Wherever I lay my hat
Martin Reynolds is chief executive of SimplyBiz Mortgages
I will start by showing my age in that it was June 1983 when Paul Young hit the top of the charts with his third single, ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’, which stayed at number one for three weeks.
Whilst it may be a tenuous link, it portrays what could be a sea change in how advisers work as we ease out of lockdown.
Traditionally, a large part of the adviser community would be office based, with regular team meetings in which lender and provider BDMs would be invited to talk through their wares.
In some of the bigger firms, the BDMs may even spend half a day in the office talking through potential deals.
Administrators would also be in the office and communication was open and easy. Obviously, the past 12 months have made this impossible, and the majority of advisers and administrators have been working from home, initially in makeshift offices (kitchen and dining room tables or bedrooms), but some have been creating more permanent spaces to work either in the house or in the garden.
What is abundantly clear is that the role of the BDM during the last 12 months has arguably been of its greatest importance ever.
Between the raft of criteria changes and much-documented service challenges that the pandemic has caused lenders, we have found many intermediaries who have had a huge number of instances where the excellent work of a BDM has been one of the differentiating factors in them achieving success for their clients.
Lender BDMs will have been caught in the middle of high demands created by the buoyant market and challenging cases due to client circumstances, lender risk appetite and service pressure.
Many have been remarkably stretched, but still delivered an outstanding service. Their work in the last year should be applauded, and it is how they work going forward that is now of interest, given how valuable so many have been to the market.
As we head towards the next stage of lockdown easing, we have already started to see some firms move back into the office on a more regular basis.
What has been interesting to watch is there has not been a stampede, and even many of those who are returning are not doing it with 100% of their staff or are using a rota system.
Over the past month, I have been speaking to many of our members and understanding how their firms will work over the next few months and into next year, and it has been fascinating.
There is not a one size fits all model anymore, but instead a kaleidoscope of views as to what the “new norm” will be, and a work/life balance is higher up the agenda than 15 months ago.
– Some are looking at moving back to the traditional model and have been working to this for some time.
– Some will offer their staff more flexible working patterns and have no firm rules on how many times they are required into the office.
– For some it will depend on how they interact with their clients and also with their administrators.
What many of them are working through is how will they interact with lenders and providers moving forward and especially their BDMs.
I know that many lender/providers are working through what a normal week will look like for a BDM. Will they go back to four days a week on the road with one admin day? I doubt it. Will there be as many face-to-face events as pre-lockdown? I doubt that also.
It will definitely be a case of quality over quantity for all concerned. BDMs will have to be more flexible moving forward and learn new skills around how they communicate with advisers in various situations.
Will the role of telephone BDM continue to be more pronounced than previously? Having someone on the telephone was not always perceived in the same way as a traditional face-to-face BDM, but people have got used to this way now and, when the prevalence of live talk online messaging is also taken into consideration, many will not want to go back.
I think that there will always be a role for the face-to-face BDM, and also for office-based advisers, but I think the next 12 months will be interesting as we all work through what is the best way for us, our staff and our partners to work together to continue to provide the first-class service to all consumers who need advice.
A big part of this though will be decided on how the consumer wants to interact, and that’s whole new blog in itself.