McDowell highlighted that case completion times had been creeping up across the whole of the sector and that it was a longer-term trend not just driven by the coronavirus pandemic.
“For an industry that is supposed to be about speed I think turnaround times are actually embarrassingly long,” he told the Association of Short Term Lenders (ASTL) annual conference.
“There’s a great piece of research from MT Finance which came out a few weeks ago that showed the average turnaround times from application to completion are 50 days across the industry and that’s got progressively longer over the last few years.
“Yes, we all have cases which go through very quickly and we all get a piece of PR out of them, but actually the average times are very long.
“Some of the issues are current issues as you would expect, some are a little more fundamental,” he added.
‘Shortage of true talent’
McDowell also raised the issue of training and developing people and warned the industry could not continue to rely on big banks who had previously been factories of future specialist lending employees.
He argued there were not enough good people in the industry and there was a “shortage of true talent”, which was “most acute in the area where it is most important, particularly the area of underwriting”.
McDowell praised his team but said it had been particularly hard to find underwriters to join HTB who could hit the ground running.
“If we are really being honest, I think the specialist lending market and short-term lending market has never been very good at training and developing people,” he continued.
“Yes we give fantastic opportunities and if someone is able to take that opportunity they can have an incredible career and develop and grow, and give fantastic experiences.
“But are we historically good and nurturing people? I don’t think so.”
He added: “Those factories don’t exist. The big banks, big institutions do not have hundreds of underwriters – you might be lucky to find 10 good underwriters in some of the big banks.
“So therefore we have a real shortage of talent and I think we as a short-term and specialist mortgage industry are going to have to look carefully at ourselves and start thinking about being able to nurture and create underwriters from scratch if we want to continue.”