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One to One with Amanda Bryden, Halifax Intermediaries and Scottish Widows Bank head

  • 03/01/2024
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One to One with Amanda Bryden, Halifax Intermediaries and Scottish Widows Bank head
Each month Mortgage Solutions and Specialist Lending Solutions sits down with a key intermediary industry figure to discuss strategy, opportunity for brokers and the mortgage marketplace.

To kick off 2024 we sat down with Amanda Bryden (pictured), head of Halifax Intermediaries and Scottish Widows Bank to reflect on the past year and expectations for 2024.

Bryden took on the role at Halifax and Scottish Widows Bank in 2022 and worked at HSBC before that, most recently as its head of the South region and large loans for HSBC’s mortgage intermediaries team.

She has also held senior roles at Santander and Coventry Building Society.


You joined Halifax and Scottish Widows Bank in 2022, what have the highlights and biggest learnings been in the role so far and what are your priorities for 2024?

Well, what a year to start a new job. A lot happened in the market during my first year, with some real challenges in the housing and mortgage market: sudden focus on the cost of living and affordability of new mortgages after the mini Budget, followed by a previously unexpected and rapid upturn in base rate and swap rates that resulted in more expensive mortgages.

All of this meant I had to lead our team through some unchartered waters and evolve how we worked so we could react to this volatility by being more dynamic and agile.

Seeing how our team embraced this transition, understood the need to work differently and trusted our ability to make quick decisions was a highlight for me.

The collaboration across our business, ensuring we moved quickly to deliver meaningful changes, meant we were able to support customers through very unsettling times, with the right outcomes. The last three years have shown us how unpredictable external factors can be and just how much they impact the mortgage market. I have learnt that what we knew as “business as usual” now isn’t always possible. As an industry, we need to understand we are in this new world, and we all need to be able to adapt quickly and respond. We must be agile, responsive, and dynamic, but we must not let distractions stop us from looking forward.

With the purchase market more muted in the past year do you think high street lenders will have to become more competitive with pricing and criteria and what impact might that have on the market?

There is no doubt that two years of surging demand and house prices followed by the sharp rises in inflation and interest rates, have meant many more people are struggling to buy the property they want and lenders having to review their criteria to suit that market.

Halifax took a very pragmatic approach to changing our criteria to respond to support more people in 2023, whilst ensuring borrowers could remain financially resilient. We continue to look at ways to help more customers achieve their homeownership ambitions.

We seem to be moving back to a less volatile market and inflation is falling. If rates continue to reduce and then eventually stabilise; that will stimulate more consumer confidence and see the homebuyer market gain momentum. The market is competitive, and I expect it to remain so in 2024, as the market remains below its historic peaks of 2021 and 2022.


First-time buyers are a key area for Halifax as a lender and lifeblood of the sector. Do you think enough is being done to support this segment and if not, what would you like to see?

Our focus on first-time buyers remains a top priority. We are a scale lender, so making sure we continue getting basics right to lend at volume is no mean feat. The fact we lend to one in five first-time buyers means that we help roughly 350 pick up the keys to their first home every day through our intermediary channel.

We’ve actively participated in schemes supported by government in the shape of First Homes and the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme but the closure of Help to Buy leaves a big gap.

Shared ownership remains a helpful alternative for some people but demand for the scheme currently vastly exceeds supply. Within Lloyds Banking Group, we are working with the industry to create better homeowner awareness and improved scheme availability for potential shared owners with Pathways through Citra Living our build to rent business.

It does feel like the market needs to think more creatively about what schemes we need to evolve to help more first-time buyers and we are keen to support development.


Halifax is well-regarded by brokers partially due to equal proc fees for purchase and product transfers. Why did Halifax take this position, and do you think there needs to be an industry-wide discussion about realigning procuration fees?

This year was the first year we have seen a larger product transfer market than new business and that shift has really shone a light on procuration fees and broker income.

We have always worked to a pricing principle of aligning proc fees to the work that the broker does on behalf of the lender, and we know that a broker needs to go through an advice process for product transfers. Other lenders will have their own cost models to consider.

Diversified income streams help most businesses and, if they have not already, this is an excellent time for brokers to really think about how they can build their business and those added income sources. The value of advice has never been greater including considering a client’s protection needs and showing an understanding of the benefits of green homes and how to finance those.

Scottish Widows recently exited the purchase and remortgage market to focus on later life lending, can you explain that decision and how the business is doing a few months on?

Scottish Widows as a brand is recognised for products like pensions, investments and protection and lends itself to financial planning.

Equity release is increasingly important to lifetime planning; people want to help their children on to the housing ladder but are often equity rich and cash poor.

I want to ensure that we can deliver on the flexibility that customers ask for in this space and invest in the people and technology to deliver it. So, the brand is ideally placed, and the new focus reflects this.


Sustainability is something you have spoken about quite actively. Why do you think this is important for the mortgage sector and where do you think there needs to be more innovation?

Sustainability is important in all aspects of life – just look at the extreme weather events we’ve seen globally in 2023, from floods in Asian and Europe to uncontrollable wildfires created by periods of drought around the globe.

Housing in the UK accounts for around 20 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, primarily because our housing stock is old and inefficient.

As lenders and mortgage advisers tend to be the people who have most conversations to homeowners about their homes, we have a key role in helping people think about their home efficiency.

We have provided tools to help with the conversation, like the Halifax Home Energy Savings Tool, products with enhanced rates or cashback for efficient homes, and partnerships to help with improvements, like ours with Octopus Energy for heat pumps and Effective Home for solar panels. I expect more innovation to come in 2024.

We are also very actively trying to help brokers understand the business opportunities and challenges in helping people buy or make existing homes more efficient: we can provide training material, run interactive sessions, or help with thinking about sustainable businesses.

In a perfect world, every homeowner would have a plan for how they will make their home more efficient over time and a way to fund these changes. Brokers and lenders can help deliver this if we work together.


You were appointed a board member of the Society of Mortgage Professionals in October. What encouraged you to get involved and what are the society’s priorities?

I’m a huge advocate of the intermediary market, having spent my entire career in it and as I’ve moved into various roles across lenders, I’ve always advocated the role of a mortgage broker in the advice journey.

As we know the mortgage market is complex, dynamic and for many customers quite daunting, so it’s essential that as an industry we work to the highest professional standards to meet the needs of mortgage borrowers across the country.

That is a shared value that both I and the Society care deeply about, so joining the board of SMP seemed a natural step for me. I’ll be able to bring insight to support mortgage brokers in delivering excellent customer outcomes, and the depth of knowledge to support meaningful, mutually beneficial partnerships between lenders and brokers.


Female representation at senior levels is improving but there is still a long way to go. Do you think the sector is making enough progress?

If I look back five years and think of how many senior representatives were female, the number would be depressingly low; you could probably remember them all by name. There are so many more outstanding female role models today across lenders, distributors, and brokers, so it is fair to say we have seen positive progress.

We have certainly seen more of a concerted effort to have a more balanced industry; groups like Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) go a long way to ensuring the conversation is being had and that we are challenging thinking around recruitment.

It’s so important that we actively seek out and nurture all kinds of future talent. Initiatives like the Working in Mortgages mentoring scheme and IMLA’s Annual Intermediary Expo are incredibly valuable. These didn’t exist when I started out. I wish they did, as I can see how they will help expedite and elevate careers. If we want to stay relevant, we need to encourage fresh thinking and leadership, and that happens when you have a more diverse and balanced industry.


The Mortgage Charter was launched last year, what has the take-up been like by customers and what would you say to brokers who are concerned about being cut out of the process?

We’re proud to say, we had most of the measures in place already, and continue to support customers who need it. As you might expect there was an initial spike in interest and uptake of the support when the Charter first launched. But overall, there have only been a small proportion of our customers who have taken it.

What I think was really positive was that the Charter gave customers reassurance that they could speak to their lender and that they knew there was help available. Anything that encourages people to get advice is great, and, even where they didn’t need our support, there are lots of customers still feeling that they want advice, and this is where brokers really can play an important part.

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