As we move towards our brave new world, every mortgage company, whether product provider, broker, network or service provider, is concerned about distribution. Mortgage packagers are no different as they vie with another to be part of network propositions or fight to create their own networks. And just as lenders and mortgage sourcing systems are relying increasingly on online services to deliver better levels of customer access, packagers are developing their online functionality to help secure their distribution routes. In fact it's difficult to see how those smaller packagers who are not investing in their IT platforms can survive. This is the first of a short series of Marketing Briefs looking at the material and development support that packagers have in place. And I'm starting with a couple of RAMP heavyweights in The Finance Centre and Solent Mortgage Services.
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The Finance Centre
I must start by declaring an interest here. In my other life as an independent strategy consultant TFC is one of my clients so it will be harder than usual to be objective. But, as marketing is not part of my remit at TFC I think I can be objective and still not risk losing my contract! Like many companies in the run-up to regulation, TFC has gone through a redesign of all its material. The colours have moved to more pastel shades which has softened the appearance of the material. Layouts, though, have remained strongly defined like the product/proc fee tables which are clear and easy to follow once you've grasped that the lenders aren't in alphabetical order (slightly odd). Adverts are similarly treated although I'm not a fan of the cartoon-style treatment. There's plenty of downloadable information and forms in the stationery cupboard on the website (the website's 'meet the team' could do with bringing up-to-date, by the way) but it's in online functionality that TFC scores. Online DIPs are already in place but a new IT platform is providing case tracking and a desktop management information service that will have network compliance managers rubbing their hands with glee.
Solent Mortgage Services
Like The Finance Centre, Solent has been extraordinarily helpful in supplying material – if only all lenders were equally supportive. Starting with its website, I can't help feeling that it's been over-designed. The homepage is very busy with too many messages and styles fighting for the viewer's attention. And navigation is odd. Take the stationery area for example – the menu bar is in a column to left of the centre of the screen with the text area to the right of this. OK so far, but the sub-menus are to the left of the main menu. Given that we all read from left to right, to go from left to further left and then across doesn't work – well not for me anyway. But new online functionality is on the way with real time case tracking about to launch and other services due over the next few months. When it comes to the printed material, there's a lot. Solent operates several branded lending arrangements with its lender partners and each one has a product guide which causes a problem straight away. Solent has gone for a different approach for each which, for me, is the wrong option even though the information in all of them is well presented.