The pandemic coronavirus that we know as COVID-19 is putting a stop to the normal ways of people and corporations. It has affected at least 184 countries and territories. While the world carries on its battles with this fiend, businesses are also in a similar war. Mortgage broking companies are among those that are struck by this pandemic.
With the significant disruption on mortgage brokerage that the COVID-19 has caused, how do you prepare for such a difficulty? Although everyday activities may not resume for some time, the health of your staff members is your main priority.
At this point, it makes sense to keep the business running while at home. It is not an easy feat. You have to prepare your staff, design a plan to figure out how work will flow, and provide support for brokers and customers, among others.
Health authorities have advised people and companies to come up with social distancing measures. This way, spreading the virus will become limited. As you continue to run a mortgage broking business, what are the steps that you can take to make sure your staff stays well-informed? How can you help them address critical business concerns?
There are many other questions that you may have while the coronavirus is still at large. It is one of those times where things could get worse before they get better. For mortgage brokers, they feel the impact of this pandemic on all fronts.
Measures are currently in place to fight the ongoing pandemic, and they affect the mortgage broking business. For starters, it is not a good time for buyers and renters to move to a new house. As a result, the number of valuations and viewings is heavily reduced.
With reduced physical valuations, lenders cannot give new mortgages, prompting customers to pull their high loan to value mortgages. It is a chain reaction leading to new mortgage purchases getting cancelled.
While the purchase market has been mostly at a pause as a way to follow the government’s orders, there are still opportunities out there. Re-mortgage and product transfers are just some areas where mortgage brokers can still work on.
Another key challenge is to keep updated with the criteria modifications that lenders may impose. It is also difficult to retain clients because of the absence of service that mortgage brokers cannot provide at the moment.
A mortgage broker can either work independently or within an agency. If you run a mortgage broking business, you have a responsibility not only to your clients but your staff as well. Many small businesses have chosen to work from home. Although it may seem unconventional, it is possible to operate your business even when you practice social distancing and work from your home office.
The biggest challenge of all, though, lies in the implementation of tactics that can safeguard people’s lives, as well as everyone’s livelihoods.
Currently, rate cuts have already been implemented in many parts of the globe. In Australia, the interest rates are lower and may remain this way for some time. The Reserve Bank of Australia recently reduced the interest rate twice, with the second one announced in March. It is now at a record low of 0.25%.
The financial pressure exists as clients try to find ways to get the services they require. Even though we are in the midst of a crisis, people need assistance in reassessing their loans, finding refinancing options, deferring repayments or capitalising on possible real estate market opportunities.
The Solutions Step-By-Step
Mortgage broking may not be one of those careers that are ideal for working from home. However, due to the pandemic and the directives to stay indoors, it makes sense to find ways to continue serving customers. The goal is to keep the business alive, which is not an impossible feat. You can rally your staff to continue work as usual.
Yes, there will be several changes, but you can make mortgage broking transactions work with the following steps:
Evaluate Your Business First
Before you proceed to gather your team, you must understand your current position as a business. At this time, you can only make informed decisions based on your financial situation. The government has imposed certain restrictions, so your ability to provide services and mortgage products may be limited.
You may need to contact your accountant to determine what options you have. Cash flow is crucial since COVID-19 can continue to disrupt your business.
Other things you may need to check are:
- Your eligibility for assistance from the government, including one of the several stimulus packages and relief package for those in Western Australia.
- The stakeholders’ position on what is happening with the business
- The agreement between you and your staff regarding your plans for the company during the pandemic and how they will be affected
- The rules and restrictions regarding how you can operate as a business
- Your capability to withdraw your superannuation early
- Your support networks for advice and assistance
- Always ensure that you are updated with any changes that may take place in the business world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Establish Your Remote Team
For now, your staff members will be in their homes. Shifting your entire company – or even a small division – to remote can already cause a shockwave of modifications you may not be ready for. It does not mean, though, that you cannot mitigate what happens next.
The first thing that you can do is to begin evaluating your current staff members. Gather a team of experts if you can, especially those who may have experience working remotely. They can aid in communicating nuances while serving as efficient resources to staff that may have questions.
One of the most important duties that you have is to document challenges as they come. You can also have someone do this step for you, but make sure it is a part of your process. At the same time, there should be transparency in prioritising some of the challenges you may have realised along the way. You can assign directly responsible individuals (DRIs) to help fix those issues.
Set Up a Communication Plan
This step will depend on the size of your company. You can consider creating a video conference that is always on for every team. Define the rules, such as team members should be present during a specific time.
Mortgage brokers are not typically used to working in a home office setting. With the communication plan you have, it can help with acclimation. Your team members can eventually embrace the shift to a remote workplace.
Communication can either be formal or casual. An essential element is to ensure that the plan can demonstrate the willingness to create an informal communication process. After all, it spontaneously occurs in an office setting.
The way your team communicates with each member should boost transparency across the business. According to a 2019 report, the biggest challenges when working remotely are communication and collaboration. It is easy to see why. Issues that could be quickly resolved when a co-worker is just a few metres away. However, it becomes a huge problem when a remote member of the team is not reading the email, has muted notifications, or is busy with something else.
It does not mean you cannot combat it. As you operate your mortgage broking business with your remote team, you can foster a culture of communication where your staff has frequent conversations with one another. They can share information in real-time transparently.
While information communication channels are helpful, you should also maintain a certain level of honesty as a company.
Have a Set Workflow Procedure
As much as possible, you want the workflow to be normal like before. As a bare minimum, mortgage broking is just like other white-collar jobs requiring a nine-to-five routine. It is the same operating time of banks that brokers deal with throughout the application and acceptance processes.
Unfortunately, things have changed because of the pandemic. Banks and your customers are not doing their regular routine. You have to modify how you operate to create an effective work-from-home schedule.
Here are some things to focus on:
- If you need to hire additional members, you should be smart and careful. The interview will take place via video call, which will make it difficult to evaluate the candidate. Look at the skills and experience while checking the individual’s motivation as well. Working from home can cause the employee to have a harder time than working in person. There should already be an intrinsic ambition for this candidate to be a part of your mortgage broking success story amidst the coronavirus.
- Communicate your plan with your team. During this time, you should already have a team atmosphere despite being away from one another. You can still hold team building programmes online. If someone has done an excellent job, celebrate it with the rest of the members.
- You can automate tasks for your mortgage broking business. There are jobs involved that can be boring because you have to do them daily. Consider using scheduling tools, chatbots, or data processing applications. Automation not only saves time but also helps avoid boredom as your team works with you.
- Have specified working hours. Some people, though, may have difficulty in working at home in the morning, especially those with children. It can be beneficial for you to embrace this change for the time being. You can at least agree on particular time-frames. There is nothing too specific, and flexibility is offered. At the same time, you know when you can expect your team to work with you.
The process will be based on what your team does typically. Try to keep everything going as if you are in the office to maintain a good workflow.
Keep in Constant Contact With Your Clients
Many lenders announced assistance packages for their customers affected by the pandemic. The financial services industry where you belong is called on to be proactive in communicating with clients. And it is exactly what you should do to keep the business afloat. Discussing with clients about their financial options is one of the keys to surviving these tough times.
Most of your clients are on a predicament just like you. You can advise them and provide a mortgage plan that may help them weather the storm.
Here is how the procedure is made of:
- Get their homes valued to ensure they understand their property’s equity
- Try to access a redraw facility for their loans in the event of a job loss or redundancy
- Save anywhere from three to six months’ worth of repayments of the mortgage loan into an offset account
- Negotiate a lower rate with the banks
Managing cash flow is important now more than ever. Everyone, including your clients, will look at their finances and tighten their belts. As a broker, you are in a critical position to draft various credit options to the borrowers. You can also ensure that they will have access to accountants or financial planners, so they get the advice they require.
Create Ground Rules Within Your Home Office Space
Often, the bigger problem in arranging a work-from-home office involves your family. If you have kids, they can keep you from focusing on your job with their noise. Even your barking dog can distract you. During your working hours, you should ensure that you are far away from these distractions as much as possible. You can set up your own office in the garage or another room where no one will disturb your peace.
Take Advantage of Technology
According to research, an average office worker would have at least five apps open. It is crucial to select the apps that you will use throughout the day. This way, you can avoid app fatigue or even confusion, especially when your team needs to look for the information they require.
Thankfully, there are numerous communications and collaboration programs that you can use. Productivity tools are useful as well to ensure that you have a dynamic team.
Some tools that can help include:
- Lifesize and other cloud-based video conferencing programs
- Chat apps, such as Slack
- Microsoft Teams and other similar programs to make communication with the remote team members easier
- Asana, ProjectManager.com, and other related project management tools to keep track of what everyone is doing and avoid wasting time
- To-do list apps, such as Trello, to enumerate all the tasks for each member of the team
- Calendly and other similar programs to let customers book into your calendar
Also, do not forget about video conferencing, where you can use Skype or other apps. Video calls can help your team still feel connected with the other office workers as opposed to sticking with text-based apps or audio-only calls.
Make Sure to Provide Everyone With Reasonable Breaks
Productivity is essential in achieving your company’s goals. However, you do not want your staff to be overworked. The situation is already hectic and stressful. Staying indoors and working at home without breaks can be detrimental to people’s health. Allow your team to take at least an hour break every once in a while. This way, they can remain in contact with their family, for instance.
Update, Educate, and Train Your Staff
Learning should not stop while your team is at home. It is a fantastic opportunity to train them. You have several options, including hosting webinars that will guide them with the use of technology while they perform their tasks remotely.
Other methods are:
- Providing structured training on specific tools or apps to individual members of the team that may need more guidance
- Offering practical tips to your staff
- Giving tech support to help in implementing tasks
- Educating the members about lender relief packages
- Carrying out analyses of interviews of lenders and their requirements
You can take a break from the usual workflow for the training to commence. It can be as simple as grabbing a whiteboard and explaining specific changes, including new deals and options from lenders.
Ensure That You Have Covered All Aspects of the Business From Beginning to End
Understand that not everyone is happy to work from home. You should take time to talk to your staff about what they think of the situation, how it can be improved, and other outputs they may have. Knowing what they have in mind can help address immediate challenges that may be present because of the pandemic and the imposed restrictions.
You have a lot of responsibilities and resiliency issues to face relating to lockdowns and knock-on effects in the economy. While you focus on keeping your team motivated to stay productive and profitable, you should not forget about you and your staff’s health.
This coronavirus has a high mortality rate. Being healthy and encouraging your team members to do the same will help with their safety and your business’ as well. Exercising, drinking water, eating vegetables and fruits, taking vitamins, and staying stress-free are among the things you can do to maintain your health while working from home.