"Real innovation within products has been pretty much non-existent for many years, with the pricing of products mainly driven and sourced by broad LTV bands."
We caught up with Clare Beardmore who recently began a new position as head of transformation and operations at Legal & General Mortgage Club. We discussed her new role and her thoughts on the exciting digital transformation being undertaken throughout the mortgage industry.
FR: As Legal & General’s new head of transformation and operations, tell us about your background and what your new role entails?
I joined Legal & General just over two years ago after working for almost 20 years for Leek United Building Society where I eventually ran both the intermediary and direct mortgage sales teams.
I started at Legal & General as a key relationship manager back in 2018 where I was responsible for the ongoing relationship management of a number of our key accounts. Before my latest promotion, I also worked in the business as head of mortgage transformation. My new role as head of transformation and operations focuses on driving digital change for the mortgage market in the right places and supporting a human focus (the adviser). My goal is to show advisers how technology can enable them to achieve more, showcasing how these tools are not meant to replace the adviser. In fact, we think the role of the adviser will become even more important in the years to come and these technologies will help us take the industry into the future.
FR: How does technology improve the mortgage journey for both advisers and customers?
At Legal & General we want to use technology to make things better. That may sound broad, but there are many different ways to apply technology within the mortgage journey that can improve the end-customer’s experience, while increasing efficiencies and accuracy for the broker and lender at the same time. Technology can also free up the adviser to focus on what’s important for the client more holistically – are their protection needs covered, for example? Beyond creating operation efficiencies, technology can even give advisers and lenders valuable insights and data to help them improve the service they provide.
FR: So, what are some of these ‘technologies’? What are some current projects you are working on?
After the successful launch of our SmartrCriteria platform two years ago, a tool which helps advisers quickly determine which lenders would consider a particular mortgage applicant, we took another leap forward and launched SmartrFit to market late last year. SmartrFit is a mortgage criteria search function and affordability calculator wrapped into in one tool. It utilises lenders’ own affordability and lending criteria, helping advisers find the right products quickly and accurately.
The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for advisers as lending requirements and criteria have drastically changed. Advisers want accurate tools they can trust to help them provide the best service to their clients and provide quick outcomes for them. Despite only having launched SmartrFit in November, we’re already hearing from advisers that this was the solution they’ve been looking for all along.
2021 will be an exciting year as we take this platform even further and look at mortgage product innovation. Real innovation within products has been pretty much non-existent for many years, with the pricing of products mainly driven and sourced by broad LTV bands. We feel it’s the right time to start pushing the boundaries here. We are considering how we can drive innovation particularly around pricing and how this is established person to person. We are working closely with several lenders who are excited and fully supportive of us on this journey! Watch this space...
FR: As we enter a third national lockdown in England, how do you expect to see Covid-19 affect the mortgage market in 2021?
Personally, I feel optimistic about the mortgage market in 2021. I don’t think the shock factor from the pandemic is here this time. It feels different. I think that we have almost accepted this new way of working and the industry really has embraced the technologies that enable us to carry on working from home. The positive news about a vaccine is here too, so there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
The real test for the mortgage market in 2021 will be the end of the stamp duty holiday though. We hope the government reconsiders and grants an extension or tapering of the scheme in order to avoid a cliff edge moment at the end of March. But until we get some clarity, lenders, conveyancers and brokers will be under enormous pressure up until this deadline.
On the other hand, 2021 will also be an active year for the re-mortgaging market with more than 700,000 residential maturities coming to an end. On the buy-to-let side, 1st April also marks the five-year anniversary of the 3% additional stamp duty levy on second properties. The sector saw a wave of landlords buying up properties before the measure came into effect on 1st April 2016 and the result will be a spike in five-year fixed rate product maturities between now and the end of March. Therefore, we don’t predict a slowdown for 2021 and it will be technology that will be crucial to meeting this ongoing demand.
FR: If you could see one headline about financial services this year, what would it be?
“L&G supports dozens of lenders who have launched innovative products that have revolutionised the mortgage market this year.”