Socially distant but better connected: How technology is keeping the market moving through Covid-19
“Although mortgage product numbers plummeted in the first few weeks of the pandemic, there are now signs that activity is beginning to re-emerge.”
As I begin writing this feature, I’ve officially spent my first full month working from home.
I’m lucky in that, working for an online publication, I can work remotely without too much upheaval. I used the money saved on petrol to purchase a crate of coffee pods and, with the addition of WhatsApp, Zoom, Slack, and other social media tools, I can still update my work colleagues on what trash TV I watched the night before and what I’m dreaming about having for lunch before I’ve even had my breakfast. In many ways, it’s business as usual.
However, as a business which relies heavily on events and educational programmes, we had to adapt our offering as quickly as possible after the Covid-19 social distancing measures began. Within a couple of weeks, we’d launched a series of Virtual Roadshows, a digital version of our educational round-table events.
The Virtual Roadshows allow advisers and lenders to stay connected on a human level and match the format of our physical Roadshows as much as possible, taking place over one day, with six dedicated speaking sessions for lenders and providers and Q&A functionality to ensure crucial conversations.
We recently held our first one-day event which, unsurprisingly, focused largely on how brokers are currently utilising technology and social media to maintain business.
During the Virtual Roadshow, two thirds of brokers said the current climate had increased their use of mortgage technology.
A few years ago, it would be impossible to imagine that technology could ever replace face-to-face meetings, especially in financial services.
However, the market had adapted quickly and effectively to ensure that valuations can still take place and advisers can continue to stay connected with their clients.
Many mortgage lenders are now utilising AVMs and desktop valuations to lend up to 90% LTV. Additionally, the FCA recently confirmed that firms can use electronic signatures during the coronavirus outbreak and the Equity Release Council has temporarily removed the requirement for equity release customers to receive face-to-face legal advice.
Additionally, a plethora of criteria search systems, mortgage clubs, and other firms have launched Covid-19 hubs to keep advisers up to speed with the latest product and criteria changes.
Although mortgage product numbers plummeted in the first few weeks of the pandemic, there are now signs that activity is beginning to re-emerge. Mortgage Brain data shows that product numbers are beginning to stabilise and it is seeing the first signs of lenders coming back to the market and increasing LTVs.
Additionally, Twenty7Tec says the mortgage market is “seeing the beginning of some green shoots” after recording the first uplift in the volume of mortgage searches for several weeks.
This is proof that, alongside the decisions taken by government, regulators and lenders, technology is being utilised to keep the market moving. Without automated valuations, product sourcing systems and video calling software, lending would have all but stopped until social distancing measures are lifted.
However, there is still room for brokers to better utilise technology in other aspects of their business. During our Virtual Roadshow event, just 19% of brokers said they use technology to market their business, and just 24% to keep their team connected – with only 10% using tech to support their HR processes.
These business areas cannot afford to be ignored until the end of lockdown, which experts predict could continue until the end of the summer. As the intermediary community adapts to working from home and utilising new forms of technology, there is a real opportunity to use social media for marketing and for staying connected with colleagues – even if it is just for sharing pictures of pets and Tiger King memes, the Financial Reporter way.