For us, it was trying to build a new commercial mortgages business in the midst of a pandemic, and ensure we were making the right decisions for our customers and our brokers, as well as commercially.
This was especially difficult when investor confidence was severely impacted. Extraordinary steps were required, like mortgage payment holidays, which we introduced with just 48 hours’ notice.
However, despite all this, there was a need to recognise that a positive response was essential to create a strong platform to build success for the future.
It is hard to believe that in 2021 things look so different. Q1 was not only a record lending quarter for us, but we did as much business in this quarter alone as in the whole of 2020. This suggests a great outlook for the commercial market going forwards.
So, what about the second half of the year and into next? What opportunities are out there that you could make the most of? Here are my top five thoughts on this:
1. Staycations – the development of the holiday lets sector
This might feel obvious, but one of the consequences of the pandemic has been a huge increase in people holidaying in the UK out of pure necessity.
Investors recognising this are capitalising on this profitable market, leading to an increase in demand for specialist holiday let mortgage products and lenders are responding. So, if you haven’t already, this could be a very profitable market to explore.
2. Buy-to-let sector growth and change
Recent increases in demand for housing and the resulting higher house prices have caused a shift in the buy-to-let market, leading to sector growth.
This has seen experienced investors expanding their portfolios, and a trend towards professionalisation in the sector.
Lenders have responded to this and amended their product offerings to cater for them, with products such as specialist HMO mortgages becoming more popular. This could mean getting up to speed with these specialist products and branching out, if buy-to-let is a new market for you.
3. Expanding regional markets
The value of residential properties across the country has outpaced London in the past 12 months. This suggests that a sensible course of action would be to focus on regional lending, such as investment in the physical expansion of your business.
This could mean opening new regional offices so that you have a physical presence in other locations, expanding your capability to reach more borrowers who might need your help.
4. Making the most of your people
Relationships have been brought into sharp focus as the pandemic has changed the way we interact. In our sector, lenders and brokers have had to adapt their way of working to provide the best possible support for their clients in uncertain times.
Strong relationships drive positive outcomes and will continue to do so as we move into the future, therefore it is essential to nurture and support your people and give them what they need to provide your clients with exceptional service.
5. Embracing technology
Technology was also moved on by the pandemic as face-to-face interaction became impossible.
Whilst this was initially very difficult to come to terms with, there are advantages such as improved work-life balance and increased efficiencies as employees do not have to commute.
In the future this could mean companies embrace a more hybrid approach to work. But it also means a focus on new technologies, like Application Programming Interface (API) technology.
This can save you both time and money, allowing you to focus on other things, like customer service or relationship-building, to take your business forward.