Having a website is a necessity, not a luxury

On flicking through the general insurance trade press recently I was amazed to read that a third of GI brokers do not have a website and that more than half of them said they had no plans to develop one in the next 12 months.

I would be interested to know if the same could be said of mortgage brokers.

We live in an online environment whether we like it or not and smart brokers have known for some time now that online customer relationship management is where it’s at.

After all, around 16 million households in Great Britain – 65% – have internet access.

This is an increase of just over one million households or 7% over last year and five million households – 46% – since 2002, according to official statistics.

Furthermore, adults under the age of 70 who have a degree or equivalent qualification are most likely to have internet access at home, some 93%.

Those who have no formal qualifications were least likely to have an internet connection in their home, at 56%.

It seems to me that many brokers could be missing a trick by ignoring the online revolution.

Once brokers have accepted that having an online presence should be at the heart of their marketing strategy they then have to consider its implementation.

Unsurprisingly, there is a right way and a wrong way of going about it. There are many web design companies that can develop and build impressive websites. There are also specialists who can help implement the required functionality.

But what about the subsequent demands on back-office systems? If a broker firm goes online, its back-office system has to deal with the many new records that need to be created and that means plenty of data re-keying.

If resources are not available to cope with the extra workload, success can quickly turn into a nightmare, which could mean the Financial Services Authority will come knocking.

The key is to integrate web solutions properly with existing back-office systems. In fact, it is not an alternative at all – it is vital.

Back-office integration must be part of the online strategy. With total integration in place, records are created and administered automatically, swiftly and accurately.

Back-office systems have to be up to the job of processing the inquiries that come in each day.

Of course, brokers don’t need to opt for a full monty all singing, all dancing online solution.

It may be sensible to start by simply having a website which gives consumers background information about the business along with contact details for a mortgage and GI quote.

They can then add the bells and whistles as the business becomes more internet savvy.

But not to have an online presence in this day and age is not a viable option if brokers want to to grow their business.