This week, Mortgage Solutions asked: At a time where we aren’t being stimulated by usual external factors, how do you encourage creativity and innovation within yourself and your firm?
You can always make time for creativity and innovation; it just depends on what is important to you.
For example, I have booked in a weekly meeting with my senior staff, each Friday for 30 minutes, to review the week gone by and what adjustments we need to make, if any.
While we are all very much in the trenches, I am always reminded of that graphic that says: ‘I don’t have time to see any crazy salesman, I have a battle to fight’.
It reminds me that no matter how busy I am, I need to make time to see what I can do more efficiently, as time is our most precious resource.
On a personal level, I try to go for a run and meditate each day – Monday to Friday so I can chill at the weekends.
I find just 10 minutes a day of meditation clears my head immensely and ups my productivity and creativity.
It is so easy to fool yourself that you are too busy to make time for things like that, but if you don’t look after yourself, especially in stressful periods, you often pay the price of working long unproductive days.
I suffered with that really badly when lockdown first happened; my routine was out and I was under pressure so I was working 14-16 hours a day but still didn’t feel productive. Throw in home schooling a seven–year–old and looking after a three-year–old, it was just brutal.
However, I have switched up my routine to have more time for me, and the kids. It’s been a painful few months, there is no doubt about that, but making time to find efficiencies in how I work and recharging my batteries when needed have been essential for me to adapt to the new norm.
We have become more hands on since lockdown, in fact, ensuring that the advisers remain motivated and optimistic.
We have stepped up training, particularly in areas we foresee as being in demand as lockdown eases and these will be crucial to the bounce back.
These include, protection, clients refinancing, clients wishing to move and make a fresh start – the stamp duty announcements will help, as will the cut in interest rates.
Equity release and lifetime mortgages have also been part of the agenda and we have provided the advisers with a pathway to introduce cases to specialist brokers.
The biggest concern for all firms has been the downturn in income normally generated from mortgage cases completing. For a number of obvious reasons, March and April were particularly quiet, but we are evidencing an upturn since thanks to desktop valuations and the adaptability of the lenders.
As compliance director, I have also used the time to review and refine the firm’s compliance procedures and prepare for the senior management and certification regime going live in December.
I guess my firm has been fortunate in one respect because we have not had to reinvent the way we operate internally.
Obviously regular face-to-face meetings with advisers and staff have always been part of our working practice, but we have embraced the virtual world since we launched and have always used Zoom as part of the operation.
One of the challenges of lockdown has been the inability for our advisers to conduct face-to-face meetings with clients.
However, we have encouraged telephone and Zoom client meetings, supplementing these with electronic verification.
I have already been remote for five years so not too much has changed for me.
Moving away from London back home to rural Lincolnshire several years ago meant a slower pace of life.
I used to work in a busy estate agency with people in and out of my office all the time but I don’t have that anymore. I even declined one client who offered to meet from 20 minutes away because it doesn’t work with how my office is set up and I now consider the environmental impact of driving to clients.
For me the pandemic is only difficult because of the lenders’ restrictive product ranges. Everything else is working normally so I come into work every day, keep myself busy and speak to as many people as possible.
I’ve taken on two more guys so my team has got slightly bigger and that’s been keeping me busy when it comes to training them. We also talk over social media, discussing lender changes and the like. We’re keeping our knowledge updated that way and that is keeping us creative.
It’s not such a big culture shock for me.
What I do find is I’m not going out into the local community as much and being part of my local business community is very important for generating ideas.
Although Zoom meetings have become the norm, I miss local networking events and having a chat over a cup of tea with like-minded people.