Stonebridge has reported an increase in appointed representative (AR) adviser recruitment numbers during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the lockdown, 26 new registered individuals joined the mortgage and insurance network, five of whom did so in May. This brought the number of total advisers within the network up to 693 across 340 firms, while Stonebridge said it anticipates 22 more advisers will be onboarded shortly.
Stonebridge said its continued investment in people and systems was paying dividends as its recruitment and onboarding teams had continued to deliver these results throughout the past few months, particularly in providing support for existing network members who were looking to grow their own adviser numbers.
The network also revealed positive levels of new business activity during May, especially after the easing of lockdown measures across the country.
It said the number of mortgage applications processed during the month was 12% ahead of budget, while the number of purchase mortgage applications had increased by 55% between April and May.
Despite its temporary office closures in Basildon, Milton Keynes and Nottingham, Stonebridge also emphasised that supporting its network members and advice quality remained the key priority, borne out by its Business Standards team receiving over 1,200 inbound calls, conducting 222 file checks and carrying out 133 observations during May alone and despite remote working.
In the same period, its business development team had carried out over 500 adviser calls, over 50 remote business and planning meetings, and conducted over 60 remote training sessions.
The network said that, given its ongoing ability to maintain quality and service levels via a remote working arrangement, coupled with the ongoing risk of Covid-19 infections, it had no plans to reopen any of its offices during June or July.
Rob Clifford, chief executive of Stonebridge, said: “Getting to grips with the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for all businesses including ours, but we are incredibly pleased with the efforts of all our AR firms, the advisers, and the work of the Stonebridge team which has gone on despite the turmoil.
“To have materially increased our adviser numbers during this period is a fantastic result, down not only to the work of our recruitment team, but also those existing AR firms who are increasingly looking to add advisers to their businesses in order to meet demand.
“The easing of lockdown has undoubtedly had a positive impact on purchase activity levels and, while it is still early days, it has been very promising to see strong mortgage application numbers, particularly purchase cases, given the uncertainty about how consumers might respond.
“That said, these do of course remain very challenging times, particularly as we navigate our way through this situation, and we seek to overcome the obstacles presented by product availability and lender caution. What we can do as a network is to continue to support all our advisers through this process and to provide service excellence and tangible support to grasp the many opportunities.
“No one underestimates how different 2020 is turning out to be from any expectations the market had back in January, but by utilising everything Stonebridge has to offer we believe our advisory firms are very well-placed to come through this period in good shape.”