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Abuse from brokers over backlogs is growing, says lender

Abuse from brokers over backlogs is growing, says lender
Tony Hall, mortgage sales head at Saffron Building Society

Lenders’ support staff have been slogging through piles of mortgage applications in recent months after at least seven companies temporarily withdrew from the market just to catch up.

Mortgage providers have been facing “intense backlogs” following a rapidly changing interest rate environment over the past six months which has weighed on service levels.

Specialist lender Saffron Building Society is one such company which withdrew from accepting new mortgage applications - other than new-build - on August 4. It is yet to re-enter the market.

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Tony Hall, the lender’s mortgage sales head, heads up Saffron’s support team. He told FTAdviser his team is currently working through more than double its usual pipeline.

“The hours our staff are doing is incredible. They’re working weekends and evenings to try and push cases through for brokers and their clients,” said Hall.

With a recent spike in Covid-19 cases, members of Hall’s team have come down with the virus and needed to take time out to recover.

“As an employer, we’re saying ‘please don’t overwork yourself’. This spike in Covid-19, as well as the huge increase in demand, has placed pressure on our service levels,” Hall explained.

“We’re asking brokers to be kind to our teams. The intensity and abuse from brokers is growing, and it’s upsetting. We’re not going to tolerate this anymore. We should all be in this together.

“One colleague said to me the other day in frustration: ‘We don’t have a draw of blow up underwriters’.”

This week, the lender emailed a plea to intermediaries in order to reduce the rising levels of abuse it says staff are facing.

“We’ve drafted staff in from other areas of our business to help brokers. They aren’t trained mortgage professionals. They’re following what they have been asked to do, but are getting battered by brokers.”

Other delays throughout the home buying journey have placed a stress on lenders like Saffron’s service levels, such as valuers and conveyancers.

While rate changes are finally starting to slow now, when Saffron revamped its specialist range last month rates were still rising rapidly, leading it to become extremely busy.

“It all adds up to pain somewhere. If it was just us making mistakes, I’d understand,” said Hall. 

“I regret our current service levels, they’re not where we’d like them to be. But we believe we can commit to them without causing detriment to our staff.”

The main two pain points for brokers are, according to Hall, when a broker has asked for their case to be escalated but there is no capacity for it to be escalated immediately, or where the lender changes its service level agreements mid-application process.