Stonebridge has achieved substantial business growth in 2020. Despite the pandemic, mortgage application volumes across the network are up by 11% versus last calendar year, with the network frequently writing over £1bn worth of mortgage applications per month in 2020.
Meanwhile, Stonebridge’s year-to-date mortgage completion volumes are now overtaking 2019 and look set to exceed the previous year’s results. This is despite the market forecasting a 13.6% decrease in mortgage lending year-on-year.
Recognising the duty of care that its advisers have to customers, Stonebridge has increased its focus on the protection and GI advice journey in 2020. During autumn, the business bounced back strongly from the market-wide dip in protection and GI sales seen during the initial pandemic months. Stonebridge’s October results showed a material year-on-year increase in the value of protection applications (up 11%) and GI applications (up 30%), with the business on course to finish the year strongly versus 2019.
Underpinning this success is Stonebridge’s investment in recruiting new firms to the network, which includes supporting existing members to grow their own adviser headcount. Its strong proposition has resulted in a 18% yearly increase in advisers, reaching 750 advisers across over 360 firms. Stonebridge also has record applications pending authorisation and onboarding – over 150 applications, demonstrating Stonebridge’s appeal.
Alongside this growth, the network continued to expand its support teams to maintain the exceptional service it provides to its member firms. Stonebridge has maximised video communications to provide remote training and inductions for new advisers joining the network during the pandemic. Inductions now run three times a month – up from once a month in 2019. This is combined with the support teams continuing to provide face-to-face (via video conferencing) support for advisers.
The importance of quality technology has come to the fore in 2020, and member firms have benefitted greatly from Stonebridge’s investment of over £1m at the start of the year in its wholly-owned platform, Revolution. Investment has doubled the development capability, as Stonebridge now has 11 in-house developers dedicated to delivering new functionality, operational efficiencies and improved responsiveness on portable devices.
In particular, Revolution’s Client and Introducer Portals have evolved significantly in 2020. Client Portal now gives advisers and their clients greater control as cases are stored in one place, allowing the secure exchange of digitised documents and enabling the customer to upload files. It also prompts the adviser to advise on ancillary products, providing a comprehensive service and income growth for the network’s advisers.
‘RevolutionID’ is another key feature that was delivered in 2020. This market-leading solution, developed in partnership with Experian, saves hundreds of administration hours for broker firms each month. Stonebridge is also currently integrating Revolution with further lender and life office systems, including Legal and General’s SmartQuote solution for GI.
Investment in technology has resulted in widespread, fantastic feedback from Stonebridge’s existing AR firms and lender partners, and has further enhanced the Stonebridge’s position as the fastest-growing network in the UK.