UTB appoints key account manager from Twenty7Tec

UTB appoints key account manager from Twenty7Tec


Oades (pictured) will be responsible for the strategic development of relationships in the residential mortgage market, focusing on brokers operating within networks and mortgage clubs, UTB said.

At Twenty7Tec she was responsible for the company’s analytics platform and managing relationships with more than 130 UK mortgage firms.

She will be working with the existing mortgage sales and introducer relationship team led by sales director – property intermediaries Mike Walters.

United Trust Bank commercial director for mortgages Buster Tolfree said: “Throughout this year we have continued to develop our mortgage proposition and have invested in the team to enable us to maintain service levels to all of our broker partners as we increase our product range and volume capability.

“Hannah already knows many of the key players in the specialist mortgage sector which gives her a valuable head start in deepening UTB’s existing relationships and establishing new ones.

“In addition, Hannah’s experience will be extremely useful as we continue to develop the UTB product range, introducer distribution and digital offering.”


Advisers ‘fed-up’ with lenders using pandemic excuse as satisfaction and service falls

Advisers ‘fed-up’ with lenders using pandemic excuse as satisfaction and service falls


There were however some sectors and lenders who bucked the trends, according to Smart Money People’s latest mortgage lender benchmark.

The fifth bi-annual report found overall adviser satisfaction with lenders dropped by five percentage points to 77.8 per cent – the lowest figure since tracking began at the end of 2018.

Net Promoter Scores (NPS), which are a key measure of loyalty, ranged from +68.8 to -76.9, with the average across all lenders falling by 18 points to +12.8, from +30.8.

Speed to process an application remains the most commented upon theme in the report and it has the biggest impact on a broker’s likelihood to recommend a lender.

The rating for speed saw the biggest fall and is down from 75.8 per cent to 67.2 per cent.

As well as speed, online systems remain a key influence on NPS and feedback is very mixed across the market.

Communication has been recognised as vital during the pandemic and it seems this has suffered the second largest fall – down 5.3 per cent against H1 2020.

The report found that positive sentiment towards a lenders’ online systems led brokers to be more positive about other aspects of a lender’s process including ease of use and communication.

The lack of knowledge of staff, which may be symptomatic of more frequent product and policy changes in H2 2020, was also an issue for brokers.

Satisfaction with first-time buyer and home mover cases fell by 7.1 per cent and 6.8 per cent respectively, with speed and communication again being pain points.

And cases involving the self-employed also saw a notable downturn, with the rating for speed falling from 74.8 per cent to 65 per cent – highlighting the strain in that market.


Fed-up of Covid-19 excuse

There were also some more encouraging results.

A third of lenders improved their overall rating, indicating that some were able to build on their relationship with brokers during the pandemic, the report noted.

And specialist lenders outperformed the rest of the market by being able to maintain their satisfaction scores from the first half of 2020.

The report covers feedback from 494 brokers asked their opinions on the last five lenders they’ve attempted to place a case with recently and other providers they use, as well as thoughts on the mortgage market in general.

Jacqueline Dewey, CEO of Smart Money People, said the results showed brokers were becoming dissatisfied with lender performance in reaction to Covid-19.

“Many are fed up with the pandemic being used as an excuse for poor service or slow processes,” she said.

“Despite the difficulties faced in the market this year, some lenders have continued to outshine their competition. A third of all lenders in our report have seen an increase in their overall rating.

“We found lenders who performed well in comparison with H1 2020 were particularly strong around customer service. Lenders whose overall rating fell often did well around product range and rates, but very poorly for speed,” she added.



Former ASTL CEO Benson Hersch passes away

Former ASTL CEO Benson Hersch passes away


A statement from the trade body confirmed the news. Hersh (pictured) retired from his position last year after seven years at its helm.

Current CEO Vic Jannels paid tribute to Hersch’s efforts with the trade body and the wider lending industry.

“On behalf of the board, I can say that Benson is the reason why the ASTL is where it is today,” Jannels said.

“He took the reins of the membership and transformed it into an association that was more representative of the industry, with a clear purpose to improve standards and encourage sustainable growth of the sector.

“Even after his retirement at the end of last year, he maintained a close interest in the sector and has been of amazing support to me during my tenure. To say that he will be sorely missed is an understatement.”

Jannels added that Hersch was an “incredibly warm and insightful man” who had played a significant role in the careers of many people within the industry.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Phileshia, and children,” Jannels continued.

“Let us all take a moment to mourn the loss of a good friend and outstanding colleague – and celebrate the life of a man who was such a positive influence on the lending industry.”

Alex Hammond, managing director of Also Communications, worked with Hersch on public relations for the trade body over the last two years, and said it was very sad news.

“He was one of my favourite people in the industry – a genuinely good man who worked tirelessly on behalf of the sector, and the ASTL, right up until the end,” he said.

The ASTL noted that under Hersch’s tenure completions grew from £885m to more than £4bn and membership of the association more than doubled.

It added that the reputation of the bridging industry vastly improved and representation with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), HM Treasury and other regulatory bodies also increased.

“Aside from these achievements, Benson was hugely respected and well liked throughout the industry and he will be sorely missed,” it added.



Advisers ‘not embracing technology is risky’ at the moment – Habito

Advisers ‘not embracing technology is risky’ at the moment – Habito


The advice firms were speaking on Mortgage Solutions Television in association with Skipton Building Society, and highlighted that greater use of technology did not necessitate a change in business model and operation.

Habito head of mortgages Will Rhind emphasised how much consumer behaviours had shifted as a result of the pandemic and it was dangerous not to respond.

“Not embracing technology is risky at the moment. It’s not about the way you give advice,” he said.

Rhind noted that website tools for customers to do their own calculations on quickly and easily could be better for the borrower and broker.

“From a business point of view that’s good as you can help customers who are ready to transact and you can also guide those who aren’t ready to transact,” he continued.

“It’s not necessarily about what you do in the core model of your business, it’s how can you use technology to communicate or for other means.”



Trussle vice president of sales and operations Miles Robinson encouraged brokers to evolve to survive and adapt to the current ways customers want to transact.

And he noted this did not need massive investment to see results.

“There’s some real basic things people can do to improve,” he said.

“Even just a secure online document upload facility for customers where perhaps most customers might have posted them into the office, just getting something like that up and running so you’re not relying on getting physical documents from customers.

“Many lenders stopped needing certification [during the first lockdown] or changed their policies, they were putting the onus on the broker to verify the information was correct,” he added.

Skipton Building Society business development manager for London Michael Brown explained he had seen firms on his patch evolve in a number of ways.

“It’s interesting to see that some have adopted to take on technology through third parties and almost enhance their approach to technology and there are some who don’t use technology at all and still try to maintain their business,” he said.

“It depends on the type of clients and the type of situation.”



Glenhawk secures £25m mezzanine funding

Glenhawk secures £25m mezzanine funding


The bridging lender said the funding line, which was arranged and closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, will be used to underwrite both regulated and unregulated bridging loans.

It is the first time Balbec Capital has worked with a UK bridging lender and it will support the senior funding line secured with J.P. Morgan in March.

Glenhawk is aiming to grow its UK loan book to £200m by the end of 2021 and last month launched its first regulated bridging product.

It added that demand had been “exceptional” since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic generating £454m of new loan enquiries from August to October.

Guy Harrington, CEO of Glenhawk, said: “This is an important milestone for Glenhawk, which will allow us to accelerate our lending activity in response to unprecedented borrower demand.

“It also underlines the attractive returns available in the real estate alternative lending sector, underpinned by the retrenchment of the high street banks and lower for longer interest rate environment.

“With the recent vaccine announcement offering real encouragement for the UK’s recovery from the impact of the virus, we look forward to 2021 and hitting our ambitious lending targets with confidence.”

Rob Ryan, a partner of Balbec Capital, added the firm was excited to be partnering with Glenhawk.

“Alongside J.P. Morgan, we look forward to supporting Glenhawk as it looks to build on the momentum of recent months,” he said.


Compare the Market launches online execution-only remortgages

Compare the Market launches online execution-only remortgages


The service has gone live with lenders including NatWest and Santander allowing borrowers to complete product transfers or remortgage to any of the other lenders on the panel.

It compares products from the existing lender with other deals on the market with borrowers able to choose whether to apply direct to a lender online or via a broker.

The comparison site is using Koodoo technology to operate and said more lenders would be joining shortly.

Compare the Market said it will continue to show intermediated mortgage deals for those customers who wish to use advice.

Mark Gordon, director of money at Compare the Market said: “The remortgage process can be time consuming and our new service will ensure that homeowners can get the best value for money by looking online.

“This service is designed for homeowners looking to remortgage onto similar deals. Compare the Market will continue to offer intermediated mortgage deals for those people who wish to seek advice.”

Koodoo chief executive and co-founder Seb McDermott added: “We are delighted to add Compare the Market to the platform, its scale and deep understanding of customer needs will help enhance the service we provide to our lender and broker partners.”


Halifax re-entering 90 per cent LTV mortgages

Halifax re-entering 90 per cent LTV mortgages


The lender is using special criteria which it said would help it to manage its service proposition and continue to lend responsibly.

The products are only available to first-time buyers, with at least one of any joint applicants needing to be a first-time buyer.

It does not include new build or other schemes and an enhanced credit score will be required.

Loan to income (LTI) is capped and 4.49 times income with maximum loans limited to £500,000.

Halifax noted that any current credit commitments will be deducted as ongoing in its affordability calculation even where declared as ‘to be repaid’.

“The loan amount must be affordable with these commitments deducted as remaining,” it said.

Advisers will be informed when submitting a decision in principle (DIP) if the case does not meet these criteria, and if LTVs on any already submitted cases are increased above 85 per cent they will also be subject to the new criteria.

Halifax’s re-entry into the 90 per cent LTV market is the latest of late as lenders are increasingly returning, with Accord, Platform and TSB all introducing more products in the sector in the last two weeks and Nationwide widening availability.


‘We will monitor service levels’

Jasjyot Singh, managing director of consumer and business banking at Halifax said: “We are committed to helping people take their first step on to the property ladder and while there have been record levels of mortgage approvals over the past few months, raising a deposit is still hands down the biggest challenge for first-time buyers.

“Reintroducing options at higher LTVs means we can support more people ready to get a foot on the ladder. We will monitor service levels to make sure we continue to be there for our customers.

“We also relaunched our Lloyds Bank Lend A Hand mortgage last month which enables first-time buyers to borrow up to 100 per cent of the mortgage with the support of their family,” Singh added.



‘Positive discussions’ but no timetable on expanding PII for high rise cladding surveyors

‘Positive discussions’ but no timetable on expanding PII for high rise cladding surveyors


Pincher (pictured) added that a number of options were being investigated to help the situation, but did not give any idea of when a solution would be put in place.

The housing minister also admitted the government did not know how many buildings still required surveys, although its own figures suggest this could be as many as 58,000.

PII coverage has been one of the main problems holding back the risk assessment of high rise buildings, especially those with potentially flammable cladding attached.

As Mortgage Solutions reported in July, there were fewer than 300 qualified chartered fire engineers available to carry out an external wall survey (EWS1) to assess the suitability of cladding on high rise buildings.

Government has since agreed £700,000 in funding to train more surveyors to the required standard but a lack of PI insurers is also holding back availability.

Pincher was responding to a written question from Labour shadow cabinet office minister Helen Hayes who asked what the timeframe was for issuing additional guidance on indemnity insurance.

He replied: “My department has been engaging with the insurance industry to investigate commercial and government solutions that improve the availability of professional indemnity insurance solutions for key building safety professionals, including those working on the EWS1 process.

“This is a highly technical area with complex market dynamics, however, discussions have been positive and a number of options are being investigated.”


Around 58,000 buildings require EWS1

Hayes also asked what recent estimate has been made of the number of buildings awaiting a survey and what the timeframe was for resolving that backlog.

Pincher responded: “The EWS1 process is not a government form or regulatory requirement, and the department does not hold data on its use.

“Government has announced the provision of £700,000 funding to train more assessors. This will help speed up valuations where EWS1 forms are justified.”

However, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, there are 88,000 buildings in the UK above 11m in height.

Of these, following the agreement last month, the department estimates that only 30,000 do not require an EWS1 form, meaning around 58,000 still do.



Countrywide board rejects Connells takeover bid as Alchemy ups offer

Countrywide board rejects Connells takeover bid as Alchemy ups offer


Countrywide also revealed that private equity investor Alchemy Group returned with an improved offer after its first one worth around £90m was rejected by shareholders last month which promoted two senior executives to leave the board.

Countrywide shares rose eight per cent to 244p in early trading although this is still down from the 355p in January and far below the £296 per share at its peak in March 2014.

The improved Alchemy deal would offer to buy some Countrywide shares at 250p each, matching Connells valuation, but would restrict which shareholders were allowed to sell their stakes.

Alchemy would also inject £70m into the struggling business through new share issues – split equally between two share purchases by Alchemy of Countrywide shares at 225p and 100p.

Alchemy would also want the new Countrywide business to be reduced to the standard stock market listing taking it off the premium listing.

This would mean the firm would only need to meet minimum EU equivalent regulatory standards, instead of the tougher premium requirements of listing and corporate governance.

The offer includes many conditions, including Alchemy being able to negotiate a write down of Countrywide’s £50m loans with its lenders and agreement that Alchemy would own more than half the share capital when completed.

“The revised Alchemy proposal would enable shareholders who wish to realise their investment in Countrywide to sell their shares to Alchemy Partners, while also enabling those shareholders who continue to believe in the potential of Countrywide to retain their existing stake and, if they choose, invest further capital,” the Countrywide statement said.

The board will now discuss the revised offer with Alchemy Partners and all major shareholders.

Regarding the Connells deal it added: “Following a thorough review of the possible cash offer with its advisers, the board has unanimously rejected the possible cash offer.”


Connells response

The announcement of an improved deal from Alchemy prompted a swift response from Connells which said the Alchemy bid remained a “highly conditional” transaction and urged Countrywide shareholders to “take no action” on it.

“Connells is considering its options regarding the possible all-cash offer for Countrywide it had announced on 9 November 2020 and re-confirmed on 23 November 2020 and urges Countrywide shareholders to take no action in relation to the possible revised Alchemy proposal,” Connells said.

It has until 5pm on 7 December to decide whether to announce a firm intention to make an offer for Countrywide or to announce that it does not intend to make an offer.


West One cuts second charge rates for self-employed borrowers

West One cuts second charge rates for self-employed borrowers


Self-employed borrowers who are the main income earner will need evidence of minimum income of £40,000 through their latest SA302 and have been trading for a minimum of two years.

The lender has also added a product allowing parents to take out a second charge loan to use as a gifted deposit with a maximum loan to value (LTV) available of 75 per cent.

The second charge is placed on the supporting family member’s home, not the property being bought.

Rates on all ranges start at 3.99 per cent.

West One sales director Marie Grundy (pictured) said the family support product highlighted the flexibility of second charge mortgages and how they can work in tandem with the first charge market.

“This is particularly relevant at a time when there have been significant supply issues with higher LTV products in the mainstream market mainly affecting first-time buyers,” she said.

She added: “Our latest set of changes will be of significant benefit to self-employed borrowers whose needs are often more complex and best served by a more bespoke approach to underwriting.”