Social media gets the cold shoulder from brokers

Robyn Hall

September 24, 2013

Text messaging fared better as Skipton’s broker feedback survey revealed that a third of brokers wanted to hear about product withdrawals by text and two thirds wanted to be texted with updates on their cases.

Tracy Fletcher, head of corporate communications, said: “Our experience is that communication with a human being is important to our brokers and they like to have direct interaction with either a business development manager, an underwriter or a member of our support team.”

But Fletcher said this is only part of the Skipton’s communication strategy and it relies on feedback from its brokers to make sure communication is adapted to brokers’ needs.

She added: “Our current approach includes a mix of face-to-face, telephone and email as well as things like text alerts to give brokers up-to-date information about how cases they have submitted are progressing.”

Matthew Fleming-Duffy, mortgage and finance broker at Cherry Mortgage and Finance, agreed that while he uses social media outside of work he did not want to use it to keep in contact with lenders.

He said: “I feel that social media provides a series of tools to enhance an individual’s or a business’s profile and online presence. Certainly the younger generations use various social media to engage with each other, with groups of like-minded individuals and to generally speak with the world and I also use sites such as Facebook and Linkedin to keep in contact with friends, family and colleagues.

“And while there are positives we can take from these sites as consumers and even as armchair columnists I question whether they should be used for communicating potentially sensitive information about a customer’s mortgage application or indeed to receive details from lenders on new products? In my opinion we should not.”

Fleming-Duffy said he regularly receives product, criteria and service updates via email and the financial press and has established methods of direct communication with lenders via the post and telephone.

He added: “Of these methods certainly email communication is being questioned as a potential security risk by some banks so why add more channels for fraudsters to abuse?”

Lea Karasavvas, director of Prolific Mortgage Finance, thought using social media for communication with lenders would give brokers a false impression about the accessibility they have to their lender.

He said: “It will give brokers the false impression that lenders are available for contact 24/7 as that is what social media is all about, 24/7 communication bandings.

“If ultimately every lender has phone, email, Linked-in, twitter and Facebook as a means of communication the need for them to check that ever expanding list of channels will slow down the output from the lender and ultimately create more of a back log.

“You could end up with a broker trying five differing channels for one question duplicating a workload.”

Karasavvas’ preferred method of communication is via email because of the trail it creates between the lender and the client.

He added: “Whilst there are many benefits to social media as a form of communication running lender updates and progression through this is not a viable option in my opinion.”

Dominik Lipnicki, director of Your Mortgage Decisions, thought social media was an underused resource.

He said: “I do value social media and I can see it becoming ever more important in our industry. We have for too long been behind the curve and Facebook, twitter, Linked-In as well as a general online presence which is vital for any business trying to reach out to new clients.

“From speaking to my brokers, however, I am of the opinion that most lenders are very slow to catch up on technological trends and many do not understand that social media is now a part of our everyday life.”

Karasavvas, an avid twitter user, said that the increase in the volume of work that most brokers are experiencing makes it more difficult to monitor different platforms.

He said: “I have used twitter for the past three years and it has worked really well for me but it is becoming harder work to maintain.

“Business levels are up for everyone and having this as an additional communication tool can simply add to the workload. Twitter has really taken off over the last two years but so too has the level of spam and glitches with the system.

“I can only see it being used in a “livechat” way similar to that of NatWest. However the restriction of 140 characters means it will be futile and exceptionally frustrating.”

Fletcher said the Skipton will continue to monitor attitudes to social media.

She added: “We will continue to move with the times and keep talking to our key contacts. Although they’ve told us that, at the moment, they don’t see social media as an appropriate medium for communicating with us if this changes in the future and they have a greater appetite for it we’ll consider stepping up our communications in this area.”

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