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One to One with Accord Mortgages’ Chris Hill

  • 15/04/2024
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One to One with Accord Mortgages’ Chris Hill
Each month, Mortgage Solutions and Specialist Lending Solutions sit down with a key intermediary industry figure to discuss strategy, opportunity for brokers and the mortgage marketplace.

Chris Hill (pictured) has worked at Accord Mortgages for around seven years, initially as a regional sales manager between 2017 and 2021, before taking on the role of senior manager for intermediary distribution.

Prior to that, he worked at Yorkshire Building Society for around 14 years, starting as a senior branch manager and then working his way up to branch network development manager, senior manager for retail operations and finally national agency network manager.


How did you get into the mortgage industry?

Just short of 26 years ago, following working part time over the summer and Easter holidays for Yorkshire Building Society, I finished at university and started working full time in our Leeds branch.

Back then, the branch network focused on simple savings and mortgages, which was my first opportunity to understand how a lender could help our customers achieve their dreams, which fuelled my desire to make ‘working in mortgages’ my career.


What is the mortgage landscape like in 2024, and what are the main challenges and opportunities for building societies in the coming year?

2024, I believe, will be an improving picture as the economy continues to stabilise and the cost-of-living challenges improve. For many in the industry, the first quarter of the year has been strong, with almost all metrics moving in a positive trajectory. If, as expected, the Bank of England starts to reduce rates in the second half of the year, affordability should improve and see customers’ confidence continue to return too.

Affordability, however, does continue to be a challenge for customers and landlords, however, there is no doubt that confidence is building. The main challenge this year for lenders will be balancing volume and opportunity in a market with reducing rates and tighter margins. This also drives opportunity, and lenders are continuing to innovate in markets where they see opportunities – creating more choice for customers – which is great to see.


Accord Mortgages offers residential and buy-to-let mortgages. Where do you see the largest demand coming from and will that change? Are there any areas the lender wants to expand into?

Accord is committed to supporting customers in underserved markets – as the launch of our innovative £5k Deposit Mortgage has demonstrated. The response from the market and from customers has been incredible, and we are delighted to have introduced a new proposition for first-time buyers that has been so well-received. We anticipate that this demand from those starting their homeownership journey will continue.

The buy-to-let market will provide growth opportunities for both lenders and brokers, as affordability improves in the second half of the year. Competition should increase from lenders, which will service the demand from landlords, some of whom are waiting for market conditions to improve.

What are the priorities for Accord Mortgages in the near and long term?

Accord’s immediate focus is to continue to develop purposeful propositions for underserved markets, to genuinely help brokers and their clients. We have several other innovations we are working on, which we are looking forward to bringing to the market.

In the longer term, Accord wants to maintain and grow its share of the market as a real alternative to the big banks. We believe that, through our brilliant service from our excellent teams, we have a real differentiator that brokers can trust.

We continue to provide a common-sense approach to underwriting, with our business development managers and underwriting teams available to speak to brokers when they need them, as we understand how important this support is.


What is the firm’s strategy around brokers?

Brokers are Accord’s key customers, which is reflected throughout our systems, processes and the way we set up our teams. We recently carried out extensive research with over 700 brokers around key topics that matter to them, and what brokers expect from a lender, which we’re using to enhance and improve our offering to brokers.

Over the past six months, we’ve made changes by investing in our sales teams, creating smaller broker panels that have improved service and support. We’ve also improved our underwriting approach, focusing on key activities. For example, making an outbound call to the broker when a new application is received to reduce delays in the underwriting journey, and we’ve created an existing customer team to improve all aspects of existing customer support too.


Accord recently improved new-build affordability, and also made changes to the max loan to value (LTV) for foreign nationals last year. Are there any other areas where the lender is looking at improving affordability?

Affordability is an area we are constantly reviewing to deliver the right outcomes for our customers, and the new-build changes, for example, added up to £13,000 of additional borrowing for customers. There are further improvements coming in this area following the National Insurance tax cuts, which will have a positive impact on affordability.


Will building societies play a larger role in the mortgage landscape as customers are pushed away from the high street?

I believe building societies will continue to play a vital role in the mortgage market. Ultimately, building societies are run for the benefit of their members, with no shareholders to pay dividends to. As the intermediary-only lending arm of Yorkshire Building Society, this should enable Accord to continue providing competitive products coupled with fantastic service. Building societies have led the way in recent years with new innovations in the market, and I see that continuing in 2024 and beyond.


Accord is an intermediary-only lender and is a subsidiary of Yorkshire Building Society. What are the benefits of having an intermediary-only arm like Accord, and do you think other building societies would consider a similar structure?

One of the key benefits is the laser focus of the brand and what we stand for in the market. Having an intermediary-only brand like Accord allows us to be clear on who our customers (brokers) are and what we are trying to achieve. It also enables us to focus on parts of the markets we want to operate in. It’s not for me to say how other building societies should operate, but it works for us.


What do you think the future role of building societies is?

For Yorkshire Building Society, our role is to continue to provide good-value products with market-leading service, underpinned by brilliant people. This allows us to continue to target innovative solutions for our current and future members and customers – by not simply focusing on financial returns for shareholders, we can deliver better ways to support members and underserved borrowers with their real lives.


What would you want brokers to know about Accord?

Accord is committed to pushing boundaries within the mortgage market to improve the options available for brokers and their customers, especially the underserved. We continue to be ambitious in our quest to provide real help for customers’ real-life financial challenges.

Finally, Accord’s common-sense approach to underwriting, using technology to do the heavy lifting – freeing up our colleagues to apply the ‘human touch’ – is something we’re committed to for the long term, ensuring brokers can speak to a real person who will do their best to find the right solution for their customers.

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