Brokers and lenders urge collaboration as lenders report verbal abuse of staff

Lenders who have had to suspend new business in recent weeks to maintain service levels said most brokers were understanding, but others reported a small minority verbally assaulted frontline staff.

Paul Broadhead, head of mortgage and housing policy at the Building Societies Association, said lenders suspending business to manage service levels were “not a new phenomenon” and were used when “the flow of applications doesn’t cannot be slowed down by other means”.

“Homebuyers are experiencing a pretty ruthless market right now, so it’s important and fair that lenders take whatever steps they deem necessary to keep their service levels as high as possible. It is disappointing, and frankly unacceptable, for anyone to be unprofessional or rude during an already difficult and demanding time for teams trying to do their best,” Broadhead added.

The Saffron Building Society, which temporarily suspended operations earlier this month, sent a memo to brokers last week telling them to treat their staff with respect as a number of frontline workers had reported verbal abuse of from some brokers.

Tony Hall, head of mortgage sales at Saffron Building Society, said the company’s pipeline was currently double its normal level and that to help manage the backlogs the company had recruited staff from other areas of the business to support mortgage applications.

“That’s when they [other staff members] give the response we ask them to provide that brokers become abusive.

He said it wasn’t all brokers, adding that “some will rant and rave, some will accept and be patient and some will provide a reasoned argument as to why we need to help them more urgently.”

“I think that’s a lot of the brokers’ frustration. The whole mortgage chain has delays with lenders, surveyors, transfer agents, realtors and builders. I think all of this adds pressure and there is a way out at some point. The mortgage journey is a very emotional time for everyone involved,” Hall explained.

He added that the company had not removed any brokers from its panel, saying it would be a “last resort”.

Lender action

Charlotte Grimshaw, intermediary relations manager at the Suffolk Building Society, said brokers had been “very understanding” of her decision to halt new business as they had been “consistently clear that our service levels were taking longer than we would like”.

She said Suffolk had implemented a deadline for policy decisions and allowed a longer deadline for complete mortgage applications.

“As a result, the brokers were very supportive that, while we were keen to help with any requests they already had in progress, we weren’t prepared to increase our lead times any further and negatively impact on their client’s purchase or mortgage case.”

Grimshaw added that its Business Development Managers (BDMs) and helpline had stayed in touch with intermediaries and were still receiving inquiries, but it was “to make sure we are managing the expectations while we are out of the market”.

Jonathan Stinton, intermediaries relations manager at Coventry for Intermediaries, said the lender was “really grateful for the patience and understanding” of brokers when it suspended new business earlier this month.

“They [brokers] were, and still are, understandably concerned about the issue of industry-wide rate cuts. But we found that they appreciated our open and transparent approach and, although it was temporarily disruptive, they understood why what we did was better for them and their customers in the long run.

“We have always prioritized our broker partners and lines of communication were particularly important during this time. Brokers were able to phone our contact center or speak face-to-face with their BDM throughout, which really helped to allay any specific concerns. »

Hall said Saffron has “committed … where possible” to providing 48 hours notice for product changes, with 24 hours as a minimum for retired products, but that has not always been possible.

“In my experience and recent conversations with brokers, they appreciate this attention. It might still frustrate them because they may lose this opportunity, but they are grateful that it gives them a chance to get this product.

More communication and information from lenders is essential

Imran Hussain, director at Harmony Financial Services, said he was “entirely sympathetic” to frontline staff who experience verbal abuse, adding that they should not be abused at all.

He added: “If a lender is considering pausing new applications they need to have a date in mind when they want to come back to market or just reprice or not accept a specific type of business that is taking their time. . and their system.

Hussain said the “biggest thing” lenders should do is “establish from day one what they need to make a loan decision.” He explained that some lenders, who tended to deal with specialized cases, already did so and didn’t have as many problems with deadlines.

He noted that some lenders made “constant requests” for more documents and explanations on a “simple case”, and that brought “the whole process into disrepute”.

Rob Peters, director of Simple Fast Mortgage, said mortgage transactions were being scrapped so quickly that the whole industry was “feeling the pressure”.

He added that although it was “extremely frustrating” for brokers at present, verbally insulting lender staff was “unacceptable”.

Peters continued, “We need to work together as an industry. It should be clearly stated on a lender’s website if they are suspending operations or discontinuing a product, but this is not always the case.

Packing crates “right” the first time

Jamie Lennox, director of Dimora Mortgages, said he had sympathy for those on the front line but some lenders should have been “proactive instead of currently being reactive”.

He explained that suspending new applications or withdrawing offers created an “additional bottleneck for applications”, which could lead brokers to submit them before they had the correct documents.

“If they took the approach that if an app has an agreement in principle that a rate can be secured for a set period of time, that would prevent panic apps and give brokers time to get properly wrapped up. so that it can be fully assessed the first time.”

Hussain said brokers should ensure they know if a lender has “specific requirements” for uploading documents and that they are uploaded along with the application.

He said he was told by some lenders that there were many brokers who “failed to do the basics in the first place and looked for someone to blame” when they uploaded documents late.

“This can and is due to products being pulled at short notice and we all want positive outcomes for our customers. As a whole community, we need to have open and honest communication with no cloaks or daggers.

Peters agreed advisers should ensure cases were packaged “correctly the first time” to relieve the lender and give the best outcome to the client.

Lennox shared the same sentiment that brokers should secure all documents in advance before giving advice in the current market.

“There is no point in quoting a rate without everything on file because there is a good chance that the product will be withdrawn before the customer returns the paperwork. Which I think is half the problem here because brokers are now submitting applications without everything on file, which is a huge risk.

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