Intermediaries will punish poor service

Lenders should know what brokers want by now. After all, surveys of brokers\' views give remarkably consistent answers. But some lenders are still failing to provide brokers with anything like the level of service they expect.

In most cases brokers’ expectations are perfectly reasonable. There is no reason why, with modern technology, lenders should not be able to provide a fast and efficient service.

Intermediaries now account for over 60% of all mortgage originations, and nearly 100% in the sub-prime market. With growing competition between lenders quality of service to brokers is an area where lenders can differentiate themselves. Those that fail to keep up risk losing a large chunk of potential customers.

So, what do brokers want? When asked by what factors they judge a lender’s service, they point to a number of elements. Along with a competitive range of products they want a quick and certain response. They also want the lender to be consistent and reliable. Once they have received a response brokers are greatly annoyed if lenders suddenly change their minds. Also, brokers need to be able to easily contact a member of staff who has the knowledge and authority to deal with queries. This sounds simple but is lacking in many cases.

Some lenders have dramatically improved their service in the past 12 months, with technology playing a key role. A fully automated application and decisioning process can boost service and cut costs. But only a few lenders are presently able to use electronic credit bureau information to give guaranteed decisions online. These few can now provide a binding response in a matter of seconds rather than hours. Some lenders are also able to provide online application tracking, a cascading product range and various other benefits.

But even companies at the cutting edge could make further improvements. At present, brokers generally have to key in information to their own systems and then re-enter this into the lenders’ system, wasting time and energy. Lenders should be able to put in place a package that makes this unnecessary.

Lenders must also provide a range of application options to intermediaries. Brokers should have access to services no matter whether they are at the office or in the customer’s home – or whether they are online or off.

The lenders that are able to combine access to technology with human contact are likely to come out on top. Already 2006 is looking like being a competitive year in the mortgage lending industry. With this increased competition brokers will be able to demand a higher level of service to the benefit of themselves and their customers. Lenders who fail to give brokers what they want are likely to suffer.

michael culhane is chief executive of The Oakwood Group