First published by Best Advice
As we’re all no doubt getting to grips with, a new year can look very like an old one. We might all hope that 2021 is very different to last year but clearly in some very key areas that’s certainly not going to happen quickly. Many experts predict that things will get worse before they get better.
However, a new year is of course when most people reflect on what has gone before and to think about what went right, what went wrong, and how businesses need to set themselves up for success – hopefully taking learnings specifically from the prior year’s performance.
What I think 2020 brought home so forcefully, was the reliance we all have on each other, particularly in the financial services space, and specifically when it comes to the mortgage market. That there are so many moving parts – we can’t get traction alone in isolation – and it does require partnerships, understanding, support, resource and communication across all stakeholders to get the right consumer outcomes.
People can be very quick to criticise – sometimes with justification – and say who or what has let us down, but not so quick to offer thanks or congratulations, or simply to acknowledge those who went beyond what was required, especially given the situation that most of us find ourselves working in.
So, let’s right this common wrong for a brief moment. Let’s give due credit to some of those industry partners who deserve recognition. I think there’s an argument to suggest that the industry could do with less, not more awards ceremonies, but I do think it’s important to pick out some businesses, without whom, networks like Stonebridge (and our AR firms) may have had a much more difficult 2020.
First up, is an obvious one, but there’s no doubting that without HSBC – particularly throughout Lockdown 1 – the mortgage market would have looked very different last year. While many lenders had no choice but to exit the high LTV mortgage market in the spring, HSBC did everything it could to stay in for as long as possible. It reacted quickly to what was happening, it didn’t select against broker distribution, had to the technology to match its appetite and as a result it was able to support advisers and their clients with consistent service throughout. It has also recently returned to 90% LTV lending, and I suspect many advisers will not forget how very helpful this lender was during 2020.
In terms of aggregation and distribution, a special mention to the Legal & General Mortgage Club, which was particularly helpful for us in a number of pragmatic ways during the year. It’s a powerful player at the best of times, however during the pandemic it has once again stepped up in terms of support and resource, and its very strong lender relationships allow it to take the lead when it comes to helping the lending community deliver what stakeholders such as brokers, really need.
Sticking with Legal & General, albeit with an unconnected proposition, a special mention should go to L&G’s Protection business. As you know, when the mortgage market is booming, protection volumes can often suffer. L&G has done everything it can to support our messaging to advisers that the protection needs of the UK population should not go on hold, simply because it’s a busy time for mortgage applications. L&G’s offering is incredibly strong, both in terms of products, pricing and claims, and again the support it delivered to Stonebridge throughout the year was noticeable and appreciated.
Finally, moving to the GI market, a special mention for Uinsure, not by any means a new player in this space but certainly a proposition which feels fresh, and has a genuine commitment to technological development. As you know, ancillary products don’t always get appropriate priority from advisers in busy times, but the simplicity of Uinsure’s offering and the ability for advisers to write GI business easily, shouldn’t be under-estimated. There are many other trading partners of course that also had very good 2020s and were able to ride the storm, and ultimately get back to business as usual within a very short space of time. You will have your own version of my top four here.
Obviously, we all still face a tricky 2021 in terms of the ongoing and serious contagion levels, remote working and the like, which does not make it easy for any proposition.
However, for the most part, the vast majority have not just coped with the disruption, but they’ve done a sterling job. It has meant that we can continue to do our job, and that other stakeholders benefit from the clear increase in demand I suspect we’ve all seen. 2021 has a lot to deliver but I anticipate we will all need this kind of support again from lenders and insurers, in order to maintain the level prosperity we all managed to achieve in that shocking and extraordinary year. See – I also managed to avoid using that ‘unprecedented’ word.
Rob Clifford is Chief Executive of Stonebridge