The future’s digital

The pandemic has pushed forward the adoption of technology, but broker expertise remains invaluable, says Iain Smith, head of intermediaries at Bank of Ireland for Intermediaries.

There’s widespread recognition that the Covid-19 crisis has put a rocket under technological development, pushing millions of people into adopting digital solutions as a result of necessity in lockdown.

Existing technologies, such as video conferencing, have crossed into mainstream use, in business and our personal life. From Zoom family quizzes to Microsoft Teams meetings, we’ve all been on a steep learning curve when it comes to technology.

The benefits have been obvious and tangible - helping us keep in touch throughout lockdown and enabling business to keep working remotely.

But will this newfound digital savvy stick?

Lasting change

The changes we’ve seen in 2020 are part of the wider digital evolution of the mortgage industry and they’re unlikely to be undone whenever we reach the new normal.

Virtual meetings will continue to be an important part of the way we develop working relationships and build trust with clients or colleagues while we can’t sit together in the same room. Realistically it looks like that will be for the foreseeable future.

The changes we’ve seen in 2020 are part of the wider digital evolution of the mortgage industry and they’re unlikely to be undone.

Iain Smith
Head of intermediaries at Bank of Ireland for Intermediaries

Of course, it’s not always necessary to meet over video and we recognise that many of you prefer a simple phone call to a video call. So do we sometimes.

Think of video conferencing as an extra communication channel rather than an alternative, but one we all need to be confident about using.

Seismic shift

Another striking technological development this year has been the rapid move to desktop valuations across the industry during lockdown.

Of course, automated valuation models aren’t appropriate for some cases, such as high LTV lending and for certain property types. But, despite the resumption of physical valuations, we’re likely to see increased use of desktop valuations in the future.

What’s the digital end game?

Ultimately, brokers could use a complete end to end sourcing and application system that links seamlessly to the lenders’ systems.

You’ll also be able to onboard the client automatically, so they input their details, you search for a mortgage using criteria based sourcing software, generate a DIP and then move directly to submission, with your sourcing system speaking directly to the lender’s back office.

It’s brokers who can guide clients to the right mortgage and lender.

Iain Smith
Head of intermediaries at Bank of Ireland for Intermediaries

This has been in progress for the last 20 years, and is already available in a limited way, with some sourcing systems linking directly to a small number of lenders. But there’s nothing covering the whole market.

Add open banking into the mix, which allows lenders to look directly at the applicant’s financial accounts, and you begin to see the possibility of a full online journey, maybe even linking valuations and conveyancing into the process in the future.

But for one crucial factor. Your advice.

Expertise needed

No matter how slick the software, technology isn’t able to replace your experience and expertise. Maybe AI will one day ‘advise’ on the most basic vanilla cases, but how many of those do you come across?

In reality, advice is more important than ever for a huge swathe of mortgage borrowers, especially those affected financially by the pandemic.

It’s brokers who can guide clients to the right mortgage and lender, based not only on cost but your knowledge of accessibility and service levels too. The expertise and reassurance you provide remains invaluable.

This doesn’t mean rejecting technology – in fact by using digital solutions to speed up some of your work you can spend more time on the element of your service that really adds value to your clients – your professional advice.

This article was supplied by Bank of Ireland for Intermediaries.