The mortgage market is not as it was

‘Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be’ goes one saying, but the fact is that nothing is, so far better to focus on the here and now, and what is likely to happen in the future.

I say this because, it will be quite clear that the current mortgage market is also not what it was a few, even a couple, of years back.

That is certainly the situation in the later life lending space, where we can all accept that a difficult trading environment is with us, and has been for some time, certainly over the last 12 months.

The big question, of course, is what to do about that? First up, is the recognition the market of yesterday will not be the market of today or indeed tomorrow.

Once you recognise that truism, it takes you a long way to understanding you can’t keep on waiting for the market to ‘turn’ and for it to suddenly transform into a more buoyant one.

The shift towards a more upbeat market will be a much slower process, but it can certainly be boosted by the work that firms and their advisers do now, in order to mitigate the dampened environment and to put in place a range of actions which improve that situation in both the short- and medium-term.

I said recently at one of our monthly ‘Breakfast with Stuart’ meetings, that if you hold your breath waiting for things to shift and turn in your favour then you are likely to suffocate, because what we have in front of us is going to literally be a very different market.

Customer needs will be different. Products will be different. Lead generation will be different. Everything is changing, and if you follow the words of Take That that ‘everything changes but you’, then you’re only going to put yourself in a much more difficult position to get out of.

Now, if this all sounds slightly dramatic, you might be right. But the idea here is to develop the understanding and thinking that what has happened, has gone, and what is here and what will come, is going to need a different level of engagement and potentially a broadening of the services and products you offer.

That should be fairly clear already, particularly to those who might think a future in which they are purely an equity release/lifetime mortgage specialist is still sustainable.

It might still be, but my view is you can no longer sit in that one silo, you have to be able to offer much more to your clients, simply because there is so much more to be able to offer those clients.

The other point to make here about this shift, and the changes we’re all coming to terms with, is that it’s likely to be disconcerting for advisers, even more so if they feel there’s no support for them and they view these changes as a cliff-edge over which they are likely to tumble.

Our job at Air is to ensure this isn’t the case, and we can provide a wide range of support through resources, technology and tools, as we have on repayments and with our recently-launched Later Life Lending Navigator tool, which is focused on affordability and in our view is a real game-changer in tackling one of the biggest issues for advisers and their clients in this current (and future) marketplace.

The other point that often gets forgotten in all of this, is how valuable having someone to speak to is, especially when the situation looks a little challenging. I’m not just talking about speaking to someone on a product/criteria help desk – which of course is valuable especially when cases are far more complex than they used to be – but also in terms of having a sounding board.

I’ve probably taken 20/25 phone calls over the last couple of weeks alone from advisers who not only wanted the tangible support we provide, but also just wanted to chat through what is happening. Often, it’s just to find out if they are an outlier in this market or if they are one of many – currently it’s the latter, and just knowing that can ease the stress and the burden.

It’s also important for them to know there is support available, that they aren’t on their own, and what they might be seeking to do – stay in this market, increase income, get costs down, etc – is also on our minds and we are focused on helping them achieve this. 

This industry has always been very good at looking after its own, particularly during tougher times. We often talk about the resilience of the advisory community, but that resilience is multi-layered and everyone can do with some help now and again to solidify that ‘defence’ and help to get on the front foot to tackle those issues head on.

We’re certainly here to do that in the later life space, and I would urge any adviser who is thinking about these same things to reach out and get the support and help that is available.

Stuart Wilson is chairman of Air Club