Should lenders offer offline services alongside online technology to brokers?

Jeff Scott is head of intermediary mortgages marketing and specialist lending at Abbey

Online technology has been the catalyst for a great deal of change in the industry over the past five years. With more and more services being offered online, it is clear the internet has changed the way lenders, intermediaries and their clients interact and do business.

PCs and laptops have become more sophisticated, capable of processing greater amounts of information at ever-increasing speeds, and access technology has evolved with the development of broadband and wireless connectivity. In tandem with this the range of services available online to brokers has expanded from simply providing information to the integrated e-business we have today.

While we recognise that many intermediaries’ preferred channel is the internet we also realise there are times when offline services are important and more practical. This is why Abbey recently launched an offline version of its mortgage application software. The service offers intermediaries flexibility by reducing the amount of time spent on the internet and associated costs, but has the same functionality as the online version.

Brokers can use offline software such as this to capture the data required for an agreement in principle and a full mortgage application without being online. This is especially useful for situations where internet access is difficult, for example at a client’s home. The broker then just needs to log on to the internet at some point to obtain the AIP and submit the application.

Intermediaries spend a lot of time on the internet searching for product information and completing applications for clients. Offline versions of online services can offer all these features without having to be connected to the internet, which is handy for brokers out and about with clients throughout the day.

Jeff Knight is head of marketing services at GMAC-RFC

Technology has revolutionised the mortgage market and many inter- mediaries are using online systems due to the speed and certainty they provide.

Working online delivers many benefits to intermediaries and lenders. The intermediary can obtain a speedy decision, and if the right system is used it can be binding, giving certainty as well as speed. Turnaround times are also greatly enhanced, as are completion ratios. The main benefit to the intermediary is that they can, as a result of the time savings, generate more sales.

For a lender, there are many benefits too, not least the competitive edge. One example is the efficiency online can provide. At GMAC-RFC we have doubled our business over the past few years without increasing staffing levels. During this time, service levels have been superb. Online has been a real benefit to us.

The new offering from Abbey is an interesting proposition and I am sure it would not have launched such an initiative without extensive research. Whether other lenders could benefit from it depends on their business models, but it is more relevant to see if it is benefits intermediaries.

With advances in technology, surely it is more beneficial for the intermediary to provide a decision that is binding – not an AIP/DIP – at the point-of-sale. You can’t do that offline. A binding decision gives the intermediary and their client certainty. Add to this the ability to obtain a pre-sale Key Facts Illustration, book funds and a valuation – all online – and you can see the advantages an online system has over an offline one.

So the answer to the question is that it will depend on the lender’s business model. With 84% of intermediaries now using five or more lender online systems, it’s the future.