53% of property and commercial finance brokers responding to United Trust Bank’s most recent Broker Sentiment Survey have reported that they are open for business with 100% of their pre-Covid-19 capacity. A further 18% are operating at around 75% capacity.
The survey, carried out amongst over 120 brokers in the last week of June, revealed a largely positive view about their ability to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown. Although 40% of brokers are currently operating with less than a quarter of their staff typically in the office, 72% of respondents expected to have all their staff back working in the office on a regular basis by the end of October 2020.
Interestingly, 17% of brokers indicated that it was unlikely their business would ever return to the working arrangements which existed before the lockdown. 63% of brokers suggested that they would be likely to maintain flexible and more home working even once the pandemic is over.
Is social distancing harming broker business?
When asked about current distancing measures, 74% of brokers believed that the 2m limit was not harming their business and a slim majority (51%) support maintaining the 2m social distancing rule. However, 41% would like to see distancing reduced to 1m and the remaining 8% would like social distancing removed altogether.
New business enquiries
A majority (78%) of property finance brokers indicated that currently new business levels were lower than in a similar period last year. Around 15% of those seeing lower levels of activity believed business would recover in Q3 and a further 40% expected levels to return to normal in Q4 this year. The remaining 45% of brokers expected the recovery to take longer, into 2021 and beyond.
Asset finance brokers were finding the market similarly challenging. 83% were experiencing less activity than this time last year and generally expected the recovery to come in 2021 or later.
Harley Kagan, Group Managing Director of United Trust Bank, commented: “It’s encouraging to see that a vast majority of brokers are open for business with many capable of dealing with enquiry volumes similar to those prior to lockdown. The relaxation of social distancing measures and travel restrictions has enabled many staff to return to work, though clearly it will be some time before brokers and lenders can be fully staffed, and that’s if they choose to return to the same working practices they had in place before the pandemic hit. Technology has certainly made flexible and home working a viable and sustainable option for many businesses and UTB’s considerable investment in FinTech over the last two years has been money well spent.
“How long it takes for property and asset finance markets to recover remains to be seen and broker opinions are divided. The threat of a second wave of Covid-19 is ever present and avoiding another widespread lockdown is vital to the recovery of our industry and the UK economy as a whole. Recent events in Leicester show how easily the pandemic can resurface and extend disruption and we hope brokers, colleagues and customers stay safe and well.
“At UTB we’ve been fortunate in being able to keep lending and serving our customers throughout the Covid-19 crisis and sympathise with individuals and businesses experiencing difficulties. We are supporting good causes such as food banks, Refuge and Age UK to ensure they can continue to get help to those who need it.
“The UK’s SME house builders and countless other businesses need support from Government, lenders and brokers not only to source funding to help them survive the inevitable recession, but to seize opportunities when they arise and we will continue to work alongside our broker partners to help get Britain back on its feet.”