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FACE-TO-FACE COMMUNICATION IN A DIGITAL AGE

Specialist advice is key because every case is different and is based on the individual’s personal needs and circumstances, and this is just one of the reasons why the specialist lending market has continued to flourish. Interestingly, in order to help streamline the home loan process, Santander clients will be able to get a mortgage offer via their smartphone is less than 30 minutes, and its remortgage service is being extended to movers and first-time buyers by the end of the year. However, are these types of services sufficient for the changing needs and growing expectations of today’s clients?

On the one hand, being able to get a mortgage offer via a smartphone is great if there are no issues with the client’s background, property or personal circumstances. There is no denying that it has a niche but it is not what the mortgage industry is about, as a one size fits all approach is no longer satisfactory. It is also important to question exactly what can be achieved in this short period of time. For example, 30 minutes for a decision in principle, to underwrite a case or from application to offer? When buying a property, the majority of us are obtaining the biggest loan of our lives, so it is no surprise that 57% of millennials looking to get onto the housing ladders want personal contact when they negotiate a mortgage. In fact, 57% want a face-to-face meeting when they negotiate a mortgage. Therefore, despite being digital natives, it is clear that mortgages are still seen as being such an important decision that they require personal explanation, support and expert guidance.

However, there is technology out there that effectively pulls in information like bank statements which would remove the responsibility from the intermediary and ensure they get real time bank details, for example. Despite this, the advice element must not be neglected and, due to the very nature of these mortgages, they are specialist which means they require very careful handling and counsel.

Therefore, although speed is important, scrimping on advice is simply not an option and, in reality, technology can only ever really understand consumers in terms of products. Therefore, although we are continuing to see advances in smart technology, which can improve speed and broaden market product offerings, it should take on a supporting role. I think a combination of face-to-face and digital advice will benefit all concerned from clients and lenders to intermediaries. The industry must continue to educate consumers and protect them from poor decisions and bad mortgage advice.

In fact, long before the age of the mobile phone, Einstein said, “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction”. As a society it is clear that we are engaging less and the effect can often be dehumanising, so to ensure this doesn’t happen, it is important that technology supports the traditional advice process, not limits it.