The last few months have seen lenders test the water and become more confident as the pandemic continues to subside and restrictions are eased.
As soon as we could, we started to give your clients more choice by re-launching a number of higher LTV products, introducing some great deals for first time buyers and making reductions across both our residential and BTL ranges. These changes were a clear signal that flexibility was starting to return to the mortgage market.
In May, we opened up our affordability criteria, increasing income multiples for loans at 90%+ LTV and starting to accept bonus payments again. These were big steps towards helping your clients borrow more – and making our products available to even more applicants.
Our product and policy changes, along with the rush to beat the first change to the Stamp Duty Holiday at the end of June, meant that we completed on a record number of mortgages in the second quarter of this year, a story that was reflected across the industry.
We met the challenge head on and got all of those cases over the line. The fact that we didn't miss the deadline with a single case is largely down to the superb collaboration between our Intermediary Development Teams and our colleagues in New Lending.
It's satisfying to note that even when we were at our busiest, we didn't let our service levels slip. We know from regular broker feedback that hanging on the phone waiting for a lender to pick up is a huge source of irritation for intermediaries. Despite the increase in cases, our average call wait time for new business was 56 seconds, our average offer turnaround time was less than 14 days.*
As another channel for communication between brokers and our Intermediary Teams, CfI Chat is proving highly successful. You told us you wanted more choice and flexibility about how to get in touch with us and a year on, you're using it to speak to us as often as picking up the phone.
We've had more than 65,000 unique enquiries since its launch and there's an average wait time of just 37 seconds. It's proved to be quicker and easier for many of your questions, particularly the more straightforward lending enquiries.
We're sure the key to its success is that CfI Chat is manned by real people in the Intermediary Support Team They know our lending policy and product range inside out, they can answer a wide variety of your questions and they're a direct line to our underwriters so can usually give you an answer straight away. We don't use chat bots, and there are no automated responses or scripts.
CfI Chat also frees up other advisors in the team to support brokers over the phone. Sometimes there's no substitute for a telephone call, especially if they want to discuss a more complex case.
And in August, our Field BDMs went back on the road again! We understand that not everyone feels comfortable about returning to an office full time, and we're staying flexible about how our support teams work, but this felt like a huge landmark. While the BDMs have been fantastic at keeping in touch with brokers over the phone and via Zoom, as well as supporting on the phones their real job is to visit intermediaries and see them face to face.
Both our Telephone and Field BDMs are important points of contact for brokers and some of them have relationships going back for years, so to see them start filling their diaries with appointments again was a real turning point in what’s been a difficult year for us all.
Once again, it's been a fantastically busy time for everyone but as always, delivering exceptional service to brokers is always our priority. Times are still unusual and the market will no doubt continue to fluctuate but during the pandemic, the one thing we proved time and time again is that we can adapt.
We're really proud of our support teams and their ability to react quickly, work together and support each other and our brokers. Let's see what the next quarter brings.
Check out our latest service levels.
*All waiting times are average daily figures from 01 January to 31 August 2021