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Exclusive: FCA mortgage manager Lynda Blackwell quits regulator

  • 12/07/2017
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FCA mortgage sector manager Lynda Blackwell has quit the regulator after 16 years handing in her resignation on Friday last week, Mortgage Solutions has learnt.

Blackwell confirmed she has no definite plans but after such a long stint in policy and three years in supervision, she said: “I feel like I’ve done my bit.” After spending four weeks away from work while her daughter Katie finished her A-Levels, Blackwell added: “It gave me some fresh perspective.”

The FCA declined to comment at this time.

On her future plans she said: “I am just going to wait and see. I don’t want to rush into anything. I just want to take my time. But the market gets under your skin.” She later admitted: “I’ve always been a workaholic.”

Blackwell joined the regulator as a solicitor and has over 25 years’ experience in the mortgage market. She was the principal architect and policy-driving force behind the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) which became law on 26 April 2014 and shaped the UK’s mortgage and advice market arguably for the better.

She joined supervision and became mortgage sector manager in 2014 after over three and a half years as mortgage policy manager and admirably faced down the regulator’s critics in gladiatorial style in open forums and conferences in the early years of the MMR consultation.

On the advice industry’s early resistance to the MMR, Blackwell said: “The market was unsure that it needed to change. The regulator was coming up with ideas and the responses were pretty hostile to be honest so it was a long slog but eventually the market accepted that this was going to be a truly consultative process.”

Blackwell said other career highs included the regulation of Sale and Rent Back, which led to the closure of many firms and marked the beginning of the end of this questionable practice, with standards such as affordability checks, a ban on cold marketing calls and five-year security of tenure for borrowers. Blackwell also helmed the creation of  the Sharia law mortgage regime for financial services in the UK, so built a close working relationship with an entirely new sector and set of stakeholders, including Islamic scholars and a variety of Muslim community groups.

Following spells at C&G and the Woolwich, Blackwell joined the FSA in 2001 as the company secretary of the self regulatory organisations, the PIA, IMRO and the SFA. Together with Michael Blair QC the chairman, Blackwell formed the executive management of all three companies responsible for winding them down into the FSA, the then new single financial services regulator for the UK before joining the FSA’s legal department.

On affordability, Blackwell said the regulator’s ongoing analysis on ‘trapped borrowers’ should better understand the division between those who choose to stay in unbeatable deals like lifetime trackers and those who may struggle to remortgage in a post-MMR market or stay under the radar with self-certified or interest-only mortgages which they fear no lender will take.
“It’s not as simple as saying lenders are not helping these people,” she added.

On concerns over the rise of the specialist or sub-prime market, Blackwell said the difference between this time and 2007 is the protection offered by the affordability checks in the MMR and the data the regulator collects now, which means it can monitor the market and the individual deals placed by brokers more closely than ever before.

“We may not visit, but we have the data so we know what’s going on in smaller advice firms. If problems are raised, then the supervisors will go out,” said Blackwell.

However, she added the regulator will continue to be the check to prevent the race to the bottom seen in pre-credit crunch days. She added that the plummeting buy-to-let market and the rise of lenders fighting it out on rates, service and cost-cutting means loosening criteria is the only tool left to compete with. “This is the stuff I worry about,” she said.

Blackwell said she expected the FCA’s next ‘big push’ of regulatory scrutiny to focus on some of the issues surrounding second charge mortgages. She added that regulatory intervention could be avoided by the prime market’s willingness to flag issues and highlight problems the way it did on high rates and fees in the secured market.

“That’s the way the market should work. Everybody knows what the broader problems are so why doesn’t the market band together to fix those issues? Why is there that inertia – why does the regulator have to do it?”

Lynda Blackwell’s exit coming so soon after the merger of the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) into new trade body UK Finance marks the loss of yet another intellectual voice of conviction from the mortgage market.

Like the CML, Blackwell deserves thanks and will always be remembered for her courage and resolute performances in front of baying crowds of mortgage brokers fearful for their livelihoods, who have long since and with plenty of help from the FCA, become market kingpins again.

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