Mortgage Brain suspends selected fees to support industry

Mortgage Brain suspends selected fees to support industry

 

The firm’s sourcing platform Criteria Hub will be available to new customers at no cost for at least 90 days.

Lenders will be able to make the platform available to their business development managers (BDMs) for free to allow BDMs to update advisers while working remotely. 

Mortgage Brain is also in the process of updating Criteria Hub with new coronavirus-related criteria. 

In addition, intermediaries using the desktop sourcing system MortgageBrain Classic will be able to have either the online sourcing solution MortgageBrain Anywhere or another laptop licence for MortgageBrain Classic for at least 90 days, at no additional cost. 

These measures have been put into place following lender and broker feedback. 

Mark Lofthouse (pictured), CEO at Mortgage Brain, said: “At a difficult time like this it’s vital that we come together as an industry and do all we can to support each other. 

“Borrowers still need the expert guidance and advice that intermediaries provide, and we must ensure advisers can continue to provide their services without additional financial concerns.” 

“Changes to working practices are being introduced at pace and we are doing all we can to help the industry alleviate these stresses and strains as they become apparent,” he added. 

 

Criteria Hub expands search options

Criteria Hub expands search options

 

The newly added criteria include BTL with refurbishment needed, BTL unemployed applicants and residential and BTL with escalating ground rents.

The new terms are additional to 700 existing criteria that provide 45,000 searchable lender entries. They expand niche criteria and existing searches, it said.

The changes were made largely based on feedback from advisers and lenders. 

Criteria Hub was acquired by Mortgage Brain in March 2019, and the technology firm reported use of the system had grown by 70 per cent in the six months following the acquisition.

“Access to specific lending criteria is becoming even more vital because vanilla cases are no longer the norm,” said Mark Lofthouse, chief executive of Mortgage Brain (pictured).

“Brokers can now provide better advice and lender options to their customers. We recognise our customers’ input as integral to us to providing them with the systems they need.

“By expanding our search terms following feedback, we’ve shown our continued support for customers and our commitment to listen, invest and innovate,” Lofthouse added. 

Mortgage Brain will finalise integrating Criteria Hub into its online mortgage sourcing system Mortgage Brain Anywhere and its offline system MortgageBrain Classic, in 2020.

Adviser firms currently using Criteria Hub include Countrywide, Fluent Money for Advisers, John Charcol, Mortgage Force, Mortgage Intelligence, Openwork, Online Mortgage Adviser, Tenet, The Mortgage Alliance (TMA) and The Right Mortgage & Protection Network (TRM). 

 

Criteria churn is positive, but watch out for the regulator – analysis

Criteria churn is positive, but watch out for the regulator – analysis

 

Such a vibrant market may be good for clients, but it levels a serious challenge at brokers who need to keep up to offer the best advice and to stay on the right side of the regulator.

Only this month Robert Sinclair, chief executive at the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries, warned that the Financial Conduct Authority has its sights on brokers whose pool of lenders is overly limited.

Advisers have remarked on the volume of criteria changes in the later life, self-employed and buy-to-let segments — as well as a plethora of product updates across the market.

 

Double, triple check

Adrian Anderson, director at broker Anderson Harris, says it “certainly feels as if banks do seem to be forever changing criteria”, and that there has been a “relaxation of lending criteria on interest-only, with some banks being a bit more flexible on allowing older borrowers.”

He says that it’s “always a challenge for brokers to keep up with criteria which is why we want to speak with our lender relationship manager regularly, why business development managers (BDMs) from lenders often come to see intermediaries and why we read regular updates in the press and from lenders.”

Anderson is confident that brokers can keep up to date with marketplace churn if they research thoroughly, but says “it’s always at the forefront of our minds to make sure that the client is getting the best terms, based on their criteria.

“If someone wants a particular loan size, for a particular value or property, we always do our research, look at the cheapest lender and work our way down.

“Brokers double, triple check criteria with their relationship manager at the bank, or they’ll get their assistant to double check the research online, to make sure that we’re definitely going to the right lender for the right client,” Anderson says.

 

Lender policy visibility

On the research platform side, Mark Lofthouse, chief executive at mortgage technology and data company Mortgage Brain, suggests that the apparent high level of criteria changes has to do with the rising visibility of lender policies and product features over the past few years. 

“It’s not so much that lenders are constantly changing their criteria, it’s more that criteria, over the past two or three years, have become more important to matching a customer to the products available,” Lofthouse says.

“If you go back, historically you were either a vanilla product or you were specialist. And that was it. Whereas now, criteria that lenders may always have had are available to brokers through platforms like Criteria Hub. Brokers are using them more, so there’s more visibility compared to in the past.”

Jason Hegarty, co-founder at Criteria Hub, which was acquired by Mortgage Brain in March, adds that this enhanced visibility across the mortgage marketplace has enabled brokers to transact more easily with a wider range of niche lenders.

“Brokers now have access to more lenders who accept, for example, borrowers who have been self-employed for only a year. We provide criteria from 10 or more lenders who accept self-employed borrowers of this type. That’s considered pretty niche, but yet there are a vast array of solutions available,” Hegarty says.

He adds that certain lenders may have relaxed their affordability algorithms in selected market segments during 2019, giving an impression that customers can borrow more.

And criteria platforms have contributed to standardising the language of lending so that it’s easier for lenders to communicate changes to intermediaries and to benchmark their criteria to see where they may be outliers in a particular market segment.

 

BTL criteria churn

As well as clues that lenders are tweaking criteria for older borrowers and the self-employed in response to changing work patterns, there is evidence that they’ve been tinkering with buy-to-let (BTL) criteria too, with taxation rules the driver.

Liz Syms, chief executive at Connect for Intermediaries (pictured), says that in this segment, criteria has become a key battle ground for rival lenders who may be restricted as to how low they can cut rates.

“BTL is dominated by the big high street names, which take a very significant share of the market. The remainder of lenders, of which there are many, and lots of new ones coming into the market, collectively are trying to get a share of that smaller part that’s left over after the high street has taken its bit,” Syms says.

“There’s a lot of competition between lenders. When their margins are too tight to compete against the high street on price, they tweak and improve criteria.

“That is one reason that you’re seeing such a change in criteria. For brokers, in terms of more choice, it’s the real bonus,” Syms adds.

 

Research, research, research

She points particularly to holiday let and Airbnb mortgages, where a lot of smaller building societies and bigger specialist lenders have brought out new products and tweaked criteria.

“That’s off the back of consumer demand because with tax changes, where mortgage interest is not deductible in full for higher rate tax payers, holiday lets or Airbnb, if run as a business, are not counted as BTL  — even if held in someone’s name,” Syms continues.

“It’s treated as a commercial business for tax purposes and therefore mortgage payments can be offset against income before paying tax. That has increased the popularity of, and demand for, that type of product.”

She adds that a similar dynamic is at play in the segment for homes in multiple occupancy (HMO) products.

However from an adviser perspective, “it’s a lot of lenders and a lot of criteria to try to understand and navigate through, to make sure you are making the right recommendation to a client,” Syms says.

While the pros are about more choice for clients, the cons come in the form of brokers having to be extra careful about giving the right advice.

“There are more products and criteria than ever, even compared to before the credit crunch, and that creates a lot of work and a lot of pressure for advisers to fully research the market accurately. Brokers need to spread their wings and spend time with lenders to properly understand their offerings, because not everything is black and white,” Syms says.

While there is “no one system that does everything”, it’s beneficial to check criteria and then to research a shortlist within the sourcing system.

“There’s a risk that if brokers don’t open their minds to alternative lenders out there and research only from a narrow number of known lenders, they may be missing opportunities or making the incorrect recommendation,” she adds.

 

Specialist licenses

Lea Karasavvas, managing director of Prolific Mortgage Finance, agrees that overall the level of criteria churn has been positive for clients and for the health of the mortgage market, but that it does keep brokers on their toes. 

“Criteria changes are the nature of the beast in the mortgage market, but we are seeing a lot of changes at present as lenders look to assist in many areas where they were struggling previously,” he says.

“There have been huge criteria changes in maximum ages on mortgage terms, with many lenders now going to age 80 and even 85 which assists older clients. These changes have been very positive, with people living longer and working longer.

“More changes in interest-only criteria continue to strengthen the market place and have also given people more options on how their debt is repaid,” he adds.

However, Karasavvas highlights that the biggest and most problematic change has been within the BTL sector “where it seems every day a different stress test is applied by a new lender”.

“The number of changes have become so frequent that many networks are now rolling out specialist licenses for brokers to transact in this field to ensure that they are on top of all the changes they continue to give best advice,” he says.

Despite the challenge to brokers from such a level of churn, Karasavvas concludes that “the majority of recent criteria changes have helped brokers to give a lot more options to borrowers and should be applauded.

“Lenders continue to be keen to lend, and while these changes are frequent, the majority are enabling us, as advisers, to perform our roles better.”

 

Mortgage Intelligence offers Criteria Hub alongside Mortgage Brain

Mortgage Intelligence offers Criteria Hub alongside Mortgage Brain

 

As part of the agreement, the advisers will be able to use Criteria Hub alongside Mortgage Brain’s online and offline sourcing systems, and The Key, its point of sale and client relationship management system, as part of a complete, end-to-end mortgage sourcing solution.

The software has been enhanced to offer a unique way of highlighting any of their client’s multiple selection options that are critical or deal breaker.

Sally Laker, managing director at Mortgage Intelligence, said: “We’ve had a really strong relationship with Mortgage Brain over a number of years and this new addition to its proposition demonstrates its understanding and vision in the mortgage advice market.

“Like us, Mortgage Brain is committed to driving forward technology initiatives and solutions that deliver business benefits that make a real difference to mortgage advisers, lenders and customers alike.”

Mark Lofthouse, CEO of Mortgage Brain, said: “To receive the continuous endorsement from a company such as Mortgage Intelligence is testament, not only to our ability to deliver the best and most innovative systems proposition available, but the unrivalled levels of flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness that we offer to all of our partners.

“We’re incredibly proud of our position as the mortgage sourcing partner of choice with Mortgage Intelligence and were looking forward to continuing to work with them and their advisers as part of this new venture.”

Over 3,000 advisers are actively using Criteria Hub including Countrywide, The Right Mortgage & Protection Network, John Charcol, Mortgage Force, Mortgage Intelligence, Fluent Money for Advisers, Online Mortgage Advisor, Openwork, Tenet, TMA, and numerous smaller firms.

 

The Right Mortgage and Protection Network teams up with Mortgage Brain for criteria sourcing

The Right Mortgage and Protection Network teams up with Mortgage Brain for criteria sourcing

 

Criteria Hub, which was acquired by Mortgage Brain last month, will be made available to TRM’s 450 appointed representative members.

This will complement the network’s current mortgage sourcing and CRM technology solutions, including MortgageBrain Anywhere, MortgageBrain Classic and The Key.

Criteria Hub uses innovative technology to help advisers quickly match the customer’s needs with those of the lenders.

Adam Stretton, managing director at TRM, said: “As a successful network our members rely on us to support them with the latest innovations and technology to help improve efficiency and enhance the service they offer their customers.

“By adding Mortgage Brain’s Criteria Hub to our current mortgage sourcing and CRM offering, our members now have access to the best and most complete point-of-sale and sourcing solutions available.”

Mark Lofthouse, CEO of Mortgage Brain (pictured), added: “We are delighted to be continuing and further developing a long and mutually beneficial partnership with TRM.”

“The platform’s extended multi-search functionality, with its ‘critical criteria’ selection option, will enable TRM’s members to obtain and identify the most suitable lenders in the shortest possible time, and enhance their customer’s journey.”

Criteria Hub update extends search and filtering options

Criteria Hub update extends search and filtering options

 

 

Mortgage Brain has already started planning the integration of Criteria Hub into its point-of-sale, CRM and compliance system, The Key.

Mortgage Brain bought Criteria Hub in March and told Mortgage Solutions it had substantial software integration plans with wire frame development plans underway.

 

Search changes

Mortgage advisers using Criteria Hub can select up to six specific search criteria at any one time as part of the enhanced capability, alongside the single searches already available.

Search criteria can also be highlighted as deal breakers for each case, for example, in the case of balcony or deck access.

Mark Lofthouse, CEO of Mortgage Brain (pictured), said: “Having the ability to identify specific lending criteria as critical from the outset, particularly ones that will affect client applications in part or full, allows advisers to offer the best possible advice solution to their clients.

“The extended multi-search functionality, with its ‘critical criteria’ selection option, will enable advisers to obtain and identify the most suitable Lenders in the shortest possible time and dramatically improving the overall customer journey.”

A video tutorial is available on the Criteria Hub dashboard offering a guide to the new features and functionalities.

Over 3,000 advisers are actively using Criteria Hub including Countrywide, John Charcol, Mortgage Force, Online Mortgage Advisor, Openwork, Tenet, TMA, and numerous smaller firms.

Criteria Hub will remain available to any adviser in the market as a standalone system or it can be bought as part of a package.

The criteria-based sourcing system has already agreed deals with Countrywide and Openwork for its advisers to access the platform.

The platform is also being used by lenders to research and gain insight into the market, enabling them to design and fine tune products to better meet the needs of customers.

Mortgage Brain Holdings Limited, formed in 1986, is jointly owned by Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Virgin Money.

 

Mortgage Brain buys Criteria Hub

Mortgage Brain buys Criteria Hub

 

Mortgage Brain has already started planning the integration of Criteria Hub into its point-of-sale, CRM and compliance system, The Key.

It said it would consult about how best to complete the integration, but it is likely to involve results from Criteria Hub searches feeding into the Mortgage Brain sourcing system.

“We look at it complimenting what we are already doing,” Mortgage Brain CEO Mark Lofthouse (pictured) told Mortgage Solutions.

“Brokers are telling us that they want to understand lenders that will lend on something and then start looking for products from there, so the results from Criteria Hub will feed into the other systems.

“We don’t have a timescale yet on when this will go live but we will consult with our partners on what they would like it to look like and then start on developing.

“It is a high priority for us,” he added.

Criteria Hub will remain available to any adviser in the market as a standalone system or it can be bought as part of a package.

The criteria-based sourcing system has already agreed deals with Countrywide and Openwork for their advisers to access the platform.

 

‘Excellent strategic fit’

Lofthouse added that over the last four years Criteria Hub had impressed many people within the mortgage industry, including the Mortgage Brain team, and noted that it was “an excellent strategic fit with our business”.

“The acquisition of Criteria Hub demonstrates the next phase in our strategy to strengthen and extend our range of technology solutions and services for the benefit of all our customers,” he continued.

Criteria Hub co-founder Jason Hegarty said: “We’ve always had a very clear vision of how the Criteria Hub platform will grow and evolve around our users and with Mortgage Brain we’ve found a partner that shares our core values and vision.

“Together we are set for a very exciting few years ahead.”

 

Mortgage Brain is the parent company of AE3Media which publishes Mortgage Solutions.

 

Online Mortgage Advisor partners with Criteria Hub

Online Mortgage Advisor partners with Criteria Hub

In what’s being hailed as an industry first by OMA, the partnership means mortgage advisers can source the information they need when placing cases, cutting down on the time they spend checking lender policy pages, calling sales lines and BDMs with questions.

The right advice in the quickest time

 

Pete Mugleston, managing director at OMA, said: “By reducing research time and increasing sourcing accuracy for the brokers we work with, this will lead to an even better consumer experience and outcome. Criteria Hub and Online Mortgage Advisor share the same ethos to make information as readily available as possible in the mortgage process.”

Jason Hegarty, one of the founders of Criteria Hub, believes the partnership will help to bring the mortgage advice firmly into the digital age.

He said: “Consumers have access to more information online than ever before but the mortgage advice process when working with an adviser is still littered with unnecessary roadblocks. One such sticking point is during the fact-finding process where advisers need to identify lenders that match a client’s situation, a process that can take considerable time whilst the introducer seeks the information they require across a large range of prospective lenders.

“We recognised early on that Online Mortgage Advisor wanted to address this and so giving them access to our technology made total sense so that they are better able to quickly qualify clients and identify potential lenders at the start of the process, meaning the consumer gets the best advice in the quickest time possible.”

Countrywide adds Criteria Hub access for brokers

Countrywide adds Criteria Hub access for brokers

 

The system is part of the new wave of software support for brokers which sources products based on criteria rather than price.

Countrywide managing director Peter Curran said the deal would help ensure customers were placed with the right lender based on their circumstances.

“Having deep knowledge of lender criteria is essential to a successful consultant,” he said.

“Digital tools are becoming more and more important for consultants, so working with Criteria Hub will help both build and improve knowledge and make sure we work more effectively with customers to improve their experience with Countrywide.”

Criteria Hub director Jason Hegarty said he was pleased to have struck the deal to work with the national property services firm.

“Having been an estate agency-based advisor myself at Countrywide some 15 or so years ago I know all too well the demands these advisers are under and the importance of being able to quickly identify a solution for their clients,” he said.

“Criteria Hub will reduce the time spent researching criteria meaning that Countrywide advisers will be able to place cases quicker and improve the customer journey considerably in many cases.”

 

Criteria Hub adds retirement-interest only mortgages to sourcing system

Criteria Hub adds retirement-interest only mortgages to sourcing system

 

 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reclassified the products away from lifetime mortgages earlier this year.

A number of lenders have launched retirement interest-only mortgages since the change, with more big names set to follow suit.

Jason Hegarty, director at Criteria Hub, said: “We expect retirement interest-only mortgages to be a hugely popular option for older borrowers.

“Unlike equity release mortgages, the FCA doesn’t require advisers to have any additional special permissions to sell retirement interest-only mortgages and as such borrowers will have greater access to retirement interest-only mortgages via intermediaries.

“It’s great to see a few lenders already moving into this space and we expect to see more follow throughout the rest of 2018 and beyond.”

Advisers can now use Criteria Hub to identify which lenders offer the mortgages, as well as the maximum loan to value and acceptable methods of ongoing affordability for joint applicants for each provider.

David Booth, mortgage proposition manager at Openwork said: “Mortgage advisers and their clients looking for mortgages in their later life are becoming increasingly spoilt for choice as lenders look to enter this growing market.

“Criteria Hub will help advisers make sure they deliver a good outcome for their clients and secure the most appropriate mortgage for their needs.”

James Young, national account manager at Hodge Lifetime added: “Retirement interest-only mortgages are set to become a popular choice for older borrowers who need an affordable mortgage into retirement without the worry of a term-end date.

“When considering the most suitable plan for an older borrower it’s important to consider the pros and cons of an open-ended mortgage against plans with a fixed end date, and we’re delighted to be working with Criteria Hub to help give advisers all the answers they need for this emerging product category.”