03 Aug 2023

A group of leading commercial finance brokers from the South-East have warned against over-use of technology and automation by some commercial lenders, in a bid to get cases over the line quicker and drive improvements in the mortgage application process.

Concerns were raised at a roundtable event held by YBS Commercial Mortgages, which took place recently at the headquarters of the industry trade body, the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB), in central London. The event was attended by key broker partners, along with the managing director of the NACFB, Norman Chambers, and members of the senior leadership team for YBS Commercial Mortgages.

The discussion focussed heavily on what commercial lenders could be doing to better support brokers and their clients in these turbulent times.

This included a discussion around the trend towards automation within some lenders’ processes. They considered how this might not provide the silver bullet solution it appears to be, when it comes to process improvements for the commercial market.

This is largely due to the sheer complexity of cases, with longer times to completion and generally more queries to resolve compared to mortgage applications in the residential sector, which means a blend of technology combined with the human touch provided by supportive business development teams or relationship directors, can actually be more efficient and beneficial for clients in the long run.

Attendees, largely made up of directors and owners from leading UK commercial finance broker firms, expressed strong views that having a personal touch throughout the application journey is absolutely crucial in specialist lending.

Tom Simpson, managing director for YBS Commercial Mortgages, who hosted the event, said: “It seems clear that brokers really value commercial lenders that can balance the use of technology with high levels of personal customer service.

“That’s why we’ve embraced technology, using it to do the heavy-lifting - in term of things like making our application journey smoother through our broker portal – but understanding that it doesn’t - and shouldn’t – be relied on to do everything. It doesn’t replace brokers’ ability to talk to a dedicated contact to help shape and structure their deals, nor should it be used to provide a hard ‘no’ at the start of the process, without obtaining human understanding of the details.

Brokers are looking for commercial lenders to deliver on our promises – to agree and stick to the terms of a deal. Building personal relationships out there on the front line and using these to enhance customer journeys, is even more essential than facilitating technology when it comes to delivering on these promises and achieving positive outcomes for borrowers.”

Participant Kevin Thomson of Connect, commented: “It’s important that lenders like YBS Commercial maintain their current service levels by maintaining human connections. There is a place for digitisation, but not at the expense of relationships.”