Over recent years, mortgage lenders have had to take various steps in order to attract and retain the services of mortgage underwriters, in what has become an increasingly competitive field. On a global scale, one of the most noticeable trends has been a move towards more flexible working arrangements.
In the United States, for example, a number of firms are beginning to see the benefits of allowing staff to work remotely from home, rather than insisting that they work in an office environment. So can we expect to see similar flexibility afforded to those employed in mortgage underwriter jobs in the United Kingdom?
Telecommuting, or remote work, allows staff to carry out their duties without actually needing to travel to a central place of work, such as an office. Essentially, it allows employees to work from home, or while travelling even further afield, and often offers greater flexibility in terms of when work is actually carried out.
Although the practice of telecommuting is relatively new to underwriters and others employed in mortgage jobs, it is well established in many financial services roles, often allowing loan officers or financial advisers to deliver superior customer service by meeting clients in a place of their choosing.
A major benefit of offering greater flexibility, from an employer's perspective, is the ability to recruit people from further away. In theory, telecommuting should also improve staff happiness, affording them greater trust levels and more personal time. So does the theory behind work-from-home roles match up with actual evidence?
Embrace Home Loans looked at their own internal metrics for remote workers and found that giving employees greater flexibility did indeed increase their job satisfaction levels. Moreover, despite fears about productivity, those same metrics suggest staff actually became more productive and increased their output.
From an employee's point of view, telecommuting eliminates all problems associated with a regular commute into work, including reduced petrol costs, which is especially beneficial for those who live far away from the central workplace. It has also allowed firms to retain valuable staff, even if they move away from the area.
However, not all of those within the industry have been won over by the argument for allowing greater flexibility. For example, some have pointed out fears over data security, while making sure remote workers have all of the necessary technology can also present problems. Others, meanwhile, have raised communication fears.
"In my opinion, you lose the ability to have interaction between underwriters in solving problems," said David Green, CEO of The StoneHill Group. "No one person knows everything."
While the practice itself does not violate any regulations, it could be argued that working from home increases the chances of compliance issues. Furthermore, it is difficult to monitor remote staff, which could potentially present problems when it comes to accurately measuring the quality of work they produce.
Is Flexibility the Future?
Despite the problems, it seems clear that telecommuting is a trend with a strong future. It provides firms with the ability to retain staff or hire staff from further afield and it improves job satisfaction, while available metrics suggest it has no negative impact on productivity and may even result in a more productive workforce.
In recent months, a number of British firms have started to advertise jobs which list the ability to work from home - either occasionally or on a regular basis - within the job specification. As a result, in the highly competitive UK job market, it is likely that the trend for more flexible mortgage underwriter roles will continue.
Ian is the founder of Pure Resourcing, a specialist mortgage recruitment firm in the UK. He has been working in financial services recruitment industry for over 20 years and enjoys keeping a close eye on how economic trends influence the financial services industry. Feel free to connect with him on twitter