Well here we are in December 2021, almost 22 months since the start of the pandemic, and whilst it appears there’s a long way to go before we can put COVID behind us, at least in our industry we are starting to see things gradually returning to some semblance of normality.

As a team of field-based BDMs, we’ve been back out seeing brokers face-to-face since June and it feels good – it feels like the old days and I firmly believe that face-to-face meetings are valuable, not just for me and my sanity but for brokers as well. That’s not to say that virtual meetings don’t have value – they do. If the last 20 months has taught me anything, it’s taught me the value of relationships. Being available for more broker firms during the lockdown period has been vital. We’ve seen so many changes to policy & criteria, rate changes, market shifts, government incentives to name but a few and without access to the right people, brokers would have clearly been in the dark.

Using virtual platforms has been of paramount importance, and not just for the lender/broker relationship, but also for the broker/customer relationship. I’d be very surprised if it’s not the case that many broker firms will be reviewing their business models considering what they have learned during the pandemic and at Skipton we’re no different.

So virtual meetings will most definitely form part of our service offering to brokers moving forward, combined with face-to-face and telephone appointments – a hybrid, if you will.

To be fair, this is no different to taking note of customer needs – how customers interact with us is changing and will continue to change – this is the same for brokers. We must adapt to the changing environment and be flexible in our interactions.

But let’s get back to relationships.

We all know that technology is, and will play a very important role in, the future of our industry and it’s imperative that we keep up with the pace of change, embracing the technological advances and using this technology to help us make things easier for brokers and customers alike.

I’ve already spoken about the need to adapt to changing customer behaviours and, to remain relevant we have to modify our offering. But at the heart of everything is relationships. I think customers want to do business with people they can trust and rely on, and the same can be said for brokers. They need to be able to rely on the lender to deliver what they say they will deliver and trust them to look after their customers. Whilst technology will play a fundamental role in how customers interact with lenders, brokers, estate agents, solicitors etc…we are all human and trusted relationships often win business. The use of technology should then support the delivery of the best service possible, both to customers and brokers.

But how do we deliver what we say we will? Well for me it’s back to relationships, but this time my relationships with colleagues.

As BDM’s we all pretty much do the same job. We build and maintain relationships with intermediaries to give them confidence to recommend that lender to their customers. It’s about building trust, as previously mentioned.

What I think is great about Skipton is that we give brokers access to the right people when they need it, and the same opportunities are there for me. I have access to the right people who can help me deliver what I say I will deliver and that comes back to having great relationships with people.

Whilst we invest in technology in an effort to ensure we are fit for the future, it's also important to invest in people to continue to build and maintain excellent relationships and I’m proud to work for an organisation that recognises that. We have invested in technology using automation to help us with valuations using Automated Valuation Modelling. We’ve automated income verification & ID verification to help make things easier for brokers and to improve the customer experience. But we’ve also invested in people, expanding our BDM field & telephone teams and our Key Relationship team whilst also recruiting new underwriters to help us continue to build great relationships across the industry.

In my opinion, you can’t build a business by just investing in technology. Ultimately relationships win business.