"Later life and buy-to-let are two key niches which require investment and innovation from lenders."
We spoke to Shelley Connelly, head of underwriting at Masthaven, about why digital delivery is more than just having a slick website and which areas require the most investment and innovation from lenders.
FR: As head of underwriting at Masthaven, what does your role involve and what does a typical day look like?
I oversee the bank’s mortgage lending process, which means my role is very diverse - no two days look the same. From broker onboarding, loan completions, through to policy and criteria checks, as well as operational performance processes - I cover a lot of bases! I never know what will land on my desk in any given day and that’s what makes my role rewarding and varied.
FR: What are Masthaven’s main aims or focuses in 2020? Do you have any exciting news or plans you can tell us about?
Our mortgage lending team is currently going through some exciting changes as we transform the customer journey for brokers and customers to make it as smooth as possible. We will be automating and removing unnecessary parts of the process so that brokers and customers can access our products simply, quickly and easily. Digital delivery in today’s market is more than just having a slick website or app. It’s about ensuring that the end-to-end mortgage journey is seamless and efficient. We’ve won awards for our digital and technology innovations, but we also place huge emphasis on customer service and the human element of lending, which are deployed alongside our technology.
FR: What trends do you expect to see within the specialist lending market in 2020?
Open Banking will continue to dominate the conversation in 2020. Within the specialist lending space, we are already seeing customers and SMEs share banking data via APIs which has helped improve affordability checks and verify income. This means we can help more customers to qualify for specialist finance. In the near future we expect to see fully integrated online processes as data will be retained, reused and auto-filled to dramatically speed up the entire process. We also expect a continual reduction in paper documentation, creating a much more agile customer journey.
Buy-to-let will also continue to be a big focus throughout 2020. Landlords still face regulatory changes on the horizon but the demand for BTL products is undimmed and lenders need to do more to support this group of borrowers. Findings from our Broker Beat survey show us that later life and buy-to-let are two key niches which require investment and innovation from lenders. As such, we recently redefined and revamped our BTL range to give brokers a simpler proposition, which includes flexible criteria points, rates for non-traditional tenants, landlords and complex properties.
FR: What are the biggest issues facing advisers in the current economic environment and what should they be aware of when dealing with clients?
Our Broker Beat survey found that optimism among brokers in the specialist lending market has increased. Over three-quarters of the brokers we spoke to are confident about the market’s prospects over the next 12 months. This shows that whilst there is some way to go until the market is firing on all cylinders, the specialist market continues to serve customers who don’t fit the High Street cookie cutter underwriting model.
FR: Financial Reporter is holding its third Women’s Recognition Awards this year - what changes would you still like to see in the industry and what advice would you give to someone starting out in financial services?
Awards and initiatives which support women in finance play an important role in encouraging a more diverse and inclusive working environment. I’d love to see more firms actively encourage women to join the sector and promoting more women into senior roles. Masthaven supports diversity and is constantly striving to build a more balanced financial services business. We recently embarked on a new Women in Leadership initiative, a personalised coaching programme for women leaders at Masthaven. By employing and promoting more women into senior roles, we hope to inspire more women to join the industry.
FR: If you could see one headline about financial services in 2020, what would it be?
“Masthaven wins customer service award for simplifying the mortgage process for thousands of brokers and customers.”