Lauren Eaton (pictured) is head of lending operations at LendInvest
The mortgage market traditionally sees fewer new applications over the festive season and at the start of the new year, but there appears to be little chance of that happening this year with the end of the stamp duty holiday on the horizon.
We understand just how busy brokers are trying to get cases over the line and we are doing everything we can do to support them.
This heightened level of activity has forced lenders to review how they operate.
While some lenders have been forced to hold back this year and cut down their lending due to funding concerns, we have had the opposite problem at LendInvest.
We have the funds to lend and the appetite to do it, but do we have the processes in place to ensure we can handle those additional applications coming through the door while maintaining our usual service standards?
So we took a step back to look at our own processes, to identify what we could do differently to get cases through at a faster pace.
And it was clear that embracing some technology enhancements could make a big difference.
We identified there are many aspects in the early stages of the process that can be automated, so we have embraced that.
We have developed our own internal portal which holds integral information for a case, bringing in data from other platforms ‒ for example through open banking ‒ so that a manual underwriter then has everything they need at their fingertips in order to swiftly make a decision.
Brokers are busy enough already ‒ if we can cut out the need to go to them to get documents to support factors like proof of income then we can move forward with the case that much faster.
And then there is communication. It’s always crucial in the mortgage market, but its importance has been amplified by the sheer level of demand at the moment.
So we have taken steps to improve the level of dialogue with intermediaries.
Brokers will always have questions and queries, and want updates on how a case is progressing, so we have introduced what is in effect a ‘front line’ team to handle that crucial dialogue, freeing up the case managers to focus their efforts on the packaging of the case itself, ensuring that we can move towards the offer stage as swiftly as possible.
Again technology has a key role to play here.
We know that brokers prize the personal touch from lenders ‒ this is an industry built on relationships as much as bricks and mortar ‒ but equally it has never been so important to provide intermediaries with updates and keep them up to speed with how a case is progressing.
So we have taken the opportunity to introduce automated status updates, ensuring that brokers are informed of developments like when a valuation is booked or when a case is passed to the underwriter.
Another method we’ve tested in order to keep up this communication with brokers has been the Slack platform, which we are using as a virtual underwriter.
We have brought a handful of key brokers into a channel on Slack with an underwriter and case manager so that if a broker has a question about something like criteria, we can get an answer to them within an hour or so, without them having to pick up the phone.
It’s a system we have used to great effect internally, so it makes sense to test how it can work with key partners ahead of rolling it out to other introducers in the future.
Alongside this we have started publishing our service levels on our website too. Ultimately it’s about being transparent with brokers about where they stand and what they can expect.
Yes, there will be occasions when it means that we can’t help with a specific client or case, but we know that advisers value that transparency.
This approach has paid off for us, and we were delighted to reclaim the title of ‘Buy-to-Let Lender of the Year for the second year running at the latest NACFB awards.
It has been a strange year for all sorts of reasons, but the fact that the market is so active is a real cause for optimism. But lenders cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
We all need to regularly look at our methods from the broker’s perspective, to find ways that we can move more swiftly and deliver a more satisfying experience for intermediaries and clients alike.