Making the most of maturities
Jeremy Duncombe is director of intermediary distribution at Accord Mortgages
As the weeks go on and home working becomes the norm, brokers across the country are looking at ways of generating new business, without traditional ‘new’ business being feasible.
Your existing client base is clearly the most obvious place to start. Regardless of where clients are in their mortgage term, it’s a very uncertain time for everyone.
There are so many unknowns and increased anxiety around employment, caring for children or elderly parents. There are very few people who can honestly say this pandemic has had no impact on them.
Therefore, ensuring clients know you are there, you can help and you have options for them is going to provide huge relief, even if they don’t need your services until later in the year or beyond.
But what advice can you provide? There is still so much uncertainty about every aspect in life, not just the housing market. Whilst the Prime Minister has just delivered his eagerly-anticipated speech on how the government sees an easing of lockdown, it’s clear that our industry will need additional support to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
We know there will be increased unemployment as many businesses face an anxious future and household spending will be tightened.
Many clients will have taken mortgage payment holidays and will now be wondering how they can start repayments again. There is no one-size fits all in this environment.
I’m a big advocate of establishing a regular communication strategy with clients, sharing updates, industry insights and showing you value their custom by marking milestones like birthdays or anniversaries.
With most Client Relationship Management (CRM) systems, these can be done automatically and have a healthy impact on your repeat business levels.
If you have this in place already, you can simply continue the good work and create bespoke COVID-19 content which outlines the latest developments and things borrowers may want to consider over the coming months. This invites them to approach you with their personal circumstances and enable you to provide them with the relevant guidance for their situation.
If you don’t have a communications programme in place, now is the ideal opportunity to start. In this environment if you’re only picking up with clients 90 days before their term ends, you risk losing the business you worked so hard to win, so sending a simple email outlining how the current crisis might impact your client base and guidance on how best to start planning for the future will demonstrate why they came to you in the first place and act as a reassuring reminder that you are there when they need you.
Advising for now… and the future
The most obvious opportunity over the coming months is remortgaging and product transfers. Even though positive steps are being made to rebuild the purchase market, existing clients will value your support in reviewing their deal to make sure they get a product which provides financial security and potentially the flexibility needed in these anxious times.
As lenders review ranges, it’s a great time to shop around for the most competitive offering. For some clients, the convenience of a product transfer, with no reassessment of affordability or valuation delays will be the best option.
Most lenders now offer an online process which means it can be done in minutes. We recently had a broker comment that our process was “almost fun and enjoyable and an absolute doddle to use.”
Whilst none of us know how the next few months will play out, by taking a holistic view of your clients’ situation and looking at how their priorities may have changed as a result of this crisis will pay dividends for your future relationship with them. With the ‘stay at home’ message now so deeply rooted, our homes have taken on a new meaning.
Many will emerge from this lockdown wanting to take that next step on the housing ladder as they seek more space inside and out. Some will want to release funds for renovations they have mentally planned during the last few weeks.
Taking the time to discuss all the options and potential scenarios which may play out over the coming months and years will ensure your client has a solid foundation to deal with the future.
Safeguarding your business
As we adapt to the ‘new normal’ it’s important we start to understand what might change. Social distancing measures will mean that face to face meetings will be less prevalent but customers across all sectors have shown that they’re happy to deal over the phone, by online chat and via video calls.
Therefore, ensuring your business is set up to capitalise on this and can provide the right support at the right time and in the right manner is paramount.
Our most recent Growth Series guide on comparing different communication methods has proved incredibly popular with brokers keen to implement affordable and useable technology to help them keep in touch with clients.
Look after your people. Whilst this experience has demonstrated the value of contingency planning and having a robust business continuity plan, it’s also highlighted how people are fundamental to the success of your business. Whether you have a team of 500 or are operating on your own, the strength and character of us all really comes through most in difficult times.
And finally, it’s important to be more proactive than ever. As a lender, we’ve looked at how we can offer more immediate support and help to brokers and their clients by increasing our webchat facility, moving the application process for mortgage payment holidays online and sourcing alternative valuation methods to help applications progress. But we are keen to build on this and welcome any feedback on what we can do to help you succeed.
Your clients need you and want help and reassurance. Work out what practical help you can offer, how best to communicate that and what you may need to adjust in your business plan or way of working to deliver it.
Any time you can invest into reassuring your customer base now will mean your business has the best chance of survival through returning business and referrals in the uncertain months ahead.