By David Castling, Head of Intermediary Distribution at Atom bank
Speed has always been an important factor in the mortgage market. Borrowers of all kinds have long valued being able to move swiftly once they decide to proceed with a purchase or remortgage.
Yet over the last year or so, speed has only grown in significance, given the rapid changes to interest rates and criteria we have seen. Moving quickly has evolved from being desirable to downright essential.
As a result, it’s been incredibly satisfying to see the progress we have made at Atom in bringing the time taken to move from application and offer down to levels which we believe are market leading.
This has meant that typically customers will now receive an offer just six days after submitting their application, with one in five getting a response on the very same day and a third by the next. That’s in stark contrast from the timescales we know brokers see from other lenders, which can easily drag on for weeks.
Clearing the desks
There is an obvious benefit to the client that comes from being able to proceed cases so swiftly. The borrower is provided with a greater level of reassurance and confidence, content that they have an offer in place for the purchase or remortgage.
If they are buying a new property, it means they can push forward with the deal quickly, and minimise the chances of a rival buyer coming in and pushing up the price, while those facing tight deadlines over refinancing can relax in the knowledge that they won’t have to stomach the payment shock of a month or two on the standard variable rate.
But there are even more tangible positives for the broker. It’s all too easy for cases to drag on, taking up space in a broker’s to-do list for days if not weeks on end. The broker can’t move on, having to constantly set aside time to chase up what’s going on or respond to clients beginning to fret over a lack of updates and progress.
However, when a lender can deliver much faster responses, and get the case over the offer line within a matter of hours rather than days, all of that stress and workload is removed. The broker can instead devote that time to helping their next client, working on their own professional development, or simply enjoying a little time off.
It’s a better deal for everyone involved.
A commitment to brokers
It would be easy to suggest there is some sort of secret behind delivering such rapid offer times, some new technology that only Atom is using.
The reality is rather different, however. The reason that we are able to deliver such swift turnarounds from application to offer is the result of a commitment to doing so, from taking a long look at our processes and what we ask of brokers and their clients and identifying ways where unnecessary delays can be avoided.
Clearly technology plays a crucial role here. There’s no question that the proper use of automated valuation models can be enormously effective when looking to provide an application response within a short period of time.
Similarly automated income verification has been a huge step forward on previous, labour-intensive processes. Leveraging automation in this way provides lenders with the opportunity to get a rounded and accurate impression of an applicant’s financial position much quicker than has previously been possible.
By embracing the right sort of mortgage technology and spotting ways in which it can enhance the process, we have been able to significantly reduce the time taken to reach the decision stage.
Technology alone is not enough, though. It has to be coupled with a determination to deliver this service, a recognition of how important it is and the drive to see it through.
What matters to brokers and borrowers?
Most of us within the mortgage market have long argued that this is an industry ripe for innovation. For a long time, businesses across the sector have persisted with certain processes simply because it’s the way that it has always been done, and that has led to frustrations for borrowers and brokers alike.
But innovation for its own sake serves little purpose. Ultimately it is crucial for broker-facing businesses like Atom to really get to grips with what can make the most tangible difference to intermediaries and their clients. That understanding means we can focus our efforts on delivering meaningful change.
The feedback that we have had from brokers around our speed improvements has been incredibly encouraging and reflects the fact that the changes we have made a real difference to their workloads.