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‘Our ambition is to become the UK’s largest non-bank specialist property lender’ – Grundy

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  • 14/11/2023
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‘Our ambition is to become the UK’s largest non-bank specialist property lender’ – Grundy
More than a year on from launching its residential mortgage proposition Specialist Lending Solutions sat down with Marie Grundy (pictured), managing director for residential and second charge mortgages at West One Loans, to talk about the decision behind the launch, opportunities in the market and expectations for the coming year.

 

Q: Why did West One decide to launch a residential mortgage proposition?

A: Since 2017, we have been executing our strategy to develop into an all-round specialist mortgage and property finance lender, launching into adjacent lending markets including second charge mortgages, development finance and buy-to-let, all of which complement our long-established and respected bridging division.

Our launch into the owner-occupied market was a natural next step as we build on our already comprehensive product range.

Our ambition is to become the UK’s largest non-bank specialist property lender and I’d like to think that one day soon brokers will come to see us as a sector leader in the specialist residential space.

 

Q: Were there any gaps in the market that you wanted to fill? How is West One Loans’ product range different to other specialist lenders?

A: We have designed our proposition to meet the needs of borrowers not only underserved by the mainstream market but also other specialist lenders.

Life events can really impact the credit profile of mortgage customers and, often, even relatively small county court judgments (CCJ) or defaults can lead to financial exclusion.

Our products provide options for borrowers with CCJs and defaults within the last two years, if satisfied or unsatisfied, under £500 which means more borrowers can access mortgage finance where they would otherwise be unable to.

We recognise that greater certainty of affordability decisioning is really important, which is something we have embedded in our decision in principle (DIP) process.

As part of our research in the lead up to the launch, it was clear intermediaries and consumers were frustrated with the post-offer experience out there in the market. That led us to introduce our fast-track remortgage service, which turns the traditional conveyancing approach on its head with legal work commencing on receipt of the application provided by our onsite solicitors.

This has drastically reduced completion terms. On average it takes just 11 days to complete a remortgage from the offer being issued. This puts the borrower back in control of completion timescales and takes away the pain that can often be associated with the post-offer customer experience.

 

Q: Were there any challenges regarding timing of the launch due to the mini Budget?

A: The back end of last year was a challenging time for the whole market, but we had planned for some time to break into the residential market, so it made little difference to us.

We have spent a great deal of time developing what we feel is a top-class and unique proposition, one that fills a real need in the market.

Naturally, because the market was the way it was, we had to make a few adjustments before launch, but nothing major. Overall, we are pleased with the way the launch and the past 12 months have gone.

 

Q: How has the product changed/developed over the past year?

A: As you might expect, we have spent a great deal of time over the past 12 months speaking with brokers to find out how we can improve our range and processes.

Since launch, we have introduced our Platinum range, offering competitive pricing alongside a higher credit tier for borrowers who typically fall just outside of high street lending parameters.

We also introduced a faster legal service, which removes the requirement for local searches for unencumbered loans up to £250,000. This is a nice complement to our fast-track remortgage service.

Alongside this, we have introduced a number of highly competitive limited edition and cashback options to ensure that our range keeps pace with the changing needs of borrowers.

And finally, we have pledged to call brokers to discuss all new applications within 24 hours. Brokers are vital to our business, so we want to do everything we can to make sure dealing with us is as seamless and stress-free as possible.

 

Q: What has the broker feedback been like over the past year?

A: I’m delighted to say it’s been positive, and brokers have told us they love our personalised approach to service. All our broker partners have direct access to underwriters, and we offer dedicated broker support which provides a highly responsive service. For us, it is about getting the basics right and being proactive so that together we can deliver great client outcomes.

We regularly seek out broker feedback to identify any parts of our range or process that can be made better. Their feedback has directly influenced a lot of what we have done with our residential range over the past year.

Ultimately, I think our brokers recognise that we offer something different but also that we are extremely agile and are willing and able to respond quickly as market conditions and client needs change.

Q: Are there any areas of the market West One wants to expand into or grow further in?

A: We are currently working on some major changes to our product range which we believe will give us one of the most comprehensive product offerings in the market.

There are some really underserved areas of the market which we are looking to target, including products to support affordable home ownership, older borrowers, and a range of first-time buyer products.

 

Q: What are the expectations for the residential product for this year? Does the lower purchase market present a challenge?

A: While this year has been challenging across the whole sector, I am cautiously optimistic about the outlook for 2024. Whilst there is likely to be a further readjustment in house prices, this is natural when market conditions are the way they are.

Wage growth and interest rate stability should have a positive impact on affordability, while it looks likely that the Bank of England may even have lower rates towards the back end of next year, which will improve things further.

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