Just how that takes us forward, especially with regards to Brexit, is still unknowable and it may well be that we won’t be in a significantly different situation anyway.
There’s still a lot to play for however.
Regulator not easing back
What about the mortgage market? What might be coming over the horizon in terms of the mortgage advice profession and the regulatory picture that we are all part of?
It would seem that 2019, from a business point of view, has been similar to 2018.
The repeated Brexit deadlines have not been helpful and anecdotal evidence suggests that, should we ever be able to sort out the UK’s European Union situation, there may well be a degree of demand unleashed simply because the situation is clearer.
That remains to be seen. But I fully understand why new and existing borrowers might have felt the need to sit on their hands during the year, especially as the future is so uncertain.
What about the known knowns?
The regulator does not appear to be easing back in its focus on the mortgage market, albeit having faced a veritable barrage of criticism publishing its final report on the Mortgages Market Study.
It was interesting to read Michael McKee of DLA Piper suggesting more rules are coming from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and that it’s unlikely to give up its aim of making it easier for lenders to conduct execution-only business.
If McKee’s right and the FCA looks to “cut out some of the detail to make it more cost effective and straightforward to provide” execution-only services, then one might expect further push-back and negative reaction from the advice community. And rightly so.
Part of me cannot quite understand this move away from the sanctity of advice from a regulator that brought in the Mortgage Market Review (MMR). It’s also concerning to consider where this u-turn has come from.
Robert Sinclair, chief executive of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI), has suggested previously the regulator is seeking to change the environment to fit the current situation, in order to justify why there is so much execution-only business being written, rather than perhaps actively encouraging this type of activity.
I am minded to believe him.
That said, it is difficult to know, and it is clear that we have a regulator somewhat enthralled by technology and allowing lenders, automated operators and such, a freer rein in terms of pushing mortgage business quickly through the pipes without advice being applied.
Fights to be refought
It will not need me to tell you how dangerous many of us in the industry believe this to be.
Coupled with a continued fixation on price, the challenges for advisers are obvious to see especially in terms of justifying advice which does not recommend the cheapest product.
It might seem the advice industry is going to have to fight again the battles of the past in the future.
At a time when advice seems to be required more than ever, to have to outline why there are other reasons beyond price for the recommendation of a product seems a well-worn argument that we might all have believed was won over 15 years ago.
However, judging by the tone of recent FCA papers and announcements that debate is likely to be repeated many more times in the future.
Welcome to the future, and the past, of mortgage advice.