Originally published by our friends at Mortgage Introducer in the May 2020 edition

It would be safe to say that Zoom, Teams, WebEx, etc. are no longer the preserve of the techno-savvy nor the office linguist who craves more jargon to mystify the decision of their employment.  Now children, parents and grandparents are meeting virtually for pub quizzes, catch-ups and in some quarters to marry, albeit without the consummation.  Broader online interaction has quite literally evolved three years in just three months, not out of choice but out of necessity. 

Take the bell curve of adoption, rather being the title of a prog-rock album, instead it has consistently tracked the innovation adoption lifecycle of “new technology” from the initial innovators to early adopters through to those pesky laggards.  Think of a technical product in the past ten years like a tablet or mobile phone and then think about your friends, family and co-workersthen work out who is who?   

The initial innovator would be that friend who has to buy the latest piece of kit, typically a risk taker who simply has too much disposable income.  The early adopters who are a bit more informed but tend to push their newfound piece of shiny onto us, regardless of whether we’re interested or not such as “look, I can Bluetooth into my water filter” type.  Finally, the laggards, those who are resistant to change and revel in the traditional, often at the expense of being left behind; think of the hours a grandparent takes signing up for FaceBook. 

But through Covid-19, we’re not talking about some luxury gizmo to fascinate the credulous, what we’ve seen is a mass acceleration of adoption of remote technologies, not only in the intermediary world but those of the general population – because we have to.  This will not only alter the way we will work going forwards, possibly to some resemblance of normal, and how accepting mortgage customers will be to interact with said remoting technology, but what will be their expectations that these should be available? 

Now at this point, the seasoned technologist would refill their pipe and regale the listener about how such and such product will achieve this.  Instead, let’s look towards the potential reality of the Covid-19 world, prior to any vaccine.   

Reasons to be cheerful 

It’s hard not to be positive about a post Covid-19 world.  With research and statistics, announcing that there’s £82 billion of property “in the hopper” (Zoopla) and 75% of homeowners are still wanting to move (reallymoving) after lockdown, I look towards the more simple and realistic fact that financial services continue to be driven by individual’s personal circumstances.  Just as Zoom is facilitating weddings, other natural factors come in play – for example, a potential boom of children in Q1 2021 – and my personal favourite from the epicentre of the outbreak, when their lockdown was lifted the administration office receiving divorce filings had to close due to the record numbers of submissions.  Something that has been consistent with cities lifting lockdown across China. 

With record-low interest rates and encouraging signals that the mortgage market will not only exist but likely to aid in the returning some normal reality, what will be the challenges?  Is it video conferencing replacing face to face meetings?  Is it non-interactive due diligence such as AML and Credit Reports speeding up the process and qualifying the customer?  Is it direct lender submissions API connectivity?  Is it building / reinforcing your online presence and using more effective qualification and acquisition at the lead stage? 

In an industry not known for speedily embracing technology where intermediary software is positioned not as a fundamental portion of the business, but on its merits as a convenience to any of the following: the client, the adviser, the administrator or the business principal, now technology is the necessity for the continuation of business, remote or otherwise.  It starts from the back-office, it starts by structuring your sales, fulfilment and post-sales processes, it starts with the security of your biggest asset – your client bank. 

Once you’ve got that, the rest will fall into place where convenience features such as client portals, electronic signatures, ID verification, and the like will flow to deliver that a digital / remote journey that your customers will expect in today’s new reality.  But if you have built your business on poor foundations, when the market accelerates (or returns to something like before) after the world has irrevocably changed, should your approach technology be the same or worse, embracing the laggard?