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April 2020 | AMI

Robert Sinclair: Keeping your customers safe

Robert Sinclair is chief executive officer of AMI

It’s hard to believe that, at the time of writing, it’s been less than two weeks since the UK went into lockdown and Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp and Skype became our preferred way to communicate. 

In an industry that has always favoured face-to-face contact, the changes that came thick and fast have altered our routines immeasurably and, I suspect, will make us stronger and more resilient.

In the mortgage industry there’s been a strong sense of everyone working as a team. Mortgage clubs have been sharing their information with all and the sourcing and criteria systems have been working hard to ensure that their systems are up to date with the raft of changes that come in throughout the day to allow brokers to remain at the top of their game. Many have been delivering this for free.

One thing that has always been the mainstay of a good mortgage adviser is contact and this is arguably now more important than ever. 

Keep in contact with your customers: they need to know that you are there for them now but also that you will be there for them when life is closer to the norm that we are used to, when they will be potentially more vulnerable with more debt. 

Your customers need to know that mortgage payment holidays aren’t for everyone, the interest is merely deferred to a later date and that anyone who takes “a holiday” will see their mortgage payments rise. 

There may be other more suitable solutions for your client and at this time advice is key. You can talk through their options and assess what is the most suitable for them taking their personal circumstances into account.

The 2008 crash has taught us that whilst, on the whole, consumers will do whatever they can to keep up with their mortgage payments, protection cover is often an early casualty when people reassess their finances. 

Of course, that may not be the case in a global pandemic; people may feel the need to keep up payments on their protection premiums more acutely than ever.

However, a reminder of the protection policies your customers have in place and the cover this affords them may be timely when they are looking to cancel unnecessary direct debits.

Think about whether you’re going to need to furlough anyone in your team. Doing it sooner will provide the cash support needed.

However, firms need to make sure that they still have appropriate systems, controls and oversight over the operation.

Cutting corners on identification or on full fact finding and advice might fall foul of lender compliance checks later.

If a business interruption loan is needed then apply as soon as possible so it’s ready for you to draw down when it’s time – rather than battling through the application process under pressure. 

This period will test all of us. Mortgage intermediaries have regularly proved their worth. We will do now and will again, to ensure that the right advice is given to help people come through this in the best possible financial shape.