Top 10 most read mortgage broker stories this week – 24/06/2022
It was introduced in 2014 and required lenders to calculate if a borrower could repay a mortgage if the rate was three per cent above the reversion rate.
Pictures from the annual Association of Mortgage Intermediaries dinner, along with news that the government will not intervene with unmortgageable Green Grant spray foam homes, also piqued readers interest.
FPC to withdraw mortgage affordability stress test from August
AMI Dinner 2022: the night in pictures
Government will ‘not intervene’ with unmortgageable Green Grant spray foam homes
Borrowers rush to pay exit fees and lock into new mortgages as interest rates climb
Santander and Platform withdraw products – round-up
Proportunity to launch zero deposit mortgage product
Barclays to acquire Kensington Mortgages
Eleventh-hour mortgage changes can be rationalised but better management needed – Hunt
DIFF: Let’s not try to fix neurodivergent people – Brook Graham
Short-term affordability challenges initially outweigh benefit of stress test removal – Toumadj
The Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum lunch photo gallery 2022
Stand up comedian, writer and former TV executive Cally Beaton spoke on the day, sharing her experiences as a woman navigating the upper ranks of major firms such as MTV as well as being the mother to her neurodivergent son, who has Asperger’s syndrome.
DIFF Podcast: We need to invest in mortgage market to attract the right talent – Akram
Speaking on the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) podcast for May, Mobeen Akram, national new homes director at Mortgage Advice Bureau, was asked about the lack of Pakistani Muslim women holding leadership roles in the UK, particularly in certain industries.
Akram said it was likely due to different communities seeing some jobs as more attainable and aspirational than others.
Akram spoke of her niece, who she encouraged to get into mortgage advising during the pandemic after she struggled to find a job after completing her psychology degree. She said her niece’s personality was a good fit for the job because she had the right skill set, and this highlighted the industry’s need to widen its talent pool.
She added: “We need to do more in the industry to attract people from different backgrounds. If we do that, it’s great not only for our community locally, but also for our business overall, because we’re attracting different customers, which is more profitable for us.
“But we need to invest internally first to attract the right talent.”
Ian Andrew, managing director, intermediary sales at Nationwide, said role models were also effective.
He said: “We’re starting to see some tremendous female role models coming through the industry. Some of our biggest distributors now have female leadership. Nationwide just appointed Debbie Crosbie as its new chief executive. She starts later this quarter.
“So we’re starting to see some real role models coming through in terms of females. And we could probably do with a little bit more of that in the ethnicity side as well.”
Akram agreed, mentioning Esther Dijkstra at Lloyds Banking Group as an example.
“That’s such a great inspiration to all of us as women as you see more females in the industry at senior levels. Even small time me, had to be a role model for my niece to say ‘actually, you can make it in this industry… if you work hard, you’re devoted, you can get somewhere’.
“That actually has a huge impact, more than we think it does, because it’s inspirational and it motivates us to be the best of who we are and to bring our true self to our workplace,” she added.
Andrew said he believed in hiring the best person for a job, but sometimes the lack of diversity was obvious.
Making an effort
Andrew said Nationwide was “early to the party” when it came to diversity and inclusion. He had his first session on unconscious bias six years ago, which in “the mortgage industry terms was probably relatively early.”
The mutual also has community champions to improve diversity and inclusion.
Andrew said part of learning about representation was “holding a mirror up”
“I thought a great example of that was the report produced by the Association for Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) last year, which was really interesting, if uncomfortable reading.
“Hopefully, that did force people to have a look in the mirror and think ‘are me or my staff behaving in that way?’ because it was a real challenge reading through some of that report,” he said.
Nationwide also asked for permission to use the report within its business to identify behaviours and challenges in the market.
Andrew said initiatives like the AMI report and DIFF were examples of progress being made in the sector.
He added: “I think there’s a momentum building up. That won’t stop. Everybody understands the importance of it. And I think that’s starting to happen across the industry as well.”
Listen to the podcast [24:30] featuring Mobeen Akram, national new homes account director at Mortgage Advice Bureau and Ian Andrew, managing director, intermediary sales at Nationwide.
DIFF podcast: Privilege breeds privilege like money makes money – Mason
Speaking on the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) podcast, Mason said it was crucial for the financial services sector to acknowledge this in its work and actions.
He said: “Financial inclusion is massive from a Lloyds Banking Group perspective, and we’ve all got a social responsibility. We talk about privilege and if we’re not careful, privilege breeds privilege a bit like money makes money.”
“You end up in an environment where you don’t have a real view of what life’s all about, you just have your sphere of influence, and you forget that there are people in the UK who are genuinely really struggling financially.”
He added: “Home ownership is actually one of the biggest enablers of wealth, financial inclusion, and social mobility in anybody’s life.
“The fact that people genuinely struggle to get out of private rent, social rent and buy their own home is a massive disadvantage to people.”
Mason commended fellow guest Rupi Hunjan, CEO and founder of Censeo Financial for working with housing association Genesis to pioneer the shared ownership model.
He said Hunjan’s work in this area was “fantastic” because it gave people access to having property as an asset, with the ability to own some of their home and benefit from any growth in equity.
Reflecting the client base
Due to its structure of allowing people to own a share of their homes at a lower cost, host Bharat Sagar asked Hunjan if his workforce was deliberately diverse because shared ownership buyers tended to be.
Hunjan said this was not originally his intention, as he set his firm up in a “prestigious” location and wanted to proposition shared ownership as something which was not just for blue collar workers.
He said he simply judged his employees on merit and a diverse workforce was naturally created this way.
Hunjan said: “There are no politics; 50 per cent of my team comes from what we call BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic), 48 per cent are female, 10 per cent are disabled.
“If you work hard and have the qualifications, we’ll give you a chance. And if you perform, you stay. And if you don’t, you end up leaving.”
Hunjan said he had always been self-employed so had the belief that if you work hard, you take the credit and if you don’t you accept the blame.
He added that there “shouldn’t be any issues if a business is run that way”.
However, he noted that because of his diverse workforce, his employees were often able to empathise with the firm’s clients.
Mason agreed and said the industry needed to adopt more of Hunjan’s approach.
“We recruit a lot of people from certain universities and ex-consultants. When you talk about shared ownership and social inclusion, a lot of those people have no concept in reality of what life is like for somebody in circumstances completely different to them.
“Sharing experiences like Rupi’s firm should encourage people to think more about the makeup of their teams,” he said.
Hunjan said many people did not even get the opportunity to be interviewed and suggested the use of name-blind CVs, something brought up by Sagar, to reduce unconscious recruiter bias and make sure people from diverse backgrounds at least get that chance.
Mason added: “It seems like Rupi has been very proactive.
“I think we all need to try harder. It’s not good enough anymore to have a shortlist of people and say ‘we tried to tick the d and i (diversity and inclusion) box, but we ended up with a shortlist of four blokes because we didn’t get enough people applying’ – I think we all need to be more deliberate.”
Hunjan said this was imperative, but to also be mindful of that fact that ethnic minorities made up a small proportion of the population so to not get caught up in tokenism when recruiting.
Listen to the podcast [31 minutes] below.
DIFF: Women need to be managed differently – The Mortgage Mum
Speaking at the Diversity and Inclusion Finance Forum (DIFF) Executive meeting on Tuesday 22 February, Lucinda Pincott, menopause awareness advocate, began the session by recapping her presentation from the Leadership meeting, with the suggestion that menopause policies should be implemented at workplaces.
Pincott’s key takeaways were that appointing a menopause champion and flexibility could help women employees experiencing symptoms in recognising their condition and finding relief.
She also advocated for establishing an open environment where women were able to ask for support without prejudice or intimidation, which would minimise their fear of feeling like they were failing at work. Pincott added that if senior colleagues opened the conversation around menopause, “people will be glad” that they are not being dismissed. This could be as simple as offering to speak to HR, letting employees know you are doing research on it and informing them that help is available if needed.
Male colleagues could assist by simply having a conversation, but also said she understood it was not always easy for them to do so.
Pincott said there was also a business case for being menopause aware at work, as it reduced the number of female staff taking time off or leaving work due to their symptoms. This could also prevent companies getting caught out by the growing number of women taking their employers to court over unfair dismissal or sexual discrimination relating to perimenopause and menopause.
Managing women differently
Pincott’s presentation was followed by a fireside chat with Tucker.
Tucker said while it could be a “controversial statement”, she felt women needed to be managed differently at work.
“It’s what I passionately believe – women are different to men, that is a fact. There are similarities, but actually the more I speak about things like what women value from a company that they work for, they want to be seen, they want to be heard, they want to be appreciated,” she added.
Tucker said women were least happy when they were not seen or appreciated by their friends and family, and said this also applied in the workplace.
She added: “I’ve felt it in other companies. If they see me, and they praise me, it goes on longer than the 15-second compliment lasts. It fills a deep a gap for women.”
Speaking of the monthly and midlife hormonal changes women go through, Tucker said: “I’m not at my best in the week before my period is due and I’m brilliant two weeks later. I teach the women in my team to optimise their work cycles around it and be aware of it.
“You can’t say to a mortgage client ‘I can’t see you this week I’m afraid, because I’m due on and just want to eat chocolate’, but you can think to yourself, ‘what would I need that week? How could I give myself a day off that week, potentially, or just be aware that I might not be on top form?’.”
While she was yet to go through menopause herself, Tucker said she had firsthand experience of the effects of it due to her mum and the women in her team.
She said: “The biggest role model in my life, my mum, went through it when I was around 21.
“Her doctor never told her what it was. She wouldn’t leave the house without me, she wouldn’t stay in the house without me, and my career got put on hold so I could just be there.”
Tucker’s mother’s symptoms got so bad that she considered admitting herself into a mental health hospital as she was convinced she had dementia.
“She was like a butterfly that went into this horrible cocoon, and we all had to live with it,” Tucker said.
After the menopause ended, Tucker said her mother “blossomed” and she had seemed more self-aware since.
While Tucker never set out to make The Mortgage Mum menopause friendly, she said focusing on the health of her team meant paying attention to all the concerns women have and how that may affect their work.
She holds regular women’s circles where her employees discuss any issues on their mind.
Tucker said: “It’s [about] creating the space for a woman to talk and be listened to, uninterrupted.
“Some people just literally pass the mic, and just think of nothing worse than opening up to us about what’s going on with them, mainly because they don’t want to open up to themselves.
“It takes time and some of those women who didn’t join in, now do.”
She also organises spa and relaxation days for her staff, saying: “I know if I give them the cash [for spa days], they won’t do it. So we book it and say, ‘what treatment do you want?’”
While it takes time, she said it was possible to change the culture of a workplace and make it more welcoming by putting initiatives in place.
Tucker said patience also went a long way when working with or managing someone going through menopause.
Pincott added offering health insurance, which includes menopause, could also be beneficial.
Tucker said it was important to speak about menopause and have a workplace policy as women who were going through it tended to be “the most skilled, professional, educated and experienced”, and it would be a shame to lose them if they were unable to manage their symptoms and their workload.
She said The Mortgage Mum recently had an employee leave for that reason, as although the company aims to address these issues, working while experiencing hormonal changes can be overwhelming.
Tucker said: “It was really difficult decision for her, and it wasn’t our decision. There’s nothing I could have done. The hard reality is, she just didn’t want that responsibility right now.”
The employee in question was a new mortgage broker and Tucker said her role at the company would remain open for her if she wanted it.
Five key takeaways
- Consider implementing a menopause policy at your firm or suggesting one to senior management
- Perimenopause and menopause symptoms can affect and hinder work performance
- Women may need different management styles
- Female staff should try to work around their hormonal cycles to ensure they perform at their best
- Remember to be patient, open and make time for self care
DIFF podcast: Support for LGBTQ+ people should be authentic and embedded in company culture
Speaking about what he described as “rainbow capitalism”, events consultant at Legal and General Richard Thomas, said it was becoming more obvious when companies used awareness events such as Pride to drive sales and customer engagement.
He said it could be seen as “brands jumping on the bandwagon of Pride” so they could “exploit it to sell their goods and services”.
Thomas added: “It’s really important that more brands understand that they can’t just be superficial. If you’re going to support this community, it needs to be more embedded in many different aspects of their corporate culture and their customer and employee engagement.
“If you’re going to be superficial, be expected to be caught out – particularly on social media.”
Steve Seal, chief executive of Bluestone Mortgages, said this also happened with other minority groups and issues.
He added: “We saw a similar kind of trend around the Black Lives Matter concept as well, didn’t we? Where businesses were embracing what I’d describe as ‘on trend messages’ to drive commercial value without being able to demonstrate that the core principles of what they’re trying to promote and advocate are actually embedded through their businesses.
“It’s purely a capitalist attitude to drive commercial value by using the brand, which is a terrible thing.”
Thomas said companies needed to engage with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and plus (LGBTQ+) community consistently not just during particular events.
Being open at work
While Thomas and Seal both acknowledged that attitudes had changed towards their homosexuality over the years, they noted experiences where they felt that being gay had led to them feeling like they could not be themselves.
Seal admitted his experiences were likely more to do with his own reservations about society in general, saying he made sure to refer to his husband as “they” instead of “he” when meeting industry peers at events.
“I think it’s all about fear rather than reality. That’s a fear I had in myself. I’ve never ever found myself in an experience in the mortgage market where when I have been open with people, I faced any kind of challenge of issue in terms of lack of acceptance or being made to feel uncomfortable,” he added.
Thomas said at a previous job, being the only gay employee made him question if he was being excluded by his heterosexual male co-workers.
His colleagues would arrange to meet up with each other outside of working hours without inviting him. Those colleagues ended up forming closer relationships with each other than Thomas had with them.
“It was changing the dynamic in the workplace as a result,” he said.
Thomas also noticed that when another gay colleague joined the company, he also wasn’t asked to join in with outside work activities.
He added: “It was just the two of us who were left out. I don’t know if it was a conscious or an unconscious thing on the part of those guys and I would imagine it probably wasn’t [a conscious thing]. But nevertheless, it did make me feel marginalised. It did alter the team dynamic a bit because I’d come into work and feel like I was being made to feel othered from everybody else.”
While the behaviour did not affect Thomas’s career progression or performance, he said it affected his mental health. He also noted that straight men who later joined the company were invited to spend time with the group.
He added: “That felt very deliberate.”
Thomas said because the behaviour was not something obvious like physical abuse, he felt uncomfortable to confront colleagues about it.
He added: “It’s a very difficult, complex scenario to be in. Nowadays attitudes are changing so maybe I might feel a bit more inclined to discuss it with my line manager and some of the individuals on a very informal basis. Back then, I just let sleeping dogs lie and got on with it.”
Seal and Thomas also agreed that it was unnecessary for them to announce their sexuality to colleagues, with Seal saying the expectation to do so wound him up.
“If people find out I’m gay they say ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ and my response is ‘well you never told me you were straight’.
“There’s the expectation that because you’re gay, you have to tell people that you’re gay. Whereas I don’t see why, people don’t introduce themselves as straight so why do I have to introduce myself as gay? I’m just Steve,” he added.
The Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum lunch photo gallery
The keynote speaker, policy wonk, stand-up and journalist Ayesha Hazarika captivated the room with a raft of anecdotes expertly woven into harder hitting observations on the difficulties encountered by a non-white, non-Oxbridge female in the UK.
DIFF podcast: Everyone has become more aware of unconscious bias
Speaking on the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) podcast, when asked about any hurdles he faced as a black man with a senior role in the finance sector, Wager said due to social changes over time, he no longer sees any obstacles.
“In an organisation like Barclays, and I suspect any organisation of this kind of size and reputation, life has to be about being a meritocracy, it genuinely has to be. And if there’s anything overt that is unfair, there are the right mechanisms to deal with that,” Wager said.
He said many companies had since established initiatives of zero tolerance towards discrimination.
Wager added: “It’s maybe not so much about hurdles, but I think everyone has become more aware of the unconscious bias that might exist.
“It’s the unconscious bias and microagression element that we need to be more mindful of because I don’t think it’s necessarily about the overt.”
A microagression is an action or statement which could be seen as discrimination against someone in a covert or unintended way.
Wager said: “Those are the things we need to think about if we talk about hurdles, because we all have unconscious bias, but it’s a filter that you apply to your thinking that really genuinely helps you get through that and over that. And I think that’s as individuals and as organisations.”
He said this included “challenging employing in your image,” where a recruiter might favour a potential employee because they have a similar race, class or educational background.
Wager added: “That’s a conundrum I suspect many are struggling with and it’s not necessarily unique to this industry.”
Martin Reynolds, chief executive of SimplyBiz, said part of the problem was the industry operated with a view of “short-termism” and tended to react to calls for diversity rather than plan ahead.
He said the finance sector was too quick to look internally when trying to fill a vacancy and suggested forming connections outside of the sector to build up a pool of candidates with transferable skills.
Reynolds added: “Sometimes we may consciously or unconsciously think actually ‘we do need to widen the diversity in a team, in a company’ and we just take from within the industry. So we’re not actually growing the diversity within the industry, people are just moving around.
“We need to try and break that cycle.”
Sesame Bankhall Group embeds wellness policies for all-time post-pandemic – NatWest video debate
In the third in a series of four videos entitled ‘Making mental health and inclusivity working practices in the mortgage advice market’, Golunska detailed a raft of policies the firm introduced during the pandemic and confirmed it will keep in place now.
“We’ve introduced SBG wellness champions who are volunteers from all parts of the business who are raising awareness of workplace challenges particularly during lockdown. One of those areas was home working, so whilst it’s been seen as really beneficial for some it’s also been really challenging for others, who haven’t got the space or ability to work without interruption at home,” said Golunska.
The SBG boss said this issue became even more key during the home schooling part of the lockdown and after asking parents and carers what they needed then offered paid leave to those in that category.
Golunska said the firm also set up a ‘Let’s Talk’ platform of events allowing people to share thoughts on inclusivity and workplace challenges with external and specialist speakers keen to educate on some of those topics.
She suggested firms make sure they signpost wellbeing on their web pages and that they regularly reach out to employees via surveys and temperature checks, making sure they include senior leaders in these efforts. The group also launched a free service for its network members provided by a professional support organisation called Care First offering a 24 hour a day helpline offering counselling, advice and referrals.
“It’s okay not to feel okay all the time,” she said.
“Particularly difficult for me was when we first went into lock down and I was separated from my children who live away from me who I see regularly normally and I wasn’t able to meet up with.”
Watch out for the fourth and final part of this series going live on Wednesday 25 August, in association with NatWest Bank.
With thanks to our panel guests:
Michele Golunska, CEO at Sesame Bankhall Group, (SBG)
Martin Reynolds, chief executive of Simplybiz Mortgages,
Alan Ferguson, senior corporate account, manager at NatWest,
Harpreet Butoy, wellbeing and inclusion champion at NatWest
DIFF podcast: The mortgage industry needs to recognise transferable skills when hiring
Speaking on the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) podcast, the bank’s head of customer acquisition said the sector needed to “stop being lazy” with recruitment so talent pools could be more open and diverse.
Green said: “We need to stop thinking ‘oh I need a business development manager (BDM) in my team, what other BDMs are out there?’ because that doesn’t get you a diverse mix in an industry that’s already struggling.”
She said it was down to the recruiting manager to push for diversity and make sure the right people were being considered for a role.
“That individual manager has to have the responsibility of pushing back and saying, ‘no I’m not just taking five CVs, I want you to go out and find me a much better representation of the UK’,” she added.
Green said people should not always be employed on the basis of carrying out a similar role as the job applied for but based on skill.
She said: “What we need to do as an industry, particularly in the mortgage industry, is go out and really recognise what the transferable skills are. Recognise what we want from an individual.”
Aimée Gaudin, marketing and diversity and inclusion consultant and co-founder of Become, said a more diverse talent pool increased the overall chances of a minority getting recruited.
She added: “If there’s only one ethnic minority in a talent pool, they have virtually zero chances of getting hired. Whereas if there’s two ethnic minorities in a talent pool, their chances are 170 times greater, which is insane.”
Intersectionality and understanding
Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that some people have more than one characteristic that puts them in a minority class and could result in them facing multiple kinds of discrimination.
Gaudin said some people did not agree with the theory of intersectionality as they feel it simplifies them and their experiences.
“That can be quite damaging actually, to be defined by a particular group experience, which is usually about your identity or some kind of oppression that you don’t identify with for whatever reason,” she said.
She mentioned her sister, who is also mixed heritage Jamaican and Caucasian, but “white passing”, saying she may not associate with some discriminations faced by people of the same demographic.
However, Gaudin said the theory could work if multiple layers were addressed and included class, wealth, age and education as well.
“I do agree with intersectionality as long as we make that judgement and understand that no two people’s experiences will be the same,” she added.
Green said as allies, it was necessary to speak with people about their experiences and to not make assumptions.
However, she said it was important to ask questions without fearing saying the wrong thing, but also without being offensive.
Gaudin said this could be helped by setting up a diversity and inclusion committee at work, making sure everyone has the space to share their thoughts if they volunteer to do so.
She also said to take note of how minority groups within companies who were part of coalitions such as African and Caribbean associations or LGBTQ+ groups interacted not only among themselves, but with each other.
Gaudin added: “If those conversations are happening behind closed doors, then it’s just people with similar experiences and outlooks who are then just feeding their own perspectives, so they have the same blind spots.
“That’s not the thing that’s going to change mindset and help to instigate change. In the workplace, you need people who want to join that conversation, who want to be allies and understand new perspectives.”