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My World 2021

My World: June 2021…

This is part of a series of articles where our contributors describe how they think things will look a year from now.

Flexible working will become a permanent and prominent part of office culture, bringing changes for the London property market

Who could have predicted at the beginning of 2020 that come Easter, a global pandemic would force the majority of London businesses out of the city and into home offices across the country? I certainly didn’t, yet here I am in my kitchen, in the midst of a stringent lockdown as part of a bid to stop the spread of covid-19.

The speed at which the virus spread, both in the UK and globally, meant many firms were simply not prepared. There was not sufficient warning time to enable them to implement the drastic transformation required to how they deliver their products or services.

In the property sector, social distancing measures have posed many practical obstacles when undertaking a transaction. Physical valuations are difficult or impossible to carry out, and there are concerns that any valuation given in the current climate would not accurately reflect the market value of a property. For solicitors, the once straightforward task of signing legal documents is proving a more complicated and costly process. 

I see now as an opportunity for businesses to understand what they are doing right and to embrace practices that make them more efficient organisations. By June 2021, 

I anticipate office culture will have been profoundly transformed. Businesses are changing the way they operate, both internally and in how they engage with clients. This is a positive move and, regardless of when the coronavirus pandemic subsides, many of these often time-efficient changes will be here to stay. 

The switch to home working has not come without its challenges, especially for those who had not previously embraced flexible working. However, it has become evident that companies can operate when not wholly based in the office. This has notable implications for the future of office space, in London in particular, where shared workspaces with vast hot-desking capabilities – already popular among startups and SMEs – are likely to broaden their appeal. Come June 2021, I would be surprised if businesses had not incorporated some element of flexible working. Remote working days may come to outweigh days in the office for many of us – which could make our commutes into the city more bearable than they once were.

Over the coming months we are also likely to see a rise in demand for specialist mortgage providers that can tailor their products flexibly within a constantly changing environment. This process is simpler for a specialist lender than for any large bank – the latter’s complicated structure and multitude of products often mean there is additional red tape. Banks can afford to withdraw products to minimise risk, but for specialist lenders creative thinking is required. As a result, perhaps we could witness the rise of a competitive lending market with smaller players competing against larger firms due to their ability to adapt to different circumstances.

It is difficult to predict where we will be 12 months from now. If a vaccine for covid-19 is available, things could return to something resembling normality soon without too much delay. If not, who knows how long social distancing measures will be in place? Either way, the pandemic is changing the private sector, and will have a long-lasting impact on the way businesses function and how people interact, including those involved in property.

My World 2021

About Alpa Bhakta

Alpa Bhakta

Alpa Bhakta is Chief Executive Officer of Butterfield Mortgages Ltd. With more than 20 years’ experience in the world of high net worth (HNW) property finance in the UK, Alpa is uniquely well-placed to oversee BML as a stand-alone mortgage lender, with a focus on prime property lending. Before joining Butterfield, Alpa headed the private property finance team at BNP Paribas Fortis, following positions at Credit Agricole Indosuez private bank and NatWest. Her expertise in this field is unrivalled and makes her a much-respected senior figure in the industry. She has recently been short-listed for the 2018 Citywealth Powerwomen awards.

Articles by Alpa Bhakta

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