Exclusive deal struck between IFonline and Abbey National

IFonline has announced an exclusive deal with Abbey National to provide the lender’s electronic mortgage application processing. Abbey National has taken a minority shareholding in the IFonline Group, which will be the only trading platform through which the lender will be able to trade electronically with advisers.

The news comes as competition between trading platforms heats up, with the race to provide the best compliance solutions post-N3 coming to a head.

Rival platform Mortgage Brain has spoken openly of its intention to become the sole industry platform and has the majority share of large lenders on its consortium. But with Abbey opting for IFonline, the race looks set to take a new turn.

Neville Sharman, head of intermediary development at Abbey National, said IFonline’s system, powered by Trigold, stands head and shoulders above the competition.

‘We want to allow choice for advisers and will make our products available on other trading platforms, but we will not be creating an integrated application process that is exclusive to IFonline. We asked advisers what they wanted and they said to transact business both online and offline. IFonline has this capability and its technology is undoubtedly the most advanced in the market.

‘Other platforms, such as Mortgage Brain, are white-labelled solutions. But advisers want solutions that help their business, not the platform’s. We also found advisers felt negatively towards a service completely run by lenders, which is why we only have a minority shareholding.’

Martin Finegold, chief executive of the IFonline Group, said: ‘Working with Abbey will create the ultimate processing system.’

However, Mike Green, sales director at Mortgage Brain, said Abbey National could be making a big mistake.

‘What lenders do is up to them, but advisers do not want two systems on their PC, they want one and that one is Mortgage Brain. By going with IFonline, Abbey are commercially isolating themselves. Occasionally we all make some dreadful decisions,’ he said.

Sean Hornsby, sales and marketing director at Mortgage 2000, said Abbey could also be underestimating the power of member loyalty.

‘Mortgage Brain and ourselves are already way ahead with subscriber numbers and unless Trigold’s system can prove it provides something others cannot, they will struggle to increase subscribers,’ he said.

Chris Baker, head of product management at The Exchange, welcomed the new competition, but said the move could slow down the take-up of electronic processing across the market.

‘It makes commercial sense to have more competition in the market, but lenders need to make electronic processing available on all platforms if this solution is to take off among advisers,’ he said.