Collaboration and integration

Neal Jannels OMS

Neal Jannels is managing director of OMS

Collaboration and integration are two important words within any industry from a tech perspective. Throughout the pandemic, many business models and customer engagement processes have evolved to overcome many unforeseen challenges which has resulted in a tech explosion.

This has served to offer individuals greater control and choice over the types of tech they are using from a personal level and tools which they can use for work purposes to empower them to communicate better and be more productive with their time.

Rex proptech lenders platformOMS completes full API integration with West One

It’s more important than ever for tech providers to successfully service the varying needs of their clients, users, customers or creators – however they like to be known.

This can be done through careful planning, trial and error, a degree of luck, partnerships, collaborations, integrations or any combination of the aforementioned. These come in many different forms, so let’s look at a two recent examples covering areas way beyond the mortgage world but ones which have technology at the heart of them.


Instagram is reported to be testing new tools for creators to earn commissions and form partnerships with brands on its platform. The Meta-owned company is expanding its existing native affiliate tool to allow creators to discover products, share them with followers and earn commissions for sales driven by their posts.

Instagram is also testing new branded content partnership features to help creators get discovered by brands. Creators now have the ability to add to their preferred ‘brands list’ brands they’re interested in partnering with, which will give them priority when companies are searching for new creators to work with.


A new US and UK collaboration has integrated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to support combat forces. For the first time, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) worked with the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to develop, select, train, and deploy state-of-the-art ML algorithms to support armies.

The research provides wide-area situational awareness tech, and aims to improve decision-making, increase operational tempo, reduce risk to life, and reduce burden on manpower. The four-year partnership agreement includes objectives to accelerate joint UK/US development and sharing of AI tech and capabilities.

These examples couldn’t be more diverse but they do offer a very small sample of how tech can be used in a variety of ways to connect very dissimilar entities for a unique set of purposes.

Bringing this back to the mortgage market, for as long as I can remember there has been a huge emphasis on competition and very individual – at times almost clandestine – approaches to doing business.

This remains the case in some areas but we are also seeing a growing number of companies working together and broadening their thinking to utilise the skills, expertise and specialist nature of other businesses to better service the needs of the end customer.

After all, strong integrations and healthy partnerships can benefit a number of links in the mortgage chain. For those who can look a little outside the competitive box, the right collaborations can open doors to new audiences and build a stronger support network for existing clients. It can also serve to raise the stakes and push individual offerings to do better.

It’s always interesting when having tech-related conversations with intermediaries, specialist distributors, lenders and a variety of service providers to note exactly where this conversation starts and where it finishes.

Different parties come to the table with different ideas, different preconceptions and different needs. What may begin as a discussion on a certain feature, can often end up focusing on another thing entirely.

On the flip side, some people are laser-focused and have already undertaken extensive research when it comes to how certain solutions will impact their business.

As a business, we have certainly evolved our thinking in terms of how to progress the OMS platform. We continue to develop this internally and work on new features but we have also learned that we can progress quicker and more effectively when collaborating with trusted partners with the same ethos who have similar goals in mind.

This is evident in the fact that we have already integrated with four market-leading platforms – Iress, Twenty7Tec, iPipeline and Knowledge Bank to provide users with best in class for product sourcing, protection sourcing and criteria searching.

More relationships like these are expected to be formed in 2022 and this collaborative approach is one which is happening across the industry.

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The trouble with modern methods of construction

Geoff Hall is chairman of Berkeley Alexander

According to the National Housing Federation, England needs 340,000 new homes (including 145,000 affordable homes) per year until 2031.

Due to this desperate need to deliver new homes quickly, modern methods of construction (MMC) have been promoted as a way of working more effectively to achieve more, without using more.

Berkeley Alexander adds advisers

MMC, described as ‘a process to produce more, better quality homes in less time’, centres around the use of mass production off-site construction techniques such as panelised construction, blockwork, or insulated concrete/timber frameworks.

But it’s not only about speed and affordability; MMC also offers the opportunity to drive up environmental performance, efficiency, and sustainability.

All sounds great, but could MMC’s be a potential risk issue for the insurance industry? The answer is yes.

Not all properties built using modern methods of construction would be considered by an insurer as “standard construction”, so it’s vital brokers talk to their clients to build a detailed picture of their property and ensure the right cover is offered.

If in doubt, speak to your GI provider about how to assess the particular risks a property may pose and how to find the right cover at the right price.

New FCA product governance rules

General insurance intermediaries are now required to have updated systems and controls, as well as product governance frameworks, up and running to assess whether insurance products deliver ‘fair value’ for customers.

This FCA rules change marks a significant milestone in the drive towards a more customer-centric industry. However according to consultants KPMG, rather than having an immediate impact for good, it could instead lead to an uneven playing field in insurance, because some insurers are more stringent in their definitions of ‘fair value’ than others.

So, what does this mean for you and your clients? The reality is that whilst the ultimate responsibility to demonstrate ‘fair value’ is on the insurers, brokers have a responsibility to treat customers fairly, and evaluating fair, and even better ‘good’ value, is best practice whenever making recommendations and placing insurance for your clients.

Whilst you cannot influence an insurer’s policy wordings, if you feel that they’re not appropriate for a client’s needs then don’t offer the policy.

For example, don’t just add legal expenses or accidental damage for the sake of it, or because it’s ‘what you always do’ – make sure it meets the client’s needs and demonstrates fair value. The same applies to utilising industry standards such as defaqto five-star products.

Whilst clearly it’s best to use a five-star product when you can, it’s not necessarily providing a fair outcome for every client. I often refer to the example of a first-time buyer with a two up/two down mid terrace and on a limited monthly income.

Do they see value in paying more for a five-star all singing and dancing policy when there may be a two or three-star product that better suits their needs and wallet?

The new FCA rules emphasise what a good broker has always known – ensure you offer the right policy for the client and not simply make all your clients fit the same product.

The onus is on all of us to ensure as an industry we improve customer outcomes and product value, especially in the wake of Covid-19. Let’s all play our part in delivering ‘fair value’.

General insurance is foundation income

Let me ask you a question… do you consider general insurance to be a valuable income stream? If the answer is no, then my next question is – how can I enlighten you?

Is it because you’re nervous or lack understanding about placing insurance? Perhaps you’re worried about permissions? Maybe you simply don’t feel you have the time, or that offering general insurance protection is not worthwhile?

Whatever the reason, following the FCA pricing review, there is a huge opportunity for general insurance income to become foundation income, whether that be in offering standard, non-standard, quirky, high net worth or buy-to-let protection products.

Realise the opportunity by working with a GI provider. We are here to help you with:

· Product, policy and underwriting knowledge; build a successful and sustainable strategy for making general insurance a valuable asset in terms of reputation, relationship building and income.

· Technology, training and support; quote and buy quickly and easily for standard cases with tech-driven solutions, get dedicated support for complicated insurance issues, or introduce/refer a client so you can you do more business, in less time, and with greater financial return.

· Compliance and legal; build a compliant quote process, from fact-find, through product research, quote pack, demands and needs statements, key facts information, and policy documentation.

Your GI provider should be helping you make general insurance part of your foundation income. If they’re not, then maybe it’s time to switch.

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How lenders have changed their criteria in the face of rising cost of materials

Daniel Netzer is lending manager at Blend Network

In an ever-changing climate of rising building material costs, lenders should pay very close attention to the contract between the borrower and the contractor.

For example, in the US, the National Association of Homebuilders’ Construction Liability, Risk Management and Building Materials Committee recently published a contract appendix for property developers to use in their construction contracts that provides an ‘Escalation Clause for Specified Building Materials’.

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These changes to ‘fixed-price’ contracts act more like ‘cost-plus’ contracts where borrowers assume the risk of rising materials costs.

Ultimately, rising material costs threaten homebuilders’ ability to complete the project while maintaining a profit. Thinly capitalized developers may not be able to, or may not want to, absorb additional costs under ‘fixed-price’ contracts, particularly in high-demand markets where there’s an incentive to just walk away for more profitable works.

Generally, there are three ways lenders have adjusted and changed their lending criteria in the face of rising cost of materials to navigate the new more uncertain price environment.

The first way is to require higher contingencies and contingency reserve accounts. The second way it more integration on supply chain and materials used on site (e.g. where are the bricks made in? Are tiles made in Turkey or in the UK).

And the third way is by an increased focus on the financial standing of the borrower’s main contractor. So, our advice to borrowers right now would be: make sure you are using a contractor of fixed price and that you are comfortable the contractor can deliver with that fixed price, make sure that your risk as a developer is one that you are comfortable with, and finally and most importantly, make sure that your numbers are strong enough to sustain sudden and unforeseen price rises.

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You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone

Mark Snape is chief executive of Broker Conveyancing

Joni Mitchell was definitely not singing about the pandemic, but the sentiment still holds true, particularly through periods of lockdown that meant we were unable to see family, friends, colleagues and indeed – for all of us in financial services – continue personal relationships with clients.

That point has hit home with particular force, certainly since we began to have more time in the Broker Conveyancing offices and it was possible to chat across a desk, sit round a meeting table, and socialise outside of the business.

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It has been something of a revelation to be able to do just that and it has reminded me just how powerful our personal relationships are, especially within a work environment.

I think for many of us, meeting online via Zoom and Teams was a means to an end, and in our sector in particular, it certainly allowed us to keep on working and perhaps opened up a range of possibilities in terms of how we connect with people.

That six-hour drive across the country to meet a client might not seem so necessary now given all parties can dial in, and there is definitely both a cost and time saving to be had in doing that.

However, what price sitting down with someone, particularly for advisers and indeed within the office environment? It’s not surprising to me that, even with many firms giving employees the opportunity to work from home permanently, many are still choosing to come into the office at least a couple of days a week, because, a) it gets you out of the house and b) it alters the way you work and the benefits you get out of that work.

Zoom/Teams meetings can seem a little perfunctory. An agenda is worked through, and everyone signs off immediately once that is completed.

However, put everyone in a room together and not only can you develop relationships further, but you can spark off each, throw ideas around and generally get to a point which would be unlikely if you were doing this online.

I wonder if advisers feel the same way about client interactions? There is always a lot of talk about the transactional nature of delivering mortgage advice, and that may have a ring of truth to it, but I’ve never felt that the relationship between adviser and client was in any way ‘transactional’. Far from it.

In fact, the best advisers go out of their way to ensure that providing mortgage advice is not a ‘one hit wonder’ in which over the course of the next two/three/five years, you never have any further interaction until that mortgage is coming up for renewal.

To opt for this seems like a sure way to lose clients to me, particularly in an environment where lenders are so keen to secure product transfer activity which ultimately keeps the adviser out of the transaction.

And, of course, if you have a transactional approach to your clients then how can you possibly know about any changed circumstances, changed wants and needs? How can you delve into their financial lives on a regular basis and how can you find those ancillary sales opportunities that always come up when you do?

Nobody’s life stays on hold for two/three/five years, and the best advisers know this and ensure they have the communication strategy to stay in contact with their clients.

That may be offering them a face-to-face regular catch-up meeting, and I’m aware of many clients who would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with their adviser regularly, simply because ‘things happen’ and you also want to know that you’re in the best financial shape possible.

Look at what has been happening over the last few months in terms of remortgage competition. Any client is likely to be looking at the deals currently available and wondering if they could potentially save money.

It may be that they can’t do this right now – perhaps the ERC renders any saving irrelevant and is not worth paying – but being able to work that through for a client is going to be appreciated.

Even if it’s not worth it now, what are the chances they’ll come back to you to sort out their remortgage when they can? And if a shift now is worth it, then you as an adviser need not only sort out the remortgage, but also the conveyancing, and potentially any new protection/insurance, needs as well.

So, evidently, the social nature of our business is returning. We should not simply assume that what has worked over the last 12-18 months is going to satisfy clients in the future.

Give them choices and continue to build those relationships in as many ways as possible – you’re sure to get as much out of this as you put in.

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What does the end of the stamp duty holiday mean for the market?

Peter Joseph is chief executive of The Moving Hub

When the stamp duty holiday ended on 30 September, the property industry could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The market surged following the introduction of the tax break, combined with the release of pent-up demand during the height of the pandemic.

It successfully re-energised the market following its closure during the first national lockdown, keeping the economy moving. However, recent months saw many speculate on the future of the market following the stamp duty holiday deadline. Now it is time to consider what the end means for the industry.

What does an extension of the stamp duty holiday mean for conveyancers?

The stamp duty holiday cliff-edge

Fears of a cliff-edge started to be heard at the beginning of the year, as the original deadline approached. With thousands of prospective buyers at risk of not completing in time to benefit, the number of purchases with the potential of falling through was concerning.

These concerns fuelled calls from industry professionals to extend the planned deadline and taper it to avoid a hard stop. The thinking behind it was that it would give more purchases the chance to complete, which were already in progress.

When the extension and subsequent tapering were announced, the industry rejoiced. Although a minority of transactions did fall through, the completions prevented a knock-on effect for the rest of the market.

The imbalance of supply and demand

The shortage of properties coming to the market is now in a fifth consecutive month. Latest reports show current numbers are lower than pre-pandemic levels, with prospective buyers remaining motivated to make their purchases.

But, while demand remains high, property prices have also risen. The average house price has increased by almost £30,000 since June last year, one month before the introduction of the stamp duty holiday.

While purchasers persist to buy their next properties, house prices may be set to increase further. This inflation has raised concerns for the future of house prices, but the market has not yet run out of steam.

However, prospective sellers may still be encouraged to list their properties. At present, the market is less frantic from not being in the height of the pandemic, is more appealing to sellers.

Now the stamp duty holiday has ended, what is in store for the market?

The seller’s market is predicted to remain for a few more months at least and could span into the new year. However, if conditions remain as they are, the buyer’s frenzy is likely to wane.

While this may not result in property prices going down, it will help achieve equilibrium in the market. Still, many uncertainties remain, such as the possibilities of potential future lockdowns.

Another lockdown could spark the same desire in people to move on from their current property and reignite the market. This could delay the hope of achieving balance in the market considerably, but only time will tell.

After a turbulent 18 months across the property industry, a sustained and stable market is something we are all eager to see.

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Coming out of the pandemic

James Rainbird is managing director of Pink Pig Loans

As we come out of the pandemic, it’s been somewhat obvious that the number of borrowers who have picked up some sort of adverse credit has grown.

In many cases, through no fault of their own, payments may have been missed on credit cards or mobile phone bills, or other types of credit.

Avalanche of numbers

For the most part those missed payments will be caught up with over time however they will still appear on credit reports and, from a mortgage perspective, that needs to be dealt with.

To give you some idea of the scale of this issue, look no further than Pepper Money’s most recent Adverse Credit Study which estimated that 6.29 million adults in the UK have experienced adverse credit within the past three years. Of these, more than 880,000 intend to purchase a property to either live in or let out in the next 12 months.

You can see that, from a specialist lending advice, perspective there are clearly opportunities and advisers are going to be in demand, mainly because many of these borrowers have never been in such a position before and are unsure about their situation with regards to securing a mortgage/remortgage.

These figures also suggest that a large proportion of people with adverse credit issues have assumptions over the impact missed payments or a County Court Judgement (CCJ) can have on their mortgage prospects and are not even attempting to apply for a mortgage. That is a more worrying trend and needs to be nipped in the bud.

When faced with such clients, the important thing is that advisers do not simply conclude that they cannot help them find a mortgage. The good news is there is a growing number of specialist lenders who take a pragmatic approach to credit repair and are willing to consider applicants with blips on their record.

For example, we have recently been finding solutions for clients with adverse credit with lenders such as Together, United Trust Bank, Central Trust and Norton.

These and certain other specialist lenders have a real appetite for helping the clients that the high street aren’t interested in. We’ve been able to find rates at well under 4% with such lenders who don’t credit score but take a view based on affordability.

With increasingly competitive rates and criteria out there for adverse clients, advisers should make sure they are looking to these lenders for these types of solutions, else risk the distinct possibility that the clients will go elsewhere and find someone who can help them.

In addition, our experience is that such borrowers are loyal to those who help them and maintain their relationship once their credit issues are ironed out and are looking to remortgage with a more mainstream lender.

For those with little experience in dealing with such cases, my advice would be to partner with a specialist mortgage packager such as Pink Pig Loans.

While we have traditionally been known as a second-charge mortgage distributor, we are packaging ever-increasing volumes of first-charge specialist mortgages.

While I’m not in the habit of making grand predictions I do feel 2022 will see specialist lending become much more mainstream. A combination of COVID-related job insecurity, dramatically rising energy bills and imminent interest rate rises will pile increasing pressure on borrowers.

With interest rates at historic lows since the Credit Crunch of 2008-2009, there are many thousands of borrowers who are unused to rates that were the norm in the decades before Northern Rock and Lehman Brothers collapsed. Even a modest increase to a Bank Rate of 1% will potentially have a significant effect on individuals’ affordability.

In such an environment, advisers who aren’t put off or phased by clients with adverse credit will find there are real solutions out there and their clients will be extremely grateful for their help.

My advice is to research the market and raise awareness with your clients about the options available. If you don’t feel comfortable with the process, then partner with a specialist. You won’t regret it.

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How can technology change the financial services sector?

Ozgur Unlu is managing director of 360 Dotnet

For mortgage and protection advisers there is no disagreement that managing a bank of clients from the initial meeting until completion is hard work. As an adviser you are responsible for supporting each request a client makes as quickly and efficiently as achievable.

During 2020, panic hit the housing market as fears loomed that house prices were going to decline. The housing market had to endure industry firsts because buyers wanted to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.

2021 has seen a record-setting price rise coinciding with FinTech company, 360 Dotnet, who are on track to see almost an increase of 10% in lending recorded in their platform, 360 Lifecycle for 2021.

The market is still not clear, as we have yet to see the affect that the end of the stamp duty holiday will have as it was only cut on 30 September 30.

The revenue for September hit £1.3bn according to data from HMRC and if demand continues to increase in 2022, we can still expect house prices to rise.

As most businesses are still allowing their employees to indefinitely work from home, this may continue to enable people to move to less expensive areas as they opt for a countryside dwelling.

High mortgage (loan-to-value) LTV products remain in place having reached 95%, but lenders are starting to cut this figure or already have done, nearly half of mortgages written using 360 Lifecycle are between 60-80%.

The shortage of houses available and the amount of people waiting to snap up their dream home may continue to push prices further up in 2022, as there are buyers who are paying over the asking price to secure their new home.

This means advisers will have to act fast to meet the needs of each client. This can be very daunting as advisers realise they need technology to help make their business processes more streamlined.

Online financial tools allowed people to recapture some financial control. As more people feel like they can trust the digital world, businesses that are reliant on using paper and completing transactions face-to-face need to shift their mentality and get onboard with technology.

This is especially important in the financial services industry who have come out on top with helping mortgage and insurance advisers adapt and grow their business with a customer relationship management system (CRM) in place, 95% of 360 Dotnet users say that said 360 Lifecycle is essential to run their business.

Adopting a CRM is vital for advisers to future proof their business allowing them to keep track of their daily activities, saving time, costs, improving relationships and increasing productivity.

Advisers may have tools in place like Microsoft Excel to keep track of customers, but as their businesses expands, they may realise the tools they are currently using are not best suited to help their business.

Advisers need to stop using untrustworthy spreadsheets and reap the benefits technology can offer by using technology specifically designed for advisers.

By implementing technology advisers are seeing quicker mortgage application processes as the FinTech company, 360 Dotnet, saves advisers 45 to 90 minutes of data entry per application.

Clients do not want to be waiting for updates on their application, they want a quick and efficient service. Advisers need a CRM that can keep track of their daily activities allowing them to schedule and block out their day as needed, be it client appointments, meetings or simply a reminder. Advisers need to be able see a customer’s whole journey from

that first connection and booking in the first virtual meeting to the mortgage completion. This may lead to the continual flow of repeat business, our client portal has provided advantages to our clients, they have seen an increase in repeat business by over 25%.

This improves client relationships allowing them to see their customers’ needs, making them a priority in their business. Their customers are never pushed to one side because they can set future reminders allowing them to connect with their customers when they need it the most, be it virtual or face-to-face, that is why 93% of advisers using 360 Lifecycle said they were able to stay better connected with their customers.

Advances in technology, as well as the seismic impact of COVID, has changed our world. For any firm, large or small, as the mortgage market continues to adapt, technology will carry on being key.

The warning call for advisers is that they should closely consider which technology is right for them and take control of their own destiny by providing themselves with the ability to service clients with the help of technology.

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Being an asset to your family

Craig Middleton is mortgage sales manager at Harpenden Building Society

With increasing numbers from a senior generation wanting to offer financial support to younger family members or provide for their twilight years, what investment opportunities are available to them? Property investment facilitated by ‘later life lending’ is one option benefitting customers, their families, and brokers too.

Investment opportunities

The only certainty, in a time dominated by Brexit, COVID-19 and climate change, is uncertainty! As a result, good investment opportunities are harder to find but some traditional examples remain strong.

Harpenden and Tenet launch range for police

With interest rates remaining at a historic low and house prices generally rising in value in recent years, property investment has provided a good rate of return. In the second half of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, residential property prices in the United Kingdom saw dramatic increase.

The average price of a house in the UK increased by 9.26% in the 12 months prior to March 2021, reaching an estimated value of roughly 231,644 British pounds in the first quarter of 2021.

An ongoing rise in house prices is never guaranteed but with demand for quality stock outstripping availability, prudent property investment can create a sound investment.

Spreading the love

With potential strong returns from property, later life lending is one area of borrowing that is particularly popular amongst senior applicants wanting to free up capital to help their children get onto the property ladder or to support a growing family.

Releasing money to pay for care costs is another key factor in taking out mortgages in later life. Age need not be a barrier to successful lending.

Challenges for older borrowers

Gaining access to the right mortgage is key. Brokers’ customers who took out interest only mortgages and now coming to the end of their term may have limited, future options with mainstream lenders.

Their incomes may be very different now due to the fact they are semi-retired, taking out their pension or working reduced hours.

Whereas some lenders may only supply them with capital and interest mortgages (if at all), which is often not suitable for their new financial scenario, specialist lenders are offering lifetime or interest-only mortgages providing far more flexibility and security for homeowners, assuring customers that they do not have to sell their home in five or 10 years’ time.

Flexibility for later-life borrowers

Harpenden has no upper age limits for borrowers. When we assess each case, we consider every applicant’s individual financial portfolio.

Each case is different, and we believe it’s important to get a clear understanding of an applicant’s specific motivations and circumstances to work out the best solution for their needs. Entering a dialogue with our brokers is critical to achieve this.

It allows us to analyse details that may not be instantly obvious from either paper-based applications or those submitted through our broker online portal.

Ultimately, a flexible approach is crucial to supporting later-life borrowers achieve their unique goals and ambitions for both themselves and their families.

The Harpenden team will be pleased to hear from brokers wishing to meet their customers’ later life lending needs.

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Fraud Up? Q1 Panel Removals higher than 2020 Combined

Mark Hosker is director of Cyborg Finance

Last week we revealed some interesting data on intermediary panel removals in 2020, such 0.95% of mortgage intermediaries were removed from lenders panels in that year.

This week the data published by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) show that mortgage lenders removed more intermediaries from their panel in the first three months of 2021 than all of 2020 combined.

More intermediaries’ careers ended in the first three months of 2021 compared to the previous 12.

We did have lower than average panel removals in 2020, but this alone does not explain the Q1 2021 spike.

Suppose we presume that Q3 and Q4 2020 had lower than average panel removals (COVID) and deduct the difference from Q1 2021. We remain in record-breaking territory.

To demonstrate the number of panel removals in Q1 2021 is also greater than 2018 Q1, Q2 & Q3 combined.

Q1 2021 panel removals total 139 intermediaries, which is more than double any quarter as far back as records reveal (2018).

We don’t have up-to-date data for the rest of 2021, but these early numbers suggest that fraud is up significantly, and mortgage advisers need to be extra vigilant.

Given mortgage lenders indicated, they did not believe at least 74% were ‘complicit in fraud’ in this period. The majority of panel removals are likely due to low-quality processing and in need of a more forensic examination.

It would seem to me Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) and Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) should shake the tree and see what falls out. Where does the data suggest intermediaries are falling short? What more can intermediaries do to guard our careers?

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