Mark Harris, chief executive of SPF Private Clients, forecast that success will hinge on maintaining customer relations in 2018 and this will be the toughest task.
Nicola Firth, chief executive of Knowledge Bank, warned that intermediaries will need to keep on top of technology changes – and watch out for the regulator.
David Hollingworth, associate director communications at L&C Mortgages, said brokers must not be complacent amid a competitive and tough year for lenders.
The biggest challenge for brokers this year will be the same as it is every year – staying close to your customers.
Making sure you are on top of their remortgage activities and getting in touch with clients in plenty of time to discuss these or a product transfer – if the appropriate advice is to stay with their current lender – is vital to the success of any business.
This isn’t just important for clients with residential mortgages – landlords also need to be kept on the radar, particularly those who haven’t yet taken action following the Chancellor’s decision in the 2015 Summer Budget to cut mortgage interest tax relief to 20%.
With this being phased in over four years from April 2017, landlords will not feel it in their pocket until they file next year’s tax return and start to see it in pounds and pence.
The good news is that there are still opportunities for landlords to restructure how they own these assets into companies or limited liability partnerships, if it is appropriate for them to do so.
But many will not realise this and will need guidance, which is where a good broker who works with a number of tax advisers can point clients in the right direction, and restructure debt as required.
We don’t expect much change in interest rates this year, while the Brexit path looks a bit smoother.
With lenders remaining determined to lend and support the market, the outlook for the next year looks promising.
The biggest challenges for brokers will be keeping up with the huge amount of new technology, to make sure that, regardless of what else comes in, they are top of mind for both existing and potential borrowers.
There has been a growing amount of discussion that lenders are upping their technology to make it easier for them to contact borrowers directly; there is also the creeping rise of the robo-adviser.
It is therefore more important than ever that brokers have the tools they need to compete and ensure that it is them that their clients turn to first.
I think that we will also see the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) carrying out more checks.
There have been increasing reports that, during inspections, the FCA also asks to see brokers’ buy-to-let business and even second charges, so it could well be that regulation will increase further into these areas.
It will therefore be vital that a broker has all of their advice and evidence of research for all mortgages, documented in such a way that it can never be open to interpretation.
Increasingly research will need to incorporate evidence of criteria searches rather than just products, especially when a broker has not been able to recommend the cheapest product on a sourcing system.
There is of course still Brexit to negotiate.
The biggest impact that is likely to have on borrowers is if media reports damage consumer confidence and make people reluctant to move home.
Brokers have a huge role here to keep in touch with clients and potential clients to tell them what is possible and overcome speculation with facts.
Some of the positive elements that helped drive business over the last 12 months have included the continuing low interest rates – both Bank of England base rate and mortgage rates.
Even a small increase in interest rates by the Bank of England only helped to nudge those borrowers that had so far failed to take action to review their situation.
Moving into 2018, little has changed in terms of market dynamic and the road ahead looks to be a tough environment for lenders.
Larger numbers of lenders looking to build their market share in a flat market should exert plenty of downward pressure on mortgage pricing.
We’ve already seen providers show a desire to get off to a quick start by tweaking their rates and lenders will not be able to afford to be too far off the pace.
Realising the importance of retaining customers more lenders have opened up retention strategies to involve the intermediary market.
All this spells good news for brokers and their customers who will continue to have a wealth of attractive rates to choose from.
However, just as lenders understand how important it is to hold onto existing customers, so should advisers.
Hoping that a customer will simply return when they need a new deal is a gamble and it will be ever more important to maintain and develop the relationship with existing customers.