Adapt or be left behind

Like it or not, the future is digital – and now is the time to figure out how to set yourself apart, writes Lisa Pellerin

Adapt or be left behind

IT’S INCREDIBLE to think how far we’ve come over the last 30 years. Technology has evolved quickly and has been embraced by users at a rapid clip. Considering how ubiquitous smartphones are in our daily lives, it’s surprising to realize that the iPhone made its debut as recently as 2007. Today, information is literally at our fingertips; just about any question can be answered on our phones within seconds.

Now think about your mortgage business and our industry in general. Have you considered what effect this rate of change will have on the business we know and what it will look like in five or 10 years?

Our industry will be greatly impacted by ongoing technological advancements and may look nothing like it does today. I’m confident that in a few years, the majority of our clients will have different demands and expectations when it comes to their mortgage needs. Baby boomers have already retired or will do so soon, and they may just be the last generation that prefers a more traditional approach to service.

Over the next five to 10 years, we will start working with Generation Z – those born after 1995. This generation was raised with the internet always in the background, in a world of iPhones and social media. They are used to instant gratification, have little patience and expect there to be an app for everything. They will have distinct goals and will reshape how we do things. They are accustomed to embracing new technology with ease and trust, and we must be ready for this new set of expectations.

The good news is that we’re anticipating this change. Banks have invested significantly in their online mortgage technology and have augmented their call centre staff. The broker channel was ahead of this, offering similar online application convenience and, I believe, has proven to be nimble in the face of changing markets and consumer demands. However, the Big Six have picked up speed and have very deep pockets.

Flexibility and convenience are key – we have it, like it and now expect it. Holiday shopping can be done in an hour, delivered sometimes the same day. This has led to a massive consumer shift and behavioural change. The same is true for mortgage shopping. How many times are we being compared to online rate sites?

Today, when you want to learn something new, it’s a simple as Googling it and finding related websites, TED talks, e-books and YouTube videos all right there. With information so easily available and more sophisticated mortgage tools coming, the question is, how are you going to set yourself apart?

First, make sure you’re an expert in your industry. Everything is available at your fingertips to continue learning, so keep your skills sharp and invest in yourself and your profession. It isn’t enough to lean on the fact that you’ve been in the industry for 20 years – that won’t fly. You must be all-in, full-time, committed to ongoing personal and professional development; thankfully, there’s a plethora of support and resources available within our industry and brokerages. You’re going to be tested and questioned by clients more than ever, and you need to articulate the value you bring.

It’s so important to watch and understand the market and consumer trends. This is probably going to involve changing your paradigms; it may be time for new habits and a new way of thinking and doing.

If you resist, you risk losing clients (and your business). You will be competing with the convenience of reliable online technology offering 24/7 phone and/or chat service. What does your customer service model look like? Do you have an effective process and system in place? Do you service clients in person, online or both? Can you adapt and change? This needs your serious attention and a plan.

Many people still value personal connection, so if you can offer what your clients are demanding with the same level of expertise and convenience, you will prevail. Be a specialist – focus on a niche market such as investment properties, alternative lending or catering to those new to Canada. Many of these clients will want consultative service and advice and will find value in working with someone who’s an expert.

Keep studying, keep learning and keep adapting – but most of all, figure out how to set yourself apart.

Lisa Pellerin is a mortgage broker and the founder of Claystone Mortgage Team at Mortgage Architects. She has more than 20 years of experience and is an Accredited Mortgage Professional.