Broker response shows value of focusing on speed

David Castling, head of intermediary distribution at Atom Bank, stresses how important speed is when it comes to the mortgage process and why feedback from brokers is crucial to help identify how lenders can do better.

Related topics:  Blogs,  Mortgages
David Castling | Atom Bank
25th June 2024
David Castling Atom Bank
"Ultimately brokers are a fantastic resource of information for lenders, but that dialogue needs to be utilised properly."

Atom Bank has put in a lot of work on reducing the time frames involved with residential mortgages, and it’s heartening to see not only that it is paying off, but that brokers are seeing the benefit of it too.

In the latest Smart Money People study, based on mortgage broker feedback, Atom Bank topped the bank category for a second time in a row, having taken top spot for the first time at the end of last year. We scored particularly highly on speed to offer and online tools and systems (both 92%), demonstrating that brokers have seen first hand the improvements in action.

This is boosting our standing among intermediaries, who have benefited from the improvements we have made. Atom was significantly ahead of other banks in the latest survey, with a satisfaction rating of 83.7%, and we came top among banks in every single category but one, with brokers valuing our ease in determining the maximum loan amount, product eligibility and - perhaps most crucially of all - communication.

This sort of feedback is wonderful to receive, and demonstrates that we are succeeding in positively shaking up the way that lenders work with brokers and their clients.

Why speed matters

I think it can be overlooked just how important speed is when it comes to the mortgage process.

Borrowers clearly benefit from a speedy response. They want to know where they stand, whether they will be able to push on with the purchase of that property they have their heart set on or if they have to abandon their plans. When a decision on an application takes weeks, this uncertainty can lead to sleepless nights and anxiety - there’s a good reason that buying a home is so often cited as the most stressful experience people go through in their lives.

If lenders can make changes that cut down the times taken to provide answers, to deliver that certainty more quickly, then that has to be worthwhile.

But brokers also win if lenders operate more swiftly. They aren’t having to deal with worried clients, chasing up updates on their application, or having to set time aside each day to try to get clarity on progress from the lender. That frees up their own workload, allowing them to put that time to better use.

It’s not about speed for speed’s own sake, but instead moving more quickly in ways which will deliver tangible benefits for everyone involved.

Taking the pressure off

We had a recent case which demonstrates this well. The borrower and her broker, Jessica Pym of Finamply, were finding it difficult to access the funding needed to purchase a property, yet Atom Bank was able to provide an offer within just 12 seconds.

Jessica noted that the client had had little go their way in arranging a mortgage for five months, so was delighted to not only have a positive response, but to get one so quickly.

And she herself also saw a real upside. She told us: “Whenever I'm waiting weeks for an offer to come back I tend to stress about it, so knowing that I can relax and move onto another case is hugely helpful. From an admin perspective, I have to keep on top of the case and see what’s going on when we are waiting for an answer, which again takes time and energy, so not having to worry about that takes the pressure off and lets me help other clients.”

Raising the bar on communication

One of the results that I found most pleasing was our superb score for communication. Communication isn’t just crucial for individual cases of course, but for refining your entire proposition. Across the bank we have long put great emphasis on the feedback we get from brokers, using that dialogue to help identify how we can do better.

That might be on product design. It’s been clear from our conversations with intermediaries that currently borrowers with the odd credit blip are being poorly served by mainstream lenders, which is why we have significantly revised our criteria to support greater numbers of near prime borrowers.

Equally, broker feedback is enormously important when it comes to processes, to ensure that we are providing an efficient and effective experience for intermediaries when they want to place a case with us. By opening up better lines of communication with intermediaries, by giving them a true voice, we’ve been able to adapt those processes so that we are easy to work with.

Jacqueline Dewey, CEO of Smart Money People, said: “Communication is absolutely crucial within financial services, and can separate the good and the great. Atom Bank has clearly put in a lot of thought and work to score so highly and top the bank category for two successive reports.”

Ultimately brokers are a fantastic resource of information for lenders, but that dialogue needs to be utilised properly.

Making an impression

This is the second time in a row that Atom Bank has topped the Smart Money People poll.

The fact that high street banks have held the top spot in all 10 previous iterations since it launched in 2018 is significant - it shows that in a relatively short period, Atom Bank has been able to make a real impression on this industry, that brokers like and value what we are doing.

But it’s imperative that we keep going, keep striving to improve. You’re only as good as your last deal in the mortgage market, so we need to continue to justify brokers’ faith and trust in us.

As Jacqueline said: “Atom is clearly challenging the traditional way of operating, making things easier for brokers, who see first hand the benefits for themselves and their clients.”

What’s undeniable is that brokers will continue to play a central role in the way we operate, and inform the further improvements we introduce this year and beyond.

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