The increasing number of lenders raises the question of where will the new staff come from? For a number of years in the small world of bridging it has been something of a merry go-round. Staff move from one lender to another, being poached or moving for better wages, more recognition and their next promotion, but clearly there is a growing need to bring new staff into the industry.
While a few staff may move from mainstream lending into bridging, the mortgage industry has its own challenges in recruiting staff. Most big banks consolidated their teams some years ago and got rid of many underwriting staff so there is now a smaller pool of qualified underwriters, while it can be even more challenging for mortgage and bridging brokers to bring new staff in as many broker firms are so much smaller.
Across the bridging industry there is therefore a need to focus on training and on apprenticeships. This means all bridging lenders need to invest more in internal training and development to ensure cases are written with skill, care and diligence, using their new knowledge.
Even if someone moves from one company to another, there is still a level of training required as no two companies are ever exactly alike. But apprenticeships are now available not just for young staff but staff of all ages and levels of experience in order to provide new skills, although it appears to be something that few lenders are taking advantage of.
Something such as underwriting is incredibly specialised in bridging, particularly when every case is looked at on its own merits and the numbers being lent range from the tens of thousands to the tens of millions. Training across all departments in a lender is essential to ensure that people really understand the organisation they are working for. It also helps to ensure a clear understanding of the customer journey throughout the whole lifecycle of the loan. This insight can ensure that the solution is appropriate to the client’s needs and provides a good outcome with the client achieving their aims.
It may be time to revive the idea of the long-discussed bridging qualification, not only for the benefit of brokers advising on bridging but also for the benefit of new staff coming into lenders. A grounding in the basics of bridging is, of course, carried out by lenders individually and by a number of packagers and distributors. So how much more sensible to have a central qualification or training course that all new entrants could do? We all need to bring new staff in, and bringing new blood into the industry helps to ensure its longevity.
Without qualifying new staff, the pool of experienced staff will get smaller. More lenders will find they are fishing in a smaller and smaller pond if both existing and new lenders are all looking for the same existing underwriters and case managers.
Individual lenders will of course continue to do their own thing but far better to have a concerted approach to portraying the bridging loan industry as one desirable to work in. So let us all work together, in collaboration with the trade bodies, to create standards that can be benchmarked with formalised training. All new staff can then undergo this alongside any inhouse training and mentoring held by their company. This will then qualify them to work in any bridging company and raise standards across the whole industry.