MFB’s Steve Olejnik on robotics and legislation to stop lenders barring benefit tenants

  • 09/10/2018
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Mortgages for Business managing director Steve Olejnik has pledged to push lenders to continue developing their technology to assist brokers and also criticised those lenders that ban tenants receiving housing benefit as socially immoral.


Olejnik has been part of Mortgage for Business (MFB) for 16 years and in August took over as MD from David Whittaker, following 12 years as chief operating officer.

While it takes quite a lot to equal Whittaker’s profile in the industry, Olejnik told Specialist Lending Solutions that he plans to become more outward facing and hopes to push others in the business forward too.

“I’m quite excited at being able to take over this place, grow this brand and take advantage of the way the market has turned quite specialist,” he said.

“There is only one David Whittaker and naturally my style is very different – but there will be more commentary from me and I’d like to develop some of the team here when they’ve got something interesting to say too.”

As for the business itself, Olejnik expects the continued specialisation of the market will be a boon to the firm.

“We’re growing the business-to-business and direct to consumer parts of the firm,” he said.

“That includes continuing to build the culture here, developing staff and bringing more consultants and case managers in.

“We’re making noise about our broker desk MFB for intermediaries – I’m keen to grow that as we’re conscious with the market becoming more specialist there’s maybe more brokers out there in need of a helping hand to find the right lender.

“As demand increases I’ll bring in more people to support that part of the business,” he added.


Serious frustration

However, Olejnik notes that technology issues are becoming a serious frustration for the broker firm.

Where lenders are not able to develop application programming interface (API) links, MFB has developed its own robotics tools to help ease the repetitive workload on broker and admin staff.

“We’ve always been hot on technology, so we’re working with lenders to link up as best we can with our systems,” he said.

“We were getting somewhat frustrated by lenders not being able to offer full API links and it’s been a bug bear for some time to see staff taking information from our system and then manually rekeying it into a lender system to get a decision in principle (DIP) and then a full application.

“So we’ve now trained staff up and we have a couple of robotics software systems in place.”


Robotics for lenders

The project started working with Kent Reliance and is now also live with Paragon and undergoing testing with Precise, with more lenders set to come.

“The ultimate solution would be API links, but as a second best we’ve invested in robotics just to try and speed things up and make it a little less laborious,” Olejnik continued.

“We mapped our system to theirs so now pressing a button the robotic software will take the information from our system and put it in theirs for a DIP and full mortgage application.

“That speeds it up and reduces any errors,” he added.

Olejnik hopes this evolution will prove a short-term workable solution for lenders with older and legacy systems that make API interfaces difficult to introduce.


Socially immoral

Another issue vexing Olejnik is that of lenders rejecting mortgages for landlords with tenants who are in receipt of benefits.

This is so much of a concern that he is beginning something of a mini-campaign to change the situation.

“Socially I think that’s immoral and we’re fighting to try to change that condition,” he said.

“Lenders have gone on record to say there’s no causal link between arrears and the type of tenant.

“The lender is actually underwriting the landlord to see if they’ve got the ability to repay the type of borrowing there’s the stress test in place and surveyor reporting on quality of security.”


Legislation needed

Olejnik also noted that times have changed and that it is impractical with Universal Credit roll-out which combines many benefits into one payment.

“There seems to be this very outdated view that tenants receiving housing benefit are some dreadful part of society that are going to ruin the property – but that’s so far from the truth now,” he said.

“And there will be lenders who have that criteria but have people receiving benefits because of criteria changes, so that’s one major change I’d like to see in the market.

“Lenders are starting to look at it, but I think it probably needs legislation to change because I can’t see lenders getting together and changing it by themselves,” he added.


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