It’s fair to say that Covid-19, the subsequent national lockdown, and the various measures that many people are still having to take, has made us all consider such fundamentals as our work-life balance, how and where we work and live, and what this will all mean for our sector and the future of the housing and mortgage markets.
Much as we, as lenders, are considering how best to interact with our adviser partners and their clients/our customers, what this means for the future of BDM roles, for example, and where best to put our resources in order to sustain those relationships, advisers too will be thinking of what is required of them by clients in this ‘new world’.
To that end, it was interesting to read some recent research from St James’s Place, which, while focused specifically on the IFA space, had some interesting read-across for mortgage advisers.
In this survey, IFA clients were asked how they might wish to interact with their advisers in the future and by what means. Perhaps tellingly in this Covid-19 environment, clients talked much more about regular contact, rather than just relying on the more traditional yearly review.
Clients were much more interested in speaking to their adviser, via technology such as Zoom, in regular ‘ad-hoc video calls’ where they could get short updates as it was felt that by doing so, advisers would be able to provide more relevant market updates and, as a result, potentially achieve better outcomes.
This ‘short and regular’ approach to client interaction might not always be possible in the mortgage space, if the client is being taken through an application for instance, but you could certainly see the benefits in advisers providing more regular, topical updates for certain types of clients.
For instance, I read of one adviser organising an ‘afternoon tea’ session on Zoom for clients, whereby all those who wished to could ‘jump on the call’ mid-afternoon and the adviser would chat to them about various market issues, and answer specific questions.
Given the significant amount of ongoing change happening in the mortgage sector at present, particularly in areas such as buy-to-let, this could be one type of communication method which would allow advisers to talk to a wide range of landlord borrower clients (or those considering property investment) to take them through market developments, stamp duty holiday details, potential product changes, etc.
As a lender we would certainly be willing to support advisers engaged in such communication, not in a sales sense, but perhaps in terms of an education and information session and highlighting opportunities in various buy-to-let sectors – such as HMO/MUB, short-term let and the like – which might not have been considered by some landlords.
In a sense it all comes back to the best ways you can get in front of your clients regularly, particularly those who are more likely to be considering their mortgage/purchase options such as landlords who – let’s be frank here – might not be benefiting from stamp duty holiday periods for a long time after the end of March next year.
It is approximately six months until that deadline is due to end, and this appears to be a prime time for landlords who might be seeking to add to portfolios to do this, and to benefit from the stamp duty saving.
Given the time however it takes to complete transactions, such activity needs to be getting underway very soon, and therefore advisers have an opportunity here to target landlord borrowers, explain this situation, the current timeframe, and the processes that will need to be completed, and potentially act as a catalyst for those who may want to move ahead with a purchase.
As a lender highly active in the buy-to-let space, we can help with such an approach as we all seek to ensure that we make the most of an opportunity that may not come around again anytime soon.
George Gee is commercial director at Foundation Home Loans