Official advice from UK Finance has warned consumers that ‘telephone lines remain extremely busy’ and advises them instead to turn to their lender’s website as a first port of call.
Those mortgage providers that have already set out on the road to digital transformation have been able to perform better, communicating more effectively and offering their customers a level of autonomy through automated self-service facilities. As with any service sector, customers remember the experience just as much, or sometimes more, than ultimate benefit gained. Although no-one can yet say for sure what the post-pandemic world will look like, it is fair to anticipate higher demand for seamless digital services.
The mortgage market, therefore, needs to up its automation game to prepare for what lies ahead.
Encumbered by their legacy systems, mortgage providers need to think strategically about how they can bridge between their existing infrastructure and the ability to deliver new, consumer-centric service offerings, all while reducing costs to recover lost income. In this instance, finding the right technology partner can unlock a number of significant benefits throughout the entire lifecycle of the mortgage management process.
Servicing existing customers
As households begin to get back on track, those who took mortgage holidays will need to have clear sight of how their payments terms that have changed. Others may be looking at how they can release equity from their existing mortgages to support family or secure themselves against any future financial crises, some may want to switch products entirely to secure more stable interest rates. All these scenarios will create additional administration for mortgage providers already contending with outdated internal processes or outsourced servicing platforms. Integrating API-led technology into their existing systems will enable mortgage providers to simplify these complexities and reduce the operating costs associated with mortgage management through increased process automation.
Mortgage providers have been traditionally been slow to adapt to consumers' demand for fast, online access to their accounts, which is the norm across other areas of the credit industry. Granting access to digital self-service environments, where customers can manage their own accounts and make payments will create both internal efficiencies for lenders and give customers added reassurance that they are in control.
By integrating API-led platforms now, lenders can also ready themselves to launch new, consumer-centric services enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and open banking data. Consumer research  conducted by Equiniti Credit Services pre-pandemic, found that just 40% of those surveyed said they would be unwilling to give a lender temporary access to their bank transaction history if it could lead to a better, more personalised mortgage rate. With only 12% saying they would seek the advice of a broker when their mortgage deal comes to an end, open banking data not only opens up the chance to keep customers once their current period has ended but also creates an opportunity for lenders to deliver, more flexible and tailored products. Imagine a mortgage product that could flex according to life circumstances offering holidays and flexible payment terms to suit different life stages.
Creating an end-to-end process
Such technologies can also support efficiencies in the mortgage application process. Currently dominated by intermediaries, who require lengthy face-to-face appointments to support applications, social distancing may see a move to increased remote application processes either as a result of extended measures or through consumer cautiousness. Open banking data, integrated via API-led platforms, could create opportunities for real-time affordability assessments, derived from bank account data, transforming the current admin and paper heavy process. Only 26% of those questioned in our research study said they would not trust AI tools to determine their credit worthiness, showing that consumer willingness to accept such services already exists.
Planning and remaining complaint
Any event on the scale of COVID-19 offers a chance to integrate learnings into future scenario planning. Having a contingency and risk assessment for pandemics and other incidents will certainly be on the agenda, both for internal stakeholders and regulators alike. We expect to see stricter regulations on lenders’ reporting practices. Choosing a technology platform that provides access to real-time data monitoring tools, as well as FCA-regulated personnel, can help lenders to quickly identify and responsibly manage risk and remain compliant the throughout the mortgage life cycle.
Finding the right partner
While supporting customers must remain the key focus, mortgage providers need also to prepare for what’s to come. With this in mind, the mortgage market can no longer afford to be behind the curve. Finding a partner that can integrate an open platform which is adaptable and flexible to accommodate in-house origination systems will be a key factor in post-lockdown preparation. This will arm mortgage providers with the tools they need to adapt to the new market dynamics, and launch competitive new services while remaining compliant with the sector’s regulation.
 A UK research study of 2,000 UK consumers conducted in Q4 2019 by ResearchBods on behalf of Equiniti Credit Services and Credit Kudos.