Bring advice into the 21st century

Whitehouse-Phil-CUT-2009

Consumers have come to expect quick and efficient service so brokers who ignore technology don’t stand a chance

Did you know that the first general-purpose computer was introduced 70 years ago? The Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer was launched in the US in February 1946, with the newspapers labelling it “Giant Brain”.

It is amazing to reflect on the extent to which technology has evolved since that point. From laptops as slim as a piece of card to smartphones and tablets, we are living in an increasingly technological world where most of us do not know how to get through the day without going online.

Worryingly, however, advances in technology seem to have gone largely unnoticed by a number of brokers. Indeed, for some intermediaries ENIAC may be deemed somewhat pioneering.

As hard as it may be to believe, I still encounter brokers using paper for applications, keeping files in their office and contacting clients via Royal Mail.

Don’t get me wrong – there is something to be said for the traditional way of life. However, if the rest of the world is moving forward, you will soon get left behind if you choose to stand still.

For the most part, consumers have come to expect quick and efficient service.

They do not want to wait around for documents to be posted to them. They do not want to have to arrange an appointment to do something that could easily be done on the phone or online. They want their needs met in the shortest time possible.

If you are not embracing technology, you are unable to offer this. A good system will enable you to send automated reminders to your clients, give them a portal in which to access their personal documents and offer them a multitude of ways in which to contact you. A slick system can make cumbersome tasks easy and provide your clients with the type of choice they have come to expect in our fast-moving world.

What is more, technology can be a vital tool in promoting your business. Having an online presence is crucial if you are looking to grow. When a consumer is looking to purchase any service, the first place they will go is online. If you do not have a website outlining who you are and what you do, how can you expect new customers to find you? And alongside a website, social media is another useful tool for promotion.

Compliance
From a regulatory and protection point of view, technology can help to avoid loss of files and breaching data protection. Compliance obligations mean a broker should have a robust IT structure in place. The FCA’s Clear Desk Policy states that brokers must put sensitive documents safely out of sight. Using paper files leaves you more at risk of flouting this, whether intentionally or not.

Yet despite all this, some brokers are choosing to eschew technology altogether. Why? One of the reasons I hear repeatedly is that they do not have the time to set up new processes and get to grips with a new system.

I can understand this concern. As a broker, your priority is to sell mortgages. Taking time out to implement new systems may seem counterproductive.

However, it is possible to outsource this task. Use someone who has the skills to update your systems as a standalone project, leaving you free to focus on your day-to-day business.

Alternatively, set aside some time as you would if you were going on holiday and focus solely on your technology. The work you would ‘lose’ in that time would be quickly recouped once you were operating more efficiently with a more effective system.

Things have moved on significantly since ENIAC was introduced all those years ago. Make sure you are moving on with them.

Phil Whitehouse is managing director at MCI Mortgage Club