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Getting back to service basics

As a regular reader of Money Marketing who is not a financial intermediary

by profession, I am always rather staggered by the amount of criticism

intermediaries direct at the service delivered by product providers such as

insurance companies, mortgage lenders and investment houses.

If I believe what I read, then literally hundreds of companies are

disappointing intermediaries either because:

Their service is slow.

They do not understand what the intermediary wants.

Their procedures and requirements are too complex and unnecessarily cumbersome.

Even the product providers themselves are getting in on the act.

In Money Marketing a few weeks ago, the managing director of a “niche”

lender was quoted as saying that his company was gearing up to add further

resources to its operations to provide the very best service to his


He was doing this because outsourcing to specialist service providers, as

some of his competitors did, was just not good enough and its needed to

control the process itself in order to deliver what the intermediary market

required. What total rubbish.

As any intermediary worth his salt will tell you, it is not a question of

where or who does the admin that is important but rather how the service is

structured and delivered that really determines whether it hits the target.

Intermediaries can cite the example of numerous organisations which are

100 per cent sourced in house but whose service delivery still leaves a lot

to be desired. As a representative of a large outsourcing company, some

might say, well, he would say that, wouldn&#39t he? However, I am not trying

to compare insourcing versus outsourcing because in my view that is a

spurious argument.

What I can say is that, in my experience, we need to define the difference

clearly between the concept of service and issues of policy and accept that

to deliver a good service to an intermediary and their ultimate client, we

need to agree t the process is a two-way street.

Let me explain. At HML, we are specialist mortgage administrators and that

is all we do. We are not distracted by issues of product marketing,

selling,regulation or ancillary product servicing such as in the arena of

savings or insurance. We work with over 30 different lenders, large and

small, niche and mainstream, across every spectrum of the mortgage market

covering prime, sub-prime, commercial and specialist loans.

Over 10 of our lenders are actively originating loans into our platform or

systems. We have our lenders&#39 underwriters and other staff based in our


We accept business, retail, wholesale and in great volume from

intermediaries. In short, we can view this problem from a rather unique

perspective and over the last quarter our analysis reveals the following


Over a quarter of applications received from introducers are incomplete in

terms of simply answer-ing the questions asked on the forms.

A similar number are submitted on the basis of not complying with the

lender&#39s underwriting and product criteria. Over 50 per cent of all

reports/certificates on title submitted by solicitors are incomplete. This

delays and frustrates the efficient transfer of funds as part of the

process of completing the loan transaction.

Now, as most intermediaries will accept, lenders need information in order

to assess risk. Application forms are designed to elicit that information

although many,I accept, are incomprehen-sible and need far better design

and much less jargon.

But undoubtedly a staggering number are submitted for lender consideration

without the information needed supplied. This necessitates a to-ing and

fro-ing between the lender and the intermediary, leading to argument and

delay. Also, why submit a loan if you know it does not fit the criteria?

Sure, there is always a case for a considered view to be taken by an

underwriter but this can always be done over the phone, so why submit an

application form that will initially almost be guaranteed to be declined?

The final area in this service argument revolves around the key difference

between process and policy. Process is easy to define. It is simple matter

of resource, workload and systems.

If we as a service company get any of these three key aspects wrong, then

intermediaries will suffer because our delivery will fall down. But this

has nothing to do with policy, which tends to be more focused on the type

of risks accepted and upon what terms.

We regularly visit our clients&#39 introducers to seek their comments on what

we do and where there are concerns and we endeavour to investigate and

report back on those concerns. Our research has shown that what many

introducers have labelled a service problem is in fact a lending problem.

“This applicant has been rejected for this reason” is an issue of policy

and does not always mean that the service from that lender is poor. It may,

in fact,be excellent but, very simply, the message given is not one you

want to hear.

Dealing with a mortgage lender is not like buying any other service. It is

not like buying a car, a holiday or any other tangible product. You cannot

just go in and buy it, even though in many ways mortgages are now highly

commoditised products.

You have to present your proposition clearly, effectively and

comprehensively and the lender must do all it can to ensure you are

properly advised, updated and informed about its products as well as the

terms and conditions.

One side of the equation cannot work without the other. Sure, let us all

continue to invest heavily in clever systems to facilitate easier access

and to design better products but let us not forget that true service comes

from getting the basics right.


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