"A lot of the headlines within the sector focus on product innovation and technical development, but it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the need to best serve customers long past completion"
FR: What does the latest milestone mean for the company, and how does it alter how you deliver customer service?
Given the challenging landscape we’ve all found ourselves in, I think the fact that we’ve grown as a business is gratifying, but more importantly I think it’s demonstrated not only our resilience but also our continued determination to keep the end customer front and centre, and to continue to deliver market-leading service standards.
It only seems like yesterday that we were hitting a £1bn total portfolio size and we’ve been on a consistent upward trajectory since, helped by the integration last year of an £870m third party loan book – one of the largest to pass hands in the equity release sector. We’ve grown the customer account servicing team both in terms of headcount and skillset over the past couple of years to ensure we’re meeting customer needs, and I don’t see any reason why that strategy will change any time soon. We’re not ones to sit on our laurels, so we’ll always be looking at ways to develop our processes and wider offering to further enhance our service provision.
FR: Have you seen any changes in how customers are interacting with their plans post-completion given the current climate?
We’ve definitely seen an increase in people making enquiries, especially during the early stages of the pandemic, as they sought to explore what their options were, or are. I think that’s a fairly natural response to the wider uncertainty, and in many cases I think people just wanted that reassurance and peace of mind that should their circumstances change, that we – and their plan – could accommodate it. We’ve recognised that and moved to enhance our customer literature to include a full brochure detailing all of the key plan features and their associated process, as well as a mortgage redemption guide for customers and their estates. We’ve also put greater focus on enhanced training around vulnerable customers, including offering Dementia Friends training to all staff within the company, with a particular focus on all of our customer-facing teams.
FR: Do you think that service standards will become a key differentiator in the market between lenders in the future?
I’m not sure about a differentiator, but it absolutely needs to be a key pillar of the industry if we’re to continue to benefit from having consumer confidence. A lot of the headlines within the sector focus on product innovation and technical development, but it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the need to best serve customers long past completion – after all, based on the nature of the product there’s a very real chance that lenders could have a relationship with a customer for several decades. We’re fortunate, and proud, to have won a number of key industry awards for our service standards, and we’re committed to continuing to evolve our offering to deliver what we believe are best outcomes and experiences for our customers.
FR: How do you think lifetime mortgage servicing is going to evolve in the near future?
It’s difficult to say, especially given how changeable life has been shown to be. I think the important thing is to continually listen to your customers and develop processes, literature and other customer touchpoints to ensure you’re meeting their needs. As mentioned, I think that’s something we’re really great at doing as a team, and something we’ll be continually monitoring and reviewing to make sure our customers continue to have the best possible experience throughout their time with us.