Mike Allison is head of protection at Paradigm Mortgage Services
Every day we receive news briefings from the government providing the latest information on coronavirus.
We are informed with plenty of data that appears, at the minute, to be encouraging. Sadly, we are also reminded of the tragic loss of life that has occurred.
At the time of writing (after six or so weeks) many thoughts are now turning to ‘next steps’, a roadmap out of the lockdown, and the implications for not only the physical health of the nation but also the health of the economy.
One thing that is highly evident, and commendable, is the pace at which many large organisations, especially those in the mortgage and protection industries, have adapted to lockdown. They have instigated their disaster recovery plans with relative success given the sheer scale of the issues that needed to be addressed.
Which leads us to a highly legitimate question: what does that mean for the future working practices of not only the firms we associate with, but the world as a whole?
Now that Zoom and Teams have leapt into our everyday phraseology, how is this likely to shape how we work and interact with our customers?
Of course, working remotely or from home is by no means a new phenomenon.
In a recent survey published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in March, based on 2019, we were told that of the 32.6 million in employment, around 1.7 million reported working mainly from home, with around four million having worked from home in the week prior to being interviewed. Around 8.7 million reported having ever worked from home; however, this is less than 30% of the workforce.
It would be safe to assume that those numbers have been surpassed in the past few weeks.
There are clearly some occupations that lend themselves to working from home with ease; however, many employees do not have this luxury.
This could well be down to tradition, or the perception that it is better to work together under one roof.
However, now that working from home has been somewhat forced upon us, and with necessity as they say being the mother of invention, new practices have undoubtedly been formed, and are likely to stick in many cases.
So, taking more of a micro view of things, might we expect the face of financial services as we know it to change? The recent changes and restrictions will drive much-needed efficiencies within businesses. If that is the case, how will it affect all of us?
There is little doubt that a key feature of the past few weeks has been the use of technology to drive what we do. This is not just in terms of our meeting habits, but in how we communicate ‘en masse’ to our customers, in the form of webinars and online briefings.
We are all well aware of the mantra, as prevalent in our industry as any, that ‘people buy from people’. The reality is, I believe, that this will not change for some time. What is under discussion at the moment, though, is how people will communicate with people and gain their trust.
Furthermore, what technologies will be used to make the bond between the customer and the broker more interactive; to make them feel a far greater part of the process and help advance that trust?
The necessary technologies exist now, but for whatever reasons have not yet been fully integrated into the standard processes. They are coming, though, and will be here to stay, forming a major part of that client bonding utopia we all seek.
It is not only sales methods that will be under the microscope and subject to these advancements. In highly regulated industries such as ours, firms will need to know that any changes made to move processes away from face-to-face contact will not expose them to higher compliance risks.
How will telephone or online sales affect demands and needs and suitability documentation?
I am aware in our own organisation of requests in the past few weeks to clarify a number of positions regarding remote sales and how it affects output of documentation.
It is clear, for those not used to operating in such environments, that specialist compliance services such those offered at Paradigm are now high on the list of priorities to ensure adherence to the rules.
In these challenging times, having the necessary compliance support and backing to ensure your changed working practices do not see you breaking the rules will be vital. Not only will they give peace of mind to you, but to your customers too. Make sure you have the required compliance support to get to that point.