Technology – accelerating the case for AR networks

Any wistful debate over whether things will get back to the way they were before COVID-19 is a complete waste of time. Those ‘things’ won’t! This is not the time to get teary-eyed over how wonderful it all was. The pre-COVID mortgage market was already dynamic and evolving. Still, the pandemic, along with all its other effects, has just given the property and finance markets a turbocharged kick in the pants that have delivered more change in the sector in the few months since lockdown, as we would typically see in the space of years.

To name a few – online client meetings, remote working, webinars, distance learning and online processes. All of these rely on the adoption of technology answers, something which many of us in the past have been reluctant to adopt. Yet, unless the current crisis hastened some advisers into early retirement, we have all had to step up, adapt and embrace everything that helps us to operate.

With lenders returning to the market and reports that mortgage illustrations are close to pre COVID levels as I write this, none off this would not have been possible without the technology which has shown us that not only can we survive, but we can thrive.

At HLPartnership, while this particular example of enewsletter prospecting might be low tech, the means by which it was achieved was only made possible by members’ adoption of a high end CRM system with which to run their client bases. 

Low tech to high tech

Coming out of lockdown, our members needed to start generating new leads and in this case the take up of centrally conceived marketing initiatives to existing customers, powered by our members’ data via their CRM systems has enabled a marked increase in potential leads for advisers. For example, we have seen over two thirds of network members signed up to the service, which has meant almost 80,000 customers now receive a communication by the network on behalf of its firms. This is in contrast to the 28,000 that were sent when the service launched two years ago. In July 2018, the open rate for the email was 10.17%. However, by June 2020 the rate had increased to 15% with over 11,500 customers reading the newsletter.  Of those that opened the email, just under 1,700 clicked through to read one of the four articles. 

Online fact finds

Technology had the answer to client meetings via video conferencing, but how could we get fact finds completed without spending hours on zoom calls? The answer came in the adoption of online fact finds. Our experience has been interesting. The number of online fact finds sent to clients by our members to complete in their own homes has increased by almost 200% since the start of the lockdown.  

It started as a very alien concept as we so used to face to face form filling but those using the system are adapting their business models to capture client data by sending an online link via email and a text to a mobile phone which when combined gives access to a comprehensive online fact find. 

Integrating the whole process 

For more years than I can remember, the industry has striven to find ways of simplifying the mortgage process from interview to completion. For those of you who remember ‘dial up’ access, the first goal at the time was to provide a mortgage sourcing service online, but which only came into its own with the arrival of broadband. Broadband also hastened the arrival of the ability to send documents instantly, to receive DIPs, send applications and finally we are within reach of a truly end to end online process.

Our aim at HLP, as part of our technology roadmap, is to give our members the most up to date technology suite in the industry, which is in the process of being rolled out this year. Starting with the adoption of a state of the art CRM system for each adviser firm, allied to real time mortgage sourcing and protection engines, which in turn are linked to tools that thoroughly interrogate mortgage criteria to decrease the number of time wasting ‘false positives’. Eliminating the need to rekey client information has also been largely achieved. When all this is added to a strong GI and life protection module, then advisers are not only going to be running a streamlined process but reducing their exposure to potential compliance issues. 

In finishing, it is of course vital that any technology powered process should enhance and not detract from the business of ‘doing business’. Stories of PI insurance qualification for advisers that must be linked to using a specific technology suite, if true, is not only a restriction of trade but in the event that said technology suite proves to be unfit for purpose, not only poses deeper questions over the relationship between providers of PI and technology but also the dangers to advisers’ future business viability, when they are contractually ‘tied’ to the software, regardless of its poor performance.

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HLPartnership is a trading name of HL Partnership Limited. Registered in England No.5011722. Registered Office: Unit 1, 2nd floor, Southern Gate Office Village, Southern Gate, Chichester PO19 8GR. HLPartnership Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FS Register number 303397.