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Brokers call for improved underwriter access as cases grow in complexity

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  • 29/04/2016
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Brokers call for improved underwriter access as cases grow in complexity
A lack of direct communication with lenders’ underwriters is continuing to be a key source of frustration for brokers as mortgage cases and client circumstances become more complex.

A poll carried out by Mortgage Solutions of 165 readers showed that a significant 86% of brokers only have access to a handful of their lenders’ underwriters. Just 1% said they were able to communicate with all lenders, while 7% are able to use this service with the majority of lenders they deal with. A further 6% said they have no direct access.

Woolwich, Accord, Skipton, Halifax, Aldermore and Kent Reliance were noted by brokers as the lenders offering this facility particularly well at present.

Business development managers (BDM) generally act as a broker’s first point of call in a client’s mortgage application, but commentators highlighted that it was ultimately the decision of the underwriter to give the green light on applications.

Lea Karasavvas, managing director at Prolific Mortgage Finance, explained: “BDMs are exceptionally knowledgeable about the underwriting criteria, in today’s climate they have to be, but ultimately it is not the BDMs that sign off the case. Knowing you are talking to the decision-maker on the case gives certain assurances to us as the broker that we know there can be no doubt on the decision.”

Karasavvas said having a direct communication channel on a mortgage decision provided “a huge sense of security” and acted as a unique selling point for lenders.

“As criteria is becoming tighter and certainly since the implementation of the MCD rules, more complex cases require knowledge only underwriters have, as ultimately the decision stops with them. However, it is difficult to grant this access to everyone as underwriters will spend so much time on the phone they won’t have time to assess cases,” he said.

“Such accessibility to underwriters is high on the wish list but we have to be realistic and understand that the staffing of this is tough. Granting this access to all could cause more issues than we realise. For specialist cases, this is a great help, but for straight forward cases there is a danger that granting everyone such access will have an adverse effect on their productivity.”

Earlier this month, Accord Mortgages revealed it had trained a number of its case managers to be underwriters to provide better service to intermediary partners and their clients.

Start Financial Services manager Tom Cleary, noted that for smaller lenders not competing as heavily on volume, providing such access was more of an option, but added the availability of this had reduced significantly across the board since the credit crunch.

“Underwriting is a much more manual process within smaller lenders and as a result you tend to get more common-sense decisions and less of the ‘computer says no’,” he added.

“Years ago you used to be able to speak to an underwriter all the time, it just wasn’t an issue. Since 2007/08 underwriters have become like gods, they seem to be this keeper of arcane knowledge buried within the bowels of a lender.”

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