Bob Hunt is chief executive of Paradigm Mortgage Service
As we move further into a post-lockdown environment, towards what many describe as ’new normal’, albeit hopefully with rare and occasional local lockdowns such as we’re seeing now in Leicester, there may begin a period where some of the elements of those lockdown months are genuinely missed.
A new word to describe this is emerging, it’s called ‘lock-stalgia’, whereas we return towards that new normal, we begin to reminisce.
We recall a time when it was quiet enough to hear the birds singing, a time when we didn’t have noisy, polluting planes, trains and automobiles constantly travelling, when the air smelt cleaner, even a time when as a cyclist you could ride two-abreast on the road without getting shouted at by irate drivers.
We’ll perhaps miss not having to make so many journeys during busy commuting times, stuck in traffic jams on the M25 or having to endure delays or standing room only on the only train. And in a financial sense, we might well look back at a period when equities were incredibly cheap, or buy-to-let mortgage rates were knocking around the 1% mark.
Or we might well not miss any of those months where we were required to stay at home, and instead might all welcome the ability to get back to doing all those things we tended to take for granted before the pandemic hit.
Even if there could be a little ‘lock-stalgia’ about the bugbears of our working and personal lives, the overall impact of the pandemic has undoubtedly been harmful for vast numbers of people, and will be for some time to come. COVID-19 won’t allow us to turn back the clock, even if we would wish to, and therefore we need to focus on the future.
In a true sense, that means not being fixated on a pre-pandemic world that won’t ever come back, especially in a work sense. COVID-19 has changed our working environment; it’s definitely changed the way we at Paradigm support advisers.
In my view, it’s accelerated the inevitable progress of change, be that the introduction and greater awareness of online communication methods, or fintech applications, products and services to support the customer journey, or the ability to enhance your brand with a potentially much wider customer base – one that isn’t necessarily confined to your own locale.
In much the same way that the pandemic has now super-charged the march towards online purchasing in retail to a point where it may be five years ahead of what it would have been, advisers must also take note of how certain elements of delivering the advice process, the working operations of business and customer communication have also been fast-tracked during the past three months.
It’s now inevitable that firms are looking at the efficiencies of their own operation and how they might be improved because of the remote working experience. How much of that do you retain even when it’s possible to return to the office?
How else has the pandemic changed the way you work? Where are you weak? Where might investment be best placed? Could the tech that you’d simply ignored, or didn’t even know existed, be used to take you firm further forward? Perhaps in areas like supporting the improved retention of clients – a vital income generator for any firm – the tech is available that could make all the difference in growing recurring revenues.
And from a generalist, sector-focused place, how vital has it been that the entire mortgage and protection market has been able to understand each other, and to work both collaboratively and with empathy. That, in my view, has been a real positive and it has been demonstrated countless times over the past few months.
It is worth working hard to maintain it and helps us all mature as individuals and an industry, and provides us with an added professionalism that can only be helpful when it comes to delivering positive outcomes for our clients.
So, apart from my day-to-day goal of ensuring I lead with passion, hopefully wisdom and entrepreneurial drive, I have a new goal – not to practice any sort of ‘lock-stalgia’. Instead, as I hope you will do, I’ll look to the future and take as many positives as possible from the outcomes of this dreadful disease. At times, they have been hard to find, but they exist, and they can help all practitioners develop stronger businesses in the future.