved.

He added: “There are many more people who do their jobs which are far more important than ours and they do it for much less money, just as diligently, and often more appreciative of actually having a job in the first place.”

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