The Mortgage Expo in Manchester is still fresh in my memory as I write this column, especially the wide variety of promotional stands and giveaways that were on show (no bunny girls of course this time!). The material used at exhibitions is as much a part of the intermediary communications mix as product guides and it's always interesting to see what's available. One exhibitor set great store by not having anything at all to give away, while on other stands you couldn't move for pens and post-it notes. It was good to see how many exhibitors made sure their giveaways complemented the appearance of their product support material – you'd think this was obvious but it still passes some companies by. Anyway, it's Scottish Widows and Skipton this week.
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Scottish Widows Bank
When I do these reviews, I like to see the printed material so that I can get the look and feel of it. Scottish Widows, however, just sent me the electronic formats and as these are all in black and white for easy downloading. I'm not sure what the printed stuff really looks like. As a result, three stars only for appearance. But then I call it as I see it. Between the website and the intermediary material there's plenty of information to support brokers. The electronic services include online quotes and AIPs as well as full applications and case-tracking. The website library contains both intermediary and consumer material and although the site doesn't have the easiest navigation, everything seems to be here – you just need patience to find it. The intermediary user guide to online services is in a step-by-step format and every time I felt I might be going off the straight and narrow there was a contact telephone number to phone for help. The intermediary pack includes key features for all the products in a clear bullet-point format and it's up to you to turn these into client benefits. You also have to match these across to the basic rate guide. Good CD-ROM, though, to help with flexible mortgage illustrations.
It's odd how things grow on you. Looking through the material and the intermediary website, my instant reaction to the ubiquitous 'I §' badges was “yuk”, but I got used to them. They certainly help pull everything together. The website offers all the product and lending details – although not in downloadable formats – plus a couple of calculators. No electronic submission yet, though. You can download the 12-page application form but use the pre-printed version, it's much cheaper. And talking of cheap, Skipton sent me a copy of the findings from a MarketWatch report which looks at intermediary communications, though I'm not sure why, given that they were 36th for cost, 29th for the number of communications and 37th for overall effectiveness, but there you are. Clearly they won't be producing a badge that says 'I § MarketWatch'. Looking at the material itself, they rightly make a fuss of their service awards (you guessed it, 'I § 5 star service'). With only six products to cover, the product/rate guide – a double fold-out A4 format – has oodles of space to present the details, general info and the application checklist reminder. There are even bestsellers, although there's no evidence as to why they might be bestsellers.