Technology is only as good as its operators

“A largely unsung hero in this transitional period was the assistance offered by technology, notably through AVMs and desktop solutions”

It’s easy to say that working together is the key to overcoming adversity, but actions speak far louder than words and paying lip service is simply not enough.

Coming from a lending background – and having survived many challenges including the credit crunch during this time – I’m fully aware of the importance attached to strong, transparent relationships during the good and the bad times. The word ‘support’ is also readily bandied around but what does this really mean in a practical sense from a surveying standpoint?

First and foremost, before being in a position to support others, businesses have to ensure that they are operating on some solid foundations. From an internal perspective, our people are the beating heart of the business and one of our main focal points during the early stages of the crisis was to include them in the decision-making and risk assessment process each and every step of the way. Only when we had a better grasp of how to move forward could we then extend our full support to our lending partners. Although we did share procedures and protocols along the way, as we were all learning how to manage the logistics and mechanics of such a fast-moving and unique situation.

A largely unsung hero in this transitional period was the assistance offered by technology, notably through AVMs and desktop solutions which allowed us to meet borrowing and capacity requirements where possible. The shift towards a desktop approach allowed some parts of the mortgage and housing market to keep moving, albeit in a limited capacity. This small-scale momentum was vital in allowing firms across all sectors to keep a certain % of employees in their existing positions without having to rely solely on the furlough scheme.

Technology also enabled us to maintain communications, strengthen engagement levels and share information with our lending partners. What we also have to remember is that technology is often only as good as its operators. Across Countrywide Surveying Services, we are fortunate to have a robust IT infrastructure and developers who are constantly pushing tech boundaries. As such, we have seen huge internal tech progression over a short space of time. We have integrated new systems and established new ways to collate, analyse and utilise data very, very quickly, and this innovative approach has enabled us to successfully carry out desktop valuations on a far more frequent basis.

As we move forward, one of the main things we’ve learnt over this intense period is that clients have become far more comfortable accepting certain levels of risk provided by data. However, technology is obviously not a complete solution across the board. Additional market complexity – in terms of shifts in lending policy, criteria and product demands – means that greater levels of expertise and specialism are required when surveying a wider variety of property types. This depth of knowledge requires extensive training, not to mention a full understanding and correct interpretation of any recent or impending legislative change.

Past, present and future working conditions demonstrate the value of an active support process between surveyors and lenders, and this will be further accentuated as additional complexity will continue to dominate the mortgage market over the course of 2020 and beyond.

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