This week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: Do you feel well prepared for working in this situation and did existing rules and regulations help prepare you and your business for dealing with this?
We actually started the lockdown slightly earlier than most – this is week four for us. We can use technology, paperless systems and our calls come through on mobiles with recording applications so we’ve been able to adapt quite well.
It is still a disruption as we’re not all under one roof so it makes things difficult for a number of reasons but we’re about as good as we could be.
When it came to government information, I don’t think we had much time to prepare because it was a situation that was evolving.
But as a business we had contingency plans in place, and we did have meetings prior to the lockdown.
I think the government is doing the best in a bad situation, I wouldn’t want to point the finger because they were quite clear and have kept it up to date as best they can. This is something we haven’t seen in our lifetimes and there’s only so much planning one can do.
We locked down early because we anticipated it was something we would eventually need to do and didn’t want to leave ourselves with little time.
Also, we had someone in the office displaying symptoms, they tested negative but we didn’t want to chance it.
We’re still operational, able to contact clients and write business. The biggest issue that has affected us is lenders not being able to get valuations and therefore closing applications.
We’re at similar capacity levels as though we were under one roof but if lenders aren’t taking applications there’s nothing we can do.
I think we are as well prepared as we can be in the current situation.
We acted quickly, had a plan ahead of the lockdown to ensure our staff are set up to work from home.
Our teams have worked tirelessly to convert a predominantly face–to-face organisation to telephone and videoconferencing business.
As an organisation, we were fortunate that we already had the IT systems in place to allow remote working but I realise that many firms had to start this from scratch.
We are all having more meetings than before, understanding that people are working remotely, hence videoconferencing is key.
We have a daily ‘Cobra’ meeting of our own to ensure that as a management team, we do everything to support our advisers so that they can provide a top quality – albeit at distance – service to clients.
We have increased our communication to existing clients with details of the payment holiday schemes and to reassure them that we are still here for them.
Our equity release team have had the best month ever on new cases, showing that there is still a huge need for clients to receive our service.
And our client services team are booking a record number of telephone factfinds for our advisers, but clearly lending criteria has tightened, in terms of loan to value (LTV) and affordability.
We recognise that many borrowers are going through a very stressful time at the moment and while being at home, they have the time to look at their mortgage and prospection arrangements and require our service more than ever.
In the middle of battling the global pandemic, our team has pulled together to ensure a swift transition in the move from working in the office, to working from home.
We are fortunate enough to have a team who were able to provide additional support. We have continued to ensure the team still feel connected through Microsoft Teams and weekly meetings on Zoom.
We are very fortunate to be in an industry where most business can be carried out remotely and the response from the lenders has been astounding.
Lenders have been accommodating in their approach to supporting transactions and the flexibility that many offer with desktop valuations has made our jobs much easier.
It is one thing us being able to work remotely, but without the resilience of the lenders we would not be able to continue our business in the new ‘usual’ way.
Our business plans have proceeded as close to normal as possible but one thing we did not anticipate was how much more time it takes to do some tasks and the level of phone calls we are on has skyrocketed.
We have had to adjust to the daily changes being made to lending criteria, often having to reassess clients needs and exploring ways of structuring deals.
We’ve had to keep regular contact with lenders to ensure that any criteria changes are communicated to the team effectively, so we can ensure we provide the best knowledge and service.
We are now in a positive position to move forward and focus on the business needs.
Our team has adjusted to working from home swiftly and not encountered many issues except we did one minor disaster where a cat jumped up and pushed an office computer off a table smashing it on the floor.