"Not everyone in the industry needs to reinvent the tech-advice wheel but if there are firms who are already doing it, why not liaise with them"
Let’s be honest about this – is the mortgage advisory profession the most forward-thinking? Not in terms of us looking at the future for our clients, because we certainly believe we’re professional and proficient at this, but in terms of our own businesses and our own preparedness for what might be coming over the horizon.
It’s not as if we don’t have plenty of practise at developing our firms for change – anyone who has been active in the sector for the last five to 10 years will have needed to prepare for plenty of regulatory and business change. In the last few years alone we’ve seen the introduction of both the MMR and the MCD, plus numerous political changes that will have impacted on our firms and the advice we provide to clients.
That said, deadlines tend to be, if not ignored until the last minute, then at least only embraced in a luke-warm manner. We’re completely aware that there is plenty to be done every single minute of every day but an industry-wide compulsion to leave things until the last minute is probably not the best approach, especially when in recent times we have also seen demand for our services grow and where planning ahead and developing processes and systems to deal with the – constant – change is going to pay dividends in the long run.
So, the big question is how far your firm looks ahead? We’d suggest that realistically it’s probably a three-month horizon – yes of course at the start of each year and probably the start of each financial year, you’ll have a ‘soft’ plan of action for the year ahead but, when it comes down to the nitty gritty, you’re probably not looking more than a quarter ahead.
Now any amount of forward-planning is going to be better than none – however when it comes to priorities then the writing of actual business is always likely to take precedent, especially if you’re a smaller firm. We’re certainly not here to suggest that your approach is completely wrong – many firms are doing very well at the moment, but this market may not last forever and the intermediary dominance we appear to have currently may not always be there.
It’s in that sense that looking beyond that three-month horizon may actually be of benefit because in doing so it allows you to take a number of projects off the ‘To Do’ list and finally get them actioned. Even if it’s an incredibly long-burn to, for example, offer more technology-based services to clients, or up your marketing game via social media, or finally put in place a tangible exit strategy you want to work towards, at least you’re underway with these projects and you have a much better chance of delivering on them.
The same could be said for regulatory change – the industry has had, for example, plenty of time to prepare for the portfolio landlord underwriting changes but as can be seen recently, lenders have tended to leave it until the last minute for announcing how they will approach these changes. That, of course, makes it difficult for advisers with such clients but how many firms have been talking to portfolio landlords and keeping them informed of the changes since they were first announced? How many have simply waited until the lenders made their announcements? How many informed their clients that there are specialist lenders who are not impacted by the PRA changes because they are not regulated by it? It seems like an obvious approach but as mentioned above, the business of writing business can get in the way.
Improving technology can be one of the major projects for firms that sits on the back-burner for too long with little done about it – with all the talk about robo-advice and the potential threat it is supposed to be providing us with, it seems like an obvious project to get started. But where do you being? What do you offer? How will it compete with what’s out there already? The questions continue – we should know, we’ve been asking them on behalf of ourselves and our AR firms.
In that sense, it’s good to know that there are other firms, not just in the same boat, but who are available to partner with and tap into. Not everyone in the industry needs to reinvent the tech-advice wheel but if there are firms who are already doing it, why not liaise with them and see if there are partnership arrangements to be formed? Certainly, from an AR firm’s perspective, you should be looking at what current services your network offers but also what can they deliver in the immediate future in order to future-proof your business.
All in all, we’re not suggesting you look light-years into the future but perhaps slightly broaden the horizon of your firm, and consider what you want your firm to look like at that time and what you will need in order to deliver on this. And don’t be afraid to collaborate and partner with those who may be further down the road than you – there are benefits to be had for all concerned. Sometimes it pays to lift your head up.