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We’ve all had to make huge changes in 2020, but some of them need to stick, says Iain Smith, Head of Intermediaries at Bank of Ireland UK mortgages.

It’s always important to be agile in business, but 2020 has tested the flexibility of mortgage lenders and intermediaries to the max. The sudden impact of COVID-19 meant an overnight change in working practices for us all, combined with an unprecedented influx of calls from borrowers enquiring about payment holidays.

It was a huge challenge, but the response across the market demonstrated the resilience and flexibility of the mortgage industry.

Right Here for You

At Bank of Ireland for Intermediaries, we quickly got on the front foot with our response, and were determined to support the market. We ensured our BDMs were available remotely and boosted communication channels, so brokers could get in touch through video as well as email and telephone.

Our priority was to give you choice, and while some brokers have embraced video calls, we know it’s not for everyone and a phone call or email still works best for many.

Moving quickly to remote working enabled us to maintain our service levels. We also offered payment breaks, extended offer periods, and desktop valuations during the national lockdown – and continued to keep it local where needed.

We decided early in the pandemic that we didn’t want to restrict our choice of mortgages and were able to offer the same number of products as before, including deals at high LTVs.

Being upfront

Of course, none of us have come away from the impact of a global pandemic completely untouched. Being honest and upfront about the challenges we faced was the approach we took from day one.

Sometimes the virtual doesn’t always replace the physical, and we had to change some of our lending criteria, but communicating openly with brokers and working to put right any issues helped us maintain our trusted relationships.

Similarly, you’ll have faced enormous challenges throughout the year, and some will continue, but communicating any problems upfront with your clients will mean you retain their trust.

Taking the positives

There have been many positive business changes to come out of the past 6 months or so that we intend to continue with beyond 2020. For example, our new ways of working are an improvement and we hope will become standard. To help achieve this, we introduced a virtual contact centre which allows greater flexibility for our staff, while continuing to offer the same level of customer service.

We’ve also focussed a lot on the wellbeing of our colleagues throughout the pandemic, and we are committed to continuing this level support going forwards.

As we learn to live with the impact of Covid-19 for the foreseeable future, it’s important to recognise the huge challenges we still face. But we should also focus on the good things to have come out of the last six months, and take those positives with us as we move forward.

We’re in this together and we are right here for you and ready to adapt as necessary.