2020 - A year to be remembered or a year to be forgotten?
By Martin Kemp:
2020 promised so much, a new decade, a new government, optimism. I personally don’t think that we had had it so good for a long time! More lenders were entering the market with innovative products, lenders were continuously looking at ways to win business from clients and their brokers - everything was great.
We then started to hear reports about a virus somewhere in China that was ‘very bad’ and that people were dying but were told if you washed your hands and kept away from anyone who had a cough everything would be fine. Nick in our office was a little more pessimistic about the whole thing and we all secretly had a laugh at his cautiousness along with the perceived irrational purchase of hand gel and face coverings. Before we knew it, Tesco’s had sold out of loo roll and pasta! Then we all had to work from home, isolating for 2 weeks. My brother works for the Ambulance service and had told me that the original plan was for the country to in Lockdown until mid-July earliest. Suddenly the somewhat bizarre virus from China was a real threat to our country in terms of health and economically, and I along found the prospect scary!
But us typical Brits, with our bulldog spirit, decided to continue as normal (as far as was possible), we continued to work from home and for us at FinanceWell it was business as usual. Clients were still looking for finance, lenders whilst restricting LTV’s were still lending and the finance world adapted. If you had asked me in 2019 what Zoom and Teams were, I would not have had an idea, now I am a dab hand! Lenders moved staff to work remotely, AVM’s were now being more widely used and despite a few technical issues business did well on delivering the new normal.
That is not to say there were no hitches, and unfortunately some of these are still not resolved. Trying to speak to someone at a lender or one of the key professionals can now be an impossible task, I think it quickly became obvious that either of one of a number events had occurred:
The technology was not up to it
Juggling home schooling alongside working in some households just was not feasible
Staff working from home realised their performance was not being watched as closely as before and started treating this more like an extended holiday and enjoying a little too much the glorious weather
The doom mongers amongst us were a little too quick to lose and Furlough Staff
Everything just started taking that little bit longer. I talk regularly with other brokers and the consensus out there now is that cases are now taking no end of time. Solicitors are slow to react, Lenders are now often the slowest to react – As an example, I have over 3 days left both Voice Mails and Emails to lender for an urgent case and I have still not had a response. I am sick of making excuses to my clients - I know and appreciate that companies are busy and there are only so many hours in the day, but there simply is no excuse for poor communication - leaving clients hanging for days on end. Treating customers fairly seems no longer the priority.
COVID-19 showed us that we ARE an adaptable industry and business will always continue. However, changes are needed and all firms in the industry need to accept and adapt to this. We are now, in reality, a 24-hour, 7 day a week society and it’s not uncommon for me as a broker, to take calls and be emailing in the evenings and weekends. We must, have the technology to support the change in pace, and to make everyone’s lives easier. Don’t get me wrong some organisations have coped incredibly well but others must take a hard look at their business and their business continuity plans.
Personally, I will look back on 2020 with mixed feelings. I like the autonomy of working from home, yet I miss the banter in the office. I love not travelling and therefore spending more time with my family but when the kids are arguing outside my office and expecting me to referee, I do wish I was anywhere else but home!
Here’s to looking forward and not back
Have a very Merry Christmas and wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2021