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28/05/2020 What brokers can learn from lockdown - Part 1

In light of recent changes to lockdown measures, we feel it is important to begin reflecting on the lessons we can take with us from these strange and unprecedented times.

At the start of the year, we asked experts what trends and predictions they had for 2020. While no one could have seen this coming, we feel that their insights were invaluable and we have asked them to provide their thoughts on what experiences, actions, and tools we should bring with us as lockdown eases.

 

What has this experience taught us?

Greg Cunnington, Director of Lender Relationships & New Homes at Alexander Hall

The experience of this period has reinforced my already held view that we should all be proud to work in this industry. To see the way that lenders and intermediaries have evolved to incorporate criteria changes and new working norms, at previously unheard of speed, has been a real joy. What has been key is how this has all been done with the aim of ensuring the client outcome was at the forefront of so many decisions. Keeping as many mortgage options available as possible, and assisting those in financially challenging positions, have been primary goals.

 

Tom Horton, Managing Director at the Insurance Surgery

Personally, what it has taught me is what a strong team we have, for the way we have adapted to this situation and the way we have continued trading through such a time. I think the other huge thing it has taught us is that when you are put into crisis mode, you are forced to innovate and come up with ideas to help you overcome challenges and, a lot of the time, that presents opportunities that have been staring you in the face all the time, yet it has taken this “crisis” for you to realise those opportunities were there.

 

Jason Butler, Head of Financial Education at Salary Finance

As Warren Buffett said some years ago, we only find out who’s been swimming naked when the tide goes out. The Coronavirus pandemic has served to expose the financial fragility of many households and businesses. Despite the regrettable human suffering and loss, I do hope that the crisis gives people an excuse and time to reflect on how they were living their lives and running their business before the crisis. People and businesses need to refocus on the value they deliver to earn an income, how they spend and invest their income, and what they spend their time and energy on.

 

Alison Hutchinson CBE, CEO of Pennies

To appreciate all we have and to ensure we are as financially resilient as we can be to prepare for the unexpected.

 

Chris Maggs, Senior Commercial Manager at Accord Buy To Let

Very few of us have escaped this crisis and the buy-to-let market is no exception, with both landlords and tenants potentially impacted by financial hardship. And, whilst elements of the BTL mortgage journey continue to function well, the inability to instruct physical valuations and, in many instances, complete on purchase transactions has caused the greatest pain.

 

Jon Pittham, Director at ClientsFirst

We're adaptable and we can move much faster when the need is so great it creates the right traction. Particularly in larger organisations.

 

Which of the adaptations we’ve made during this crisis actually give us better ways of working long term?

Greg Cunnington, Director of Lender Relationships & New Homes at Alexander Hall

I hope that some of the positive adaptations made, particularly in relation to the use of electronic ID verification and enhanced desktop valuations where possible, are incorporated as set policies going forward. They enhance the client experience, and make the process match the expectations clients have on the mortgage journey that they are used to from other walks of life, such as the ease of opening a bank account!

 

Tom Horton, Managing Director at the Insurance Surgery

We were able to set up home working quite quickly when everything started to go that way and, ultimately, I have been surprised at how well it has worked. We have seen an increase in conversion, we have seen more customer reviews than ever before and both of these points have been largely down to our advisers being able to adapt to customer needs and routines more. For example, we very rarely worked weekends or after hours before now, but in recent weeks we have seen advisers logging on from their home working stations to call customers at weekends, after 8pm when the kids have gone to bed, etc because advisers now have the means (and time) to do that and that has really helped improve our contact rates and conversion rates too.

 

Jeremy Duncombe, Director of Intermediary Distribution, Accord Mortgages

Using technology has become our ‘new normal’ so it’s important to understand how this will change the way we work in the future. At Accord, the lockdown has meant a significant move to webchat for our Business Development Advisor (BDA) team. The success of this channel (we’re currently getting an average satisfaction score above 9.5 / 10 for each interaction) means it’s likely to transform how we work when we return to normality. Brokers have really embraced webchat as a proactive communication and a more effective way of getting answers to their queries.

Customers have also shown that they’re happy to deal over the phone, online and via video calls. Social distancing measures will mean that face to face meetings will be less prevalent, so how can you set up your business to capitalise? The Accord Growth Series has lots of ideas, guides and support to help you adapt to the market.

 

Jason Butler, Head of Financial Education at Salary Finance

Despite the obvious challenges of lack of physical contact and connection, video meetings and conferences have now become routine, acceptable and familiar for both personal and business purposes. I think that this will inspire a big rethink of the role of offices, commuting, administration processes and customer engagement and interaction. 

 

Alison Hutchinson CBE, CEO of Pennies

The ability to mobilise new operational processes within days or weeks that might never have been possible before a crisis and embracing home working more significantly and flexibly. 

 

Chris Maggs, Senior Commercial Manager at Accord Buy To Let

There are some real positives in the way we have all adapted to a different way of working so quickly. Within Accord we have the ability for the majority of staff to carry out their duties from home and technology and video conferencing all help to support as near a ‘business as usual’ environment as possible. Quieter offices mean social distancing becomes possible so our underwriters and customer services teams can continue to operate and service our brokers and customers.

 

Jon Pittham, Director at ClientsFirst

Digital tools - in particular, I think everyone will say the use of video for communicating. Clients and colleagues have found it much easier than they perhaps realised and I would expect to see video meetings replacing face to face in many, but not all, future scenarios.

As you can see, industry leaders have identified several things that they have learned through this lockdown period and that they are interested in bringing into their ways of working going forward. It seems that finding new processes, new customer touchpoints, and utilising technology have been the biggest learnings during this time.

Once brokers move back to office working, it will be important to keep these lessons in mind and incorporate the positives that we have found during this situation.


Read more from our experts next week in Part 2.

 

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