How have mortgage intermediaries adapted in the face of a pandemic?

02/09/2020 By How have mortgage intermediaries adapted in the face of a pandemic?

As the Government encourages more people to return to the office, we have been looking at how businesses are responding.

One of the sectors that we have been keeping a close eye on is mortgage intermediaries. In the past, they have shown resistance to remote working. The industry is still dominated by more established intermediaries with fixed working practices. As part of the personal service that sets intermediaries apart from alternatives, face-to-face contact with clients has been a key feature of how they work. Even as more ‘younger’ intermediaries have entered the scene in recent years, digital adoption has been much slower than in other sectors in financial services.

Given this context, it has been fascinating to see how many mortgage intermediaries appear to have embraced remote working in recent months. As part of our ongoing Project Mercury research we asked them whether they had been making more use of technology and remote working tools:

graph of remote working and technology

This shows that almost half of all intermediaries are moving permanently to make more use of technology and remote working, with the pandemic hastening the reluctant trend towards digital working.

To further understand this, we ran some additional qualitative research with mortgage intermediaries, exploring how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on the way that they operate. We uncovered a tricky adjustment period that many intermediaries found themselves going through when the lockdown was initially announced:

“With Covid-19 and lockdown earlier this year as I try to do 99% of my meetings face to face I found it really difficult initially to get over this process and lifestyle change.”

However, this period only seemed to last for a short amount of time. Intermediaries have now adopted remote working tools, and have realised how it can help them work more efficiently in the long term:

 “As I have now got used to the world we live in and have got more of a grip on Zoom and MS team meetings I am more relaxed and confident going forward...It saves me a lot of time that I used to spend travelling and enables my work pattern and hours to be more flexible. This can benefit times I can speak with clients now as well.”

Many of the intermediaries we spoke to described positive experiences with client video calls, live chat / web chat experiences, and attending virtual webinars and events:

“Zoom and Teams with clients. Massive thumbs up! Very easy to use and works, we would have been lost without this technology.”

If this sector, which has previously resisted change, now plans to adopt more remote working in the longer term, it poses the question of how will it affect the industries and businesses who were already adopting them before the Covid-19 pandemic hit?

Among the wider business community, the latest results from our Business Opinion Omnibus in August showed that many businesses are planning to give employees the freedom to decide whether they return to the workplace, whilst others are making no change to current homeworking arrangements. This is particularly true among office based businesses. 67% of office based businesses have had all or most employees working from home during lockdown. Among these businesses:

  • 32% say management will encourage more staff on site in the next month
  • 24% say more staff on site are expected, but employees will be free to choose
  • 45% say no change to current arrangements is expected in the next month

The Government clearly has its work cut out to encourage more people back into the office.  Here at BVA BDRC, I feel very lucky to be in a role where I can work effectively from home, and where the company continues to involve all of us in forward planning.

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