Regulation from Europe has posed system and administrative challenges for first charge lenders and the new culture of advice for second charges bringing with them CeMAP training issues.
Growing demand for mortgages and new lenders emerging which are choosing to deal exclusively with intermediaries is great news, but means businesses need to scale up quickly to cope with the extra volume.
This week we asked our panel of experts to identify the biggest challenges they faced this year and what they did to overcome them.
Peter Brodnicki, chief executive of Mortgage Advice Bureau, discusses the difficulties he faced in overcoming AR resistance to social media.
Lea Karasavvas, managing director of Prolific Mortgage Finance, talks about the tough challenge of changing networks.
David Carrington, sales and marketing director at Personal Touch Financial Services, highlights how the network helped member firms overcome their recruitment hurdles.
MAB customer feedback and research highlighted that an increasing number of our potential customers are choosing businesses based on their social media presence, and yet the vast majority of our advisers and appointed representive (AR) business principals did not have a social media strategy and in many cases didn’t even really understand it fully. MAB rolled out many social media solutions to its distribution, doing as much as could possibly be done to help them, and yet take up on the whole was slow or half hearted.
We identified a significant training need, and our head of learning and development Dave Bedlow, produced a presentation to be run at team meetings concentrating on how to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube to help promote business, increase customer retention and sales, with a podcast also accessible to help demonstrate the benefits of social media. Concentrating on Twitter for business, Dave created his own departmental Twitter page and used this to ‘practice what we preach’ and demonstrated what could be achieved by embracing Twitter. Far more advisers and business principals now see social media as a key route to advocacy as we help them make the changes in their businesses that mirror customer behaviour.
Thanks to this focused learning approach we have seen a significant turnaround and our work in this area this year got Dave Bedlow shortlisted for the Learning and Development Professional of the Year for best use of technology in social media.
Whilst being a very strong year for us at Prolific, 2015 was perhaps one of the toughest for our business since its inception. For all those that have ever moved networks, I am sure you can empathise with the stress and problems of moving from one to another.
Our company had plans to double its size and for this to work effectively we had to evaluate all areas of our business; systems, premises, product range, support functions to name but a few. We have always enjoyed a good relationship with our previous principal and leaving was one of the toughest decisions we have made since our business launched but I firmly believe it was right for all parties.
The navigation of our commissions and pipeline was perhaps our biggest concern, but aligned with this was the re-training of a new compliance regime for our brokers, new systems, new sourcing, new sales process, recruitment, and above all else, trying to establish as smooth a process as possible for all pipeline business so our clients did not suffer from the change.
The exit from our previous directly authorised firm was better than we could have hoped for, and this underpinned a stress free move. Mortgage Force ensured throughout the process our pipeline was paid, and made a mockery of the horror stories that circulate the industry when you change networks.
This was coupled with an intensive training course with our new network, Mortgage Advice Bureau. From day one, their support and training meant that our team was soon ready to go, with a full understanding of the new process, what was expected of us, and a knowledge of the new products, systems and sales process.
The impact it could have had on our client base, our brokers, the bank account, the stress kept me awake for weeks. It was a huge challenge and one that engulfed us in fear but one we felt was necessary given the growth plans we have for Prolific.
It was made possible by two networks that had cohesion, which was how we were able to overcome our biggest challenge in 2015.
In simple terms, our biggest challenge was finding new advisers for our member firms as they continue to grow.
We have all pontificated on the longer-term question – where will the advisers of tomorrow come from? But the challenge for many advisory businesses has become where to find advisers for today.
Fuelled by strong, and perhaps most importantly, consistent demand from their mortgage customers, advice firms have been trying to recruit good quality mortgage advisers at a time when those good advisers are already busy and hopefully earning good money.
We worked out that there was no silver bullet that was going to solve the problem and instead embarked on a series of initiatives to bring more talent into member businesses. As a consequence we have tried to support our members who are looking to grow with some fairly simply but, hopefully, effective ideas.
We ran a series of workshops on how to recruit staff effectively. How to read a CV and how to structure interview questions have all proved to be effective. We have worked with firms who operate a self-employed model on how to attract employed candidates in a way that works for all parties.
We have also tried some quick and simple ideas such as supplying template job profiles and appraisal forms. Things that are obvious to a business with a dedicated human resource function are maybe more of a dark art for smaller businesses.
The longer-term challenge remains, but we have managed to help grow our member firms this year with some simple yet effective ideas.