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Home in on technology

Advisers need to find ways to stop being squeezed out the market by technology.

With the growth in ways for homebuyers to get information about mortgages over the phone and on the internet, advisers need to keep their edge and retain control of their share of mortgage distribution.

The explosion in the variety and number of homeloans makes the role of the adviser more valuable than ever but also makes the job more complex and demands assistance to do it properly.

This means embracing technology, whether it is mortgage-sourcing systems, electronic links with lenders or systems to provide added-value services.

The most obvious benefit of technology to the mortgage adviser is the ability to source loans across the whole market before making the appropriate recommendation and to provide a professional service to clients.

However, there are other benefits that technology brings to the mortgage adviser.

Technology can ease regulatory compliance. With greater scrutiny being given to mortgage advice, advisers need to ensure their advice can be justified. There are systems which can provide the necessary information to ensure the terms of the mortgage codeare met, making compliance more automatic and straightforward and ensuring that appropriate records are kept.

The provision of mortgage case tracking information online enables advisers to satisfy customer demand for information on the progress of their applicationsat the touch of a button rather than having to make time-consuming phone calls.

Looking further afield, one of the Government&#39s key aims in its review of housebuying in England and Wales is to find ways to prepare sellers and buyers before they embark on the transaction and to help speed up the process.

For buyers that means organising mortgage acceptances in principle (AIP) before they start househunting. Advisers have a key role here. Applying technology simplifies the process as direct links between advisers and lenders mean data can be submitted electronically and AIP can be delivered back swiftly, even before the customer has left the adviser&#39s office, locking the client in to the adviser early in the process.

Systems that provide links to multiple lenders offer advisers greater efficiency. Data entered once can be used to populate AIP requests for many lenders. The same data can be used for other forms in the process, such as fact-finds, mortgage applications and the various forms for financial services products recommended as the transaction progresses.

It means data can be validated before submission to lenders, missing data highlighted and incomplete applications rejected without the adviser having to contact the customer later to find out a piece of information that should have been collected at outset. It avoids errors made when data is rekeyed by others involved in the application process.

From the lender&#39s point of view, getting applications electronically means that they can start processing the loan immediately – even if they still ultimately require a signed paper version – issue instructions for valuations and request other references, reducing the time to completion.

Technology has also played its part in the design of mortgage products. Arguably, the flexible mortgage revolution, which now sees over 30 providers in the market, would not have been possible without new mortgagesystems. Flexible mortgages allow customers to undertake a range of transactions such as overpayments and payment holidays. These features were not available under legacy mortgage systems. This is often cited as one reason why some lenders have been slow to cometo the market with flexible products – the extent of systems development required and the expense incurred.

It is estimated that people still move home on average every seven years and each time they face horrors that make many of them hope they never have to do it again. Mort-gage advisers can ensure many buyers donot have to struggle through the process. Embracing technology means they can do an ever more demanding job with greater efficiency.

Encouragingly, it appears that in the US, technology is enhancing the role of the adviser rather than replacing it. Borrowers may get information on mortgages electronically but still choose in large numbers to receive face-to-face advice to arrange their loans. The role of the adviser in a technological world looks secure for those who use it to their advantage.

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