Brokers view tech and providers as threats to business

FT Adviser

Original article here

Research has shown new technology to be the biggest fear of mortgage advisers.

Legal & General interviewed more than 200 adviser attendees at its recent spring events, finding 35 per cent felt the biggest future threat to their business stemmed from technology, while 17 per cent said lenders posed a direct challenge to their market share.

Jeremy Duncombe, director at the Legal & General Mortgage Club, said even though business may be booming right now, advisers are acutely aware of the challenges ahead.

“With changing customer behaviour and the FCA’s support, technology is likely to become an even greater opportunity or threat for intermediaries. It is therefore essential that brokers look to futureproof themselves to allow them to continue to thrive,” he stated.

"Advisers have been looking for the short-return option, which makes you greedy and always chasing the next client or the next profit margin"
Danny Matthews

“To achieve this goal, advisers need to embrace technology and ensure that they are offering a holistic service that is able to meet all their customers’ needs. If advisers want to avoid being left behind, the message is clear: adapt or risk being overtaken.”

Danny Matthews, a broker at Total Mortgage Network and ‘social adviser’ at Advisers Edge, argued the best way to drive growth is content, and lots of it.

He said: “Many regulated firms and advisers dismiss social media for a number of reasons: concerns over compliance, implementing systems and procedures, learning resources for themselves and staff.

“Most of all though, they see it as a promotional tool and that renders their plans a ‘non-starter’.

“It is evident on any social media platform that the majority of consumers, regardless of wealth, age or location don’t like to shop where they socialise. So whereas they see it as a road block, I see the benefit of being forced to give lots of free value and content without promotion.”

Mr Matthews has dived into podcasts and blog posts to educate consumers, while his Advisers Edge testing site is aiming to see what the uptake would be for an online resource of information and social guidance for the financial services industry.

Last October, research conducted among 100 brokers for Accord revealed while two thirds of brokers regularly use social media, just over half (56 per cent) use it for business purposes.

David Robinson, Accord’s national intermediary sales manager, said there is still uncertainty about how to effectively use social media for financial businesses, despite updated guidelines from the Financial Conduct Authority in March 2015.

Victor Sacks, an independent financial adviser at VS Associates, said he has seen results from using Twitter and LinkedIn, finding his personal accountant via the former, who has introduced a further three accountants which regularly provide business.

“Because of my tweets and blogs, I got noticed by the mayor of Huntingdon, the owner of a local radio station, and I am now ‘the money man’ on air, reaching 25,000 homes once a month for an hour,” he stated.

“Social media has increased my business - directly and indirectly - by 15 per cent, when I look at the initial social media connection, then the referrals and connections that came as a result.”

While Mr Sacks admitted social media is not the panacea of business, “it gives me access to people I wouldn’t normally meet, has got me new business and put me on a journey to becoming the ‘go to’ business IFA in my local area”.

David Hollingworth, associate director for communications at London & Country Mortgages, said a website plays an important role in ensuring borrowers feel confident in a broker. 

“Ignoring how customers are choosing to interact with each other and the companies that they choose to do business with is running the risk of falling behind. As more and more people use social media there are certainly potential for benefits to any business in terms of reaching a wider audience.

“That doesn’t mean that it will necessarily replace all other lead sources and established introducers, but failing to communicate with customers in the way they want to be communicated could mean you will lose them to a firm that is,” he added.

Jane King, a mortgage consultant at Ash-Ridge Private Finance, said the firm has a “state of the art” website, along with LinkedIn and Twitter presence.

“Although being on Twitter has helped me gain a lot of media comment and TV/radio work, it has actually resulted in nil clients. We publish a market commentary every quarter which is barely looked at and I don’t recall acquiring one new client through social media,” she commented.

“I would maintain that 100 per cent of our new clients are personal or existing client referrals, so we have social media because ‘everyone else does’ and it validates us as being a legitimate company.”

Mr Matthews responded that the industry needs to start treating new technology and digital channels as a long-term investment.

“Advisers have been looking for the short-return option, which makes you greedy and always chasing the next client or the next profit margin, which surprises me, especially when they deal with long-term yield investments.”