The coronavirus crisis has provoked reactions ranging from frustration to sympathy towards lenders from the intermediary community.
BestAdvice’s recent virtual roundtable focused on the impact Covid-19 is having on the mortgage intermediary sector and what strategies advisers are using to deal with it.
Dale Jannels, managing director at Impact Specialist Finance, said that while he had some sympathy with mortgage lenders, others were hanging applicants out to dry.
”We have to understand the massive pressure the lenders are up against right now. From what I understand, most lenders had about six hours’ notice before the government announcement [on mortgage payment holidays], so in many cases the phone started ringing but lenders were not actually prepared.
“We’re now seeing some lenders actually pulling mortgage offers as well. This is concerning to me, because where has the binding offer gone? It doesn’t seem to be something you can count on in this in the current climate.
“To me, it doesn’t seem to be treating customers fairly, especially if they have got a mortgage offer out. The client is preparing to do whatever they need to do with that money, whether it be to purchase a property or remortgage to refinance – they could have been remortgaging to sort out their finances before the lockdown.
“I can understand the pre-offer pipeline being reassessed because of valuations and employment contracts and so on, especially if someone is a self-employed hairdresser for example, their income is really going to be hit hard over the next couple of months.”
Jo Carrasco, business partnerships director at Stonebridge network, has seen differences in how lenders have dealt with the upheaval caused by Covid-19.
She said: “Some of the lenders have coped with this a lot better than others; there have been real differences out there.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t be having last minute products being pulled out, LTVs changing, all that kind of thing. But we’re not in an ideal world at the moment, and the lenders really are against it. They’re having to make fast decisions and changes very quickly and communicate it to the masses as well.
“These are tough times that the lenders would never have been perfectly prepared for so I think we do have to give them a bit of leeway.”
Rachel Geddes, managing director at Mortgage Advice Bureau, said the conorovirus pandemic was making the business’ mortgage advisers more proactive.
She said: “We’re going back to the basics and actually making contact with our clients and staying on top of our data – when we’re really busy, it falls by the wayside, but now it’s come back into day-to-day practice.
“So we’re still busy; not at the levels we’re used to, but there’s a good level of business out there by looking at different sources for it.
“I think clients are so appreciative of the call. We have taken a staged approach with clients so we started by contacting pipeline and other certain clientele that we thought were priority just to keep them abreast of what’s going on and reassure them.
“We set up a dedicated helpline for clients in financial difficulty or who want to discuss mortgage holidays. The first few calls were somewhat panicked, but after that clients really appreciated the call, in order to actually get some understanding, because the media out there is only showing the negatives.”
Sebastian Riemann from Libra Financial Planning, said that, like a number of mortgage advisers, he previously spent a lot of time working from home, so the lockdown hasn’t actually changed that aspect of the job too much.
He added: “What we’ve seen more of is telephone calls. The length and content of the conversations with the clients has been a lot more in-depth. It’s not just around their mortgage, but the market as a whole.
“Having that interaction with clients and speaking to them in depth is really important, whereas I think sometimes in the past people have hidden behind online fact finds and emails rather than having that real one-on-one communication.”
Keith Richards, CEO of the Personal Finance Society (PFS) and board member of the Society of Mortgage Professionals, noted that many advisers are managing to keep themselves occupied, engaging with their clients and customers quite actively, and using the time to better shape their business for when things return to normal.
He added: “Many have been surprised at how well engaged their clients are in the use of a lot of the technology that’s now available.
“In many ways, I think what we’re really trying to do now is: allay the fears, get brokers back into the position of thinking about what they do by utilising the time they’ve got more effectively – and simply because we just don’t know how long this is going to run for.”