Your Business and Industry

Mark Whitear

Head of Commercial Development

20 July 2021

What is the new ‘Specialist Residential?’ - The future of underwriting and product choice for your client

What does the future hold? It's all about fintech, isn't it? Or is it? Robots have brought a huge amount to our underwriting, but the need for human assessment of clients’ complex situations is an area where Specialist Lenders are taking the lead. An interview with Mark Whitear, Head of Commercial Development.

I think you see a number of us already using robots for those processes that are appropriate. So within our business, we use them for valuations, a growing example of innovation and robot use to streamline process and make things quicker. We also have started to encrypt email for mortgage offers direct to clients through a partner company called Zivver. We have more and more API integrations with partners being undertaken across the industry. I think we'll see widespread use of e-signatures and open banking certainly holds a number of potential benefits to streamlining the gathering of information and assessing affordability and that whole underwriting piece. So that would be a great innovation for us, as that develops.

However, therein lies the real crux of specialist lending now. Automated underwriting systems work best in cases where the client's needs are fairly standard and can fit within boxes so that robots can automate. But what about in cases with an element of the extra-ordinary? That may be complex income or complex employment; it may be self-employed or employed clients who have been furloughed or used a government loan, or someone borrowing beyond retirement age.

I still believe the key element in the world of the specialist is the ability for that all-important human interaction, either between the broker who is bringing us the case of that borrower, and the BDM or underwriter.

Now, that's a really important relationship and it's key on most applications. If you have a good conversation at outset when you present your application to us and the underwriter gives you a call and talks you through it - makes for a much smoother journey. And it's really, really important in a specialist sector that we have access to our underwriters for you. And the other relationship is between the underwriter and the actual facts of the case to help understand and rationale a decision, something the computer will never be able to reason.

So what about products and criteria within the specialist space, where do we see these going in the future? Well, as we've already discussed buy to let, and adverse were the traditional playground and we've already established that this is a landscape that has already changed significantly.

So where will these new battlegrounds or enhancements and developments be fought? I think we've already seen some fantastic developments around green and ethical products, and we can only see that moving on.

With the advent of Help to Buy disappearing, we've seen plenty of innovation for first time buyers through replacements for the Help to Buy scheme, and there are already a number of these being trialled. We ourselves have just opened up almost our entire range to first time buyers, including the F1 range up to 90% LTV.  Maybe we'll see more joint borrower, sole proprietor offerings. We'll certainly see lending to the older age groups growing beyond state retirement ages, maybe providing more interest only solutions as we move towards that time when we can downsize.

But mostly, I think we'll see a broader segmentation of what we're already doing, so it may be more specific products that are for professionals, high net worth individuals, maybe larger loans, expats, certainly more short term let and holiday let offerings, maybe more bespoke solutions for clients.

Whichever direction the market takes, the important thing is that lenders keep innovating to meet client demand, and brokers keep seeking out the new solutions as they become available. The more that we can offer your clients, the more solutions you can get.

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