"For the brokers and borrowers, we have continued to enhance our proposition to try and make it as easy as possible to complete business during lockdown."
In a change to our usual 'On the Road' series, we instead caught up remotely with Owen Bentley, key account manager at United Trust Bank, to discuss how he's adapting to working from home and how he's utilising technology to keep completing business during lockdown.
FR: What do your working days look like?
Quite similar to before the pandemic starting with the baby getting us all up at 5.45am! I then take full advantage of not having to dash off early to catch a train to London or beat traffic somewhere and have breakfast with the family.
I’m in my office by 8am and the day starts from there.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate during the lockdown that UTB are such a strong, well capitalised and forward thinking lender. Our continued appetite for new business and the retraction of some of our closest competitors, has seen a substantial uplift in volume and enquiries.
My day is spent mainly on the phone to brokers as well as helping our internal teams as much as possible with the increased enquiry and application levels.
FR: What’s your favoured way of keeping in touch with brokers and colleagues?
I’ve always favoured the traditional method of simply keeping in touch on the phone. In the current climate, the ability to reach someone and have an honest and open conversation, where tone can play such an important role, is paramount. We have had a huge amount of brokers feedback how grateful they’ve been to be able to reach and speak to someone willing and able to spend their time explaining exactly what’s going at UTB in an honest and transparent fashion and how we can help them.
Of course, the restrictions have seen an increase in video conversations/meetings – which has been beneficial to keeping in touch with teams and larger numbers of people at the same time. It’s also allowed for more fun interaction with things such as quizzes, fancy dress competitions and scavenger hunts etc!
FR: Are you still able to submit proposals and get decisions/completions – how?
Whilst nearly everyone at the bank is working from home (bar a small shift pattern in the office), we have done incredibly well to not let this affect the service we offer to brokers too much. Yes, we have had to change a few things in how we operate, and some things aren’t as quick as they were before, but most of these changes have been in the background. We have tried to keep the experience of dealing with UTB as close to how it was before the lockdown and I think we’ve done that well.
For the brokers and borrowers, we have continued to enhance our proposition to try and make it as easy as possible to complete business during lockdown. For example we have brought in the ability to digitally sign application forms, we have our AVM criteria on top of which we are now also looking at desktops where available as well as having access to a large panel of valuers. For ID we launched our UTB Nivo service which allows borrowers to complete their ID and address using a mobile app – through the UTB NIvo Passporting service, we can now also share that with our dual rep solicitors – further enhancing the customer and broker journey.
FR: Suit for work time or joggers and T-shirt?
Smart casual works well for me. It helps me start the day with the right outlook and when work is finished, I can change into my comfier clothes for the evening. Whilst this is just a small physical change, it really helps with mentally recognising the work-day is over and my personal evening time has begun. Something I think is quite important when working from home – you need to be able to maintain boundaries so that you’re able to attach and detach and not have it all blur into one.
FR: What have you learned about yourself in lockdown?
Fortunately, as a salesperson usually on the road, I’m already fairly used to working remotely and being self-sufficient. Therefore, the transition from being able to travel to working from home, hasn’t been much of a shift. I’m also fortunate that I have a home office away and separate from the main house, which makes it much easier to keep the split between work and family time.
Working full days on your own can zap your energy and so I’ve found that I’ve had to find new ways of splitting the day up to help. Normally that would be a break in a coffee shop in between meetings etc. Now I make sure I have regular small breaks every couple of hours where I step away from everything and detach, but also make sure that break includes interaction with the family. An energetic three year old that doesn’t know what coronavirus or lockdown means and there is no better tonic to a hard day than spending time with the family.
One thing I’ve learned is to let things go a lot easier and just be grateful for what you have. In a fast-paced work environment where you are constantly travelling and chasing yourself, it’s easy to get completely immersed in the frenzy of it all. Working from home and being constantly surrounded by family has forced me to ‘leave work at work’ and really enjoy the time I have with them.
FR: Recommended box set/movies/book?
I’ll normally favour a film over a series as I can’t stand cliff-hangers and waiting – too impatient! We’ve just watched all three series of Ozark back to back which I thought was very good. Like many others we got caught in the Tiger King frenzy, which was a little weird but interesting to watch! The current Michael Jordan series is great, particularly if you remember the impact he had on sports at the time.
Outside of that, Sky Sports have been very good at filling their channels with old sporting events and documentaries on individuals and so in the evenings if I can’t find a good film to watch, I’ve been watching re-runs of golf and football classics.
FR: Best apps for relaxing/mindfulness/mental health, or do you do something else to chill out?
I’m not a big iPhone or tablet user. Fortunately, I find it quite easy to detach from work once I’m finished and my chill out time is putting my energy into playing with the kids. Once they’re out the way, I like to finish the day off with a film. If it’s a light evening or weekend, I’m normally found digging something in the garden!
FR: What do you miss most during lockdown?
Social interaction without a doubt. Part of the reason we do this job is the joy of working with a huge variety of people. Whilst we’ve been able to reach out and communicate with our connections remotely, you simply cannot replace the enjoyment of being with people in person, both professionally and socially.
FR: What benefits has it had (if any!)?
With the pubs closed and the social calendar empty, I’ve managed to avoid drinking for a couple of months which has undoubtedly helped from a health perspective! I think it’s also helped with my perspective on a lot of things.
FR: What’s the first thing you’ll do once the lockdown restrictions are lifted?
We will be visiting family who we haven’t seen since this all started and beyond that I’ll be craving a good meal and a few drinks down wherever opens!