While 2020 will always be known as the year of “the virus”, it should also be remembered for the opportunities that emerged from the disruption and the wakeup call forced on companies by the powerful Black Lives Matter movement.
These were just some of the themes delegates heard and debated during the British Mortgage and Protection Senate, held online for the first time.
The pandemic has made homeowners aware of their own financial fragility and changed their perception from “it won’t happen to me” to “it can happen to me”, giving advisers an open door to walk through.
Helping borrowers to protect themselves against the unknown was now more prevalent than ever, delegates heard.
Another point raised was that the competitor threat from aggregator websites stepping into the advice arena has receded because these firms realised they would be forced to offer advice. So, many are simply selling leads back into the broker market.
Equally, regulated firms are often struggling to give execution-only services as it is ultimately a regulatory abdication of their responsibility to the consumer.
Digital protection propositions are vital, delegates were told. The pandemic has accelerated the necessity to deliver advice remotely so those firms that have not already, were advised to invest in their digital offering as well their marketing, product design and social media.
However, another speaker said the promise of single software solutions as a ‘fix-all’ has also been a little premature with most brokers cherry picking the software they need for a more cohesive customer journey.
Staying in touch with existing customers was as important as finding new ones, said one speaker. Remind them of the value of their policies and what their existing cover can do to help them.
The crisis has also highlighted the benefits of taking a policy with additional member benefits like physio and private medical appointments.
Mandatory protection advice
The issue of whether to mandate advisers to recommend cover, in order to improve the rate of protection sales, sparked differences of opinion among panellists and delegates.
The controversial viewpoint which rears its head when the mortgage market booms causing protection sales to slide was rejected by some, who said it incites “tick box” behaviour.
Unless advisers bought into the value of selling protection with every mortgage, they would treat it as another box to fill in on the application form, it was said.
One delegate suggested that advisers should be mandated to refer each client to a protection specialist.
Either way, noted another, it would be a target for claims management companies on the lookout for advisers who had not correctly followed the mandated process.
Inclusion and diversity
The Black Lives Matter movement, and its impact on the financial services industry, featured in both the breakout and plenary sessions on day two of the senate.
The mortgage industry needs to find practical solutions to make the industry more diverse and inclusive, said one speaker.
Organisations have a responsibility to make sure everyone in their company is represented at a senior level, added another.
Speakers agreed this meant not only gender equality, but BAME role models in senior jobs. Differences in sexual orientation and those with disabilities should also be represented in the upper tiers of management.
It was acknowledged the mortgage industry was improving, but it should be a constant reminder not to recruit someone in your shadow. And although a welcome step, it was not enough to simply fill your intranet with material and information on black history.
Difficult conversations about white privilege and calling out racism needed to be had.