BSLS2022: There could be lender ‘casualties’ due to funding costs
Speaking on a panel at the British Specialist Lending Senate, Generation Home’s chief commercial officer Graham McClelland (pictured) said there was “demand out there for mortgage paper” and “real interest from investors for mortgages”, especially in the specialist space.
“I’m sure that in time that funding will sort itself out, but there may well be short-term, or even long-term casualties,” he said.
One recent example in the specialist lending market has been Molo Finance, that had to temporarily suspend its buy-to-let products due to capital market uncertainty. The lender also had to change some existing mortgage offers and postpone certain completion dates.
Anth Mooney, chief executive of Vida Homeloans, said: “If non-bank lenders stand still and fail to diversify their funding models, then absolutely, I think there will be some casualties.”
Mooney said that for non-bank lenders the next 12 months’ funding costs would rise given the “level of uncertainty in the macroeconomic and political environment.”
He added that when setting its funding strategy, the key consideration was, and is, “ensuring certainty” for both customers and intermediary partners so that once a mortgage offer was issued they can have full confidence that it will be honoured.
“I can’t stand here with a straight face and say that funding markets will always be open, but what I can promise with 100 per cent certainty is that once a customer has a mortgage offer from us, they will always get their mortgage, because we always pre-fund our offer pipeline,” Mooney noted.
McClelland said that timing is very important when it comes to funding, adding that Generation Home had made a forward flow arrangement at the start of the year.
He said that the company, which was founded in 2019 and is focused on first-time buyers facing affordability and deposit challenges, has two main funding lines, one from a traditional private warehouse, and a forward flow arrangement that give it “plenty of runway.”
“The availability of funding and making sure that you have enough runway to support you when times get tough is always the critical thing. That’s what keeps you awake at night, but there is also an element of luck, particularly as a small lender,” McClelland added.
“It feels like we’re through the worst of that pain. We’re working really hard on finding supplemental forms of capital that are not deposit-based but are not necessarily market-linked. So, watch this space.”
McClelland continued that savings’ rates are also going up, so deposit-based funding was also more expensive, which he said should mean big lenders start to raise pricing for their products.
“Raising retail funding from a standing start is not particularly any cheaper than accessing the wholesale markets. It’s just that over time, it gives you a more stable, broader base, particularly if you’re looking to grow your business to a balance sheet of £5bn to £7bn, and that’s quite important.”
Mid-size banks are eyeing the specialist sector
Mooney said that big banks are currently “not servicing anything that falls outside of an automated process” and for mainstream lenders “to pivot to a more specialist lender model, which requires face-to-face solutions, open flexible dialogue with brokers and deep human underwriting expertise is really expensive.”
He added: “It is clear that some larger and mid-sized banks have aspirations to move into that near prime space, that grey area between specialist and prime, a market that is quite difficult to accurately size or define. But I don’t see the larger players having the appetite or expertise to expand beyond that into more specialist customer segments.”
McClelland said that what was happening in the rungs below the biggest banks was interesting, as they might start looking at the specialist space.
“If all you’ve got to compete on is price, but you know you’re going to lose, which is what’s been happening, what do they do? What do the bigger building societies do? And where did they go next?
“I think that’s quite interesting to see whether they can do it quick enough to keep up with the more nimble specialists,” he noted.
Rising swap rates will lead to price correction
McClelland added that previously if swap rates, which are integral to lender product pricing, had gone up by five basis points in a week that would be a “big deal”, whereas now they have continued to go up and up.
“I think this might be the first time in mortgage market history, certainly within decades, that the average the average product rate for a 75 per cent loan to value (LTV) mortgage was sub-swap rate. That means the big banks are out there lending money at a cheaper rate than it cost them to borrow in the market and this cannot be the most efficient use of their capital.”
He added that this was aided by having a “huge sticky base of customers that cost them next to nothing.”
Mooney predicts that mortgage pricing will continue to rise in the coming months, and that Vida has repriced some of its products due to increased funding costs.
“Some of the rates being offered in the market are unsustainable and we should expect to see a correction in both buy to let and residential mortgage pricing in the weeks ahead,” he said.
He added that forward swap rates were up by around 100 basis points since the start of the year, the prime market has responded with price increases of up to 70 to 80 basis points, whilst the specialist market has been slower to respond, with rates increasing by only 20 to 30 basis points so far.
Mooney continued that with ongoing talk of recession, there will also be discussions had across all mortgage lenders about credit risk appetite and the availability of mortgage credit, especially at higher LTVs.
“The current dislocation between forward swap rates and bank base rate is driven primarily by uncertainty. It’s uncertainty that kills markets and that uncertainty will therefore drive into a lenders appetite for risk,” he added.
UK economy boosted by £3.8bn in GVA from equity release – L&G
GVA is the difference between the value of input, the materials, that go into a process, and the value of the finished product.
For example, if you spend £20 on wood and nails, then build a chair that is sold for £50, then you’ve added £30 in value during the process of building the chair, which is the GVA.
In the case of equity release, the input is taking the money out of your home, then spending it, the process, thus putting it back into the economy, the output.
Cash accessed through equity release indirectly supported a further £1.1bn in indirect effects, which are the increases in employment and economic activity along supply chains, and £900m in ‘induced’ effects, which include increases in employment and economic activity from increasing spending power of employees.
This amounts to nearly £3.8bn, according to Legal and General’s Equity Economy report, conducted with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).
The study found that for every £1 of equity released via a lifetime mortgage, or other equity release product, £2.12 in GVA is supported across the UK economy. The report estimates the positive impact of equity release across supply chains and to employees supported just under £2bn in GVA in 2021.
A record £4.3bn was released in 2021 via lifetime mortgages and other forms of equity release, according to the report, representing an 11 per cent annual increase.
This money, previously tied up in bricks and mortar owned by the over-55s, was then spent directly across a range of sectors as homeowners supported family members and boosted their incomes with the extra funding.
The wholesale and retail sector saw most of the cash, at 18 per cent, or £757m, and the human health and social work sector got 12 per cent at £517m. The real estate and construction sectors received £356m and £417m respectively.
Spending funded directly by equity release generated more than 45,000 jobs. A third of this, 15,300 roles, are in the health and social work sector due to the high spend on care costs. Taking into account the indirect supply chain effects, and induced effects of this spending, modelling by CEBR estimates that an additional 35,000 jobs are also supported.
Craig Brown (pictured), chief executive of Legal & General Home Finance said: “With the property market continuing to boom, the value held in the homes of the UK’s over-55s is both significant and growing. The later life lending market has also grown in tandem, with improved standards and advice over the past decade.
“Our research demonstrates that a growing number of people will look to their property wealth to fund their lifestyle, particularly in retirement.
“However, the impact of the equity release market is more significant than just the spending power it gives to the individual homeowner: it funds businesses, creates jobs and makes a positive contribution to the UK economy.”
Since 2015, Legal & General has helped over 108,000 customers release more than £6bn in property equity.
Molo Finance revises existing mortgage offers and completion dates due to funding issues
According to sources, the lender – which temporarily suspended its buy-to-let lending last week – evaluated offers that were due to complete this week, and reassessed its rates and arrangement fees.
The lender gave brokers and clients the option to continue with their application using the updated products or to cancel their loan.
The revised products are subject to different interest rates and product fees, which in certain instances has made them more expensive.
Molo said loans for those who did not get back in touch by the deadline of 4pm 3 May to confirm a new mortgage offer or to cancel, their loan application would be automatically declined.
The lender has also paused all completions until this Friday, which will allow it to drawdown the required money from their funders.
Molo Finance said that it had been hit by increases in its funding costs due to rising inflation and the Bank of England’s base rate. It said certain costs which were interest rate-related rose by over 550 per cent since the start of last year.
Anonymous sources said it was unusual for lenders to alter terms of an offer due to funding issues, although some noted that during the first lockdown some lenders had withdrawn their pipeline and offers due to market uncertainty rather than problems with funding.
One broker said that most lenders would close the door to new applications, but changing existing cases was “not great and does not show forward planning”.
Another broker said their only option was to select the new rate or rebroke to another lender where possible, which was very challenging. They added that it had caused a lot of customer frustration and upset as it was so close to the completion date.
One adviser said it caused them added strain to work out whether the new proposed Molo deal, funding a new deal altogether or securing a bridge was the best option, and it placed huge pressure on their advice.
Another source said that it could lead to clients being unable to buy the property as the costs would be higher.
Others said that there could be lasting damage to the lender broker-relationship for those who had offers withdrawn while brokers who had not yet used the lender could be dissuaded from doing so.
Molo Finance declined to comment.
Tuscan Capital secures £150m for short-term BTL funding
Over the past year, the lender has provided short-term loans for portfolio deals worth £750,000 to £9m across BTL, houses of multiple occupancy (HMO), commercial, and mixed-use classes. Bridging loans were typically for six to 12 months.
With the new facility and its existing funding lines, Tuscan says it can now fund buy-to-let portfolios up to £30m.
The lender said it has seen a significant number of professional landlords requiring funding over the past year. These often involve opportunities where landlords are given portfolios for sale from receivers, as well as ownership restructures where landlords may be transferring assets from personal ownership to special purchase vehicles or offshore structures.
Landlords have also been looking to refinance or capital raise where they may need to repay existing investors or invest capital for refurbishment or maintenance of the portfolio, according to the lender.
Tuscan says the product exit will usually come in the form of a high street or ‘challenger’ bank’s term facility once the portfolio has stabilised its revenue or the refurbishment and restructure is complete.
Colin Sanders (pictured), CEO at Tuscan Capital, said: “Our new funding line demonstrates that we have both the appetite and capacity to service the needs of landlords with portfolio cases. Our proposition is very much about enabling the landlord to get from A to B where term lenders cannot.
“Our underwriting team are experts in assessing the risks in a portfolio and take a holistic view of the deal. They, together with our lawyer partners’ commercial and pragmatic approach, has helped us close out some of the most complex transactions which are also often extremely time sensitive.
“This significant additional funding line means Tuscan now has all short-term property funding bases covered.”
Landlords need clarity from the government about eco-upgrades and fast – Whittaker
While that fact may delight architecture nuts and pub quiz fanatics, it provides a major headache for a government striving for net zero by 2050.
You see, the UK’s 29 million homes account for 15 per cent of our country’s total emissions, more than the agriculture and waste management industries combined.
It is easy to understand why when, according to the BRE, more than half of the nation’s homes were built before 1965, a third before 1945 and, astonishingly, a fifth before 1919.
With that in mind, I think the government is right to focus on decarbonising the UK’s housing stock as part of its net zero plans.
Its 244-page Heat and Building Strategy, published in October, provides what, on the surface, is a comprehensive strategy for retrofitting UK homes.
However, like so often with this administration, one gets the feeling that its actions do not always match the rhetoric.
To date, the government has pledged just £3.9bn in direct financial support for homeowners and landlords to help with the cost of upgrading their properties.
That is a drop in the ocean when you consider that Savills estimates it will cost in excess of £330bn to raise every house in the country to an EPC rating of at least C.
The lack of government funding is both concerning and frustrating, but it is not the thing that irks me most about this administration’s approach so far.
It is the lack of clarity and communication.
Landlords need ‘definite deadline and clarity’ on EPC requirements
You may have seen a bill currently working its way through parliament that will force landlords to upgrade their properties to a C by 2025 for new tenancies and 2028 for existing ones.
The Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings (No.2) Bill, as it is called, had its first reading in July, but things have come to a standstill since then.
The bill’s second reading has been deferred from the 18 March to early May and after that there are 10 further steps in the legislative process until the bill receives Royal Assent and becomes law.
That will take some time, and we must also assume that the Commons and Lords will propose amendments, which will slow the bill down further.
Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but as things stand, landlords have potentially less than three years to find the cash to pay for these improvements.
Before I go on, I want to make clear that I fully support the need to make our housing stock more efficient and I accept that will involve some additional costs for landlords.
I suspect also that many landlords have come to terms with the fact they must make these improvements.
But in order to budget and plan for these improvements, they need a definite deadline and clarity on the final requirements in order to comply. Given how little progress the bill has made, I worry it will be some time before landlords receive that.
Therefore, frankly, MPs need to pull up their socks and provide landlords with the clarity they need and deserve.
If that clarity doesn’t come soon, the consequences could be disastrous. After all, how easy will it to find contractors to carry out those improvements at short notice when every landlord in the country is chasing their services?
Perhaps the Westminster bubble has also forgotten that we have lurched from a pandemic into the worst cost of living crisis in 30 years.
Money is tight for a lot of people and therefore many landlords will need all of the advanced warning they can get if they are to find the sort of money it will take to comply.
The Prime Minister said last year that we could “build back greener without so much as a hair shirt in sight”.
Well, Mr Johnson, I’m not sure the nation’s landlords would agree with you.
Brokers diversifying into specialist lending ‘double-edged sword’ – Hollands
Speaking to Specialist Lending Solutions, head of specialist finance at OSB Group Emily Hollands (pictured), explained: “From a broker perspective. I think those kinds of brokers that diversified during the financial crisis are the ones that are really capable of diversifying their business. They’ll be the ones that look to enter into different markets to help more of their clients.
“But it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? We’ll happily help all brokers, regardless of what level of specialist business they do, but then sometimes the question should be actually is it better for them to use one of the distributors because they have more experience.”
She said whichever path the broker chose, it was imperative that it was in the customer’s best interest.
Hollands said OSB Group worked “really closely” with key distributors not just due to the value of business they provided but as the company culture matched theirs.
She added: “It’s not a transactional relationship. It’s not about how much business you do. We are looking for quality business and we are looking to work with companies who want that relationship and reflect a culture like ours.”
Conveyancing in bridging and commercial ‘really lengthy’
Hollands said conveyancing had been a challenge in specialist lending as it was “really lengthy”, especially in areas like bridging and commercial.
“We work with some fantastic solicitors across bridging and commercial proposition, but I feel like they’re few and far between and the conveyancing process just feels really lengthy,”she said.
She added that the length of the process could be a “barrier to business” as customers wanted the “right solution at the right time”.
Hollands noted that there were similar issues with standard residential and buy-to-let processes but that for specialist lending, especially for a commercial loan, there was a lot more “due diligence” that needed to be done.
She said technology would improve the conveyancing process, adding that specialist lending was a “little delayed” due to complexity of deals. However, she said it was a “great opportunity for the sector to develop”.
Hollands said the start to finish process could be improved with automated valuation models, open banking and digital identification.
Mortgage market’s resilience during pandemic
Hollands said, notwithstanding the devastation of the pandemic, the mortgage industry as a whole, including specialist finance, has “proven once again how resilient we are”.
“We’ve come out of the pandemic and the demand for everything finance and mortgage-wise is as strong as it ever was.”
She added that OSB Group had seen demand rise for bridging, commercial and specialist finance.
“That hasn’t changed and it’s ever increasing,” she said.
Hollands added that a key opportunity for the specialist lending sector was funding the repurposing of the high street, noting that experienced landlords were looking to diversify their portfolios and examining commercial property opportunities.
“There’s just so much opportunity in the market at the moment and it’s a really good place to be,” she said.
Pandemic has ‘woken lenders up’
Hollands said the pandemic “might have woken lenders up a little bit” as they had to be more fluid and increasingly keep ahead of change.
“The pandemic is a difficult one. It was unprecedented. You cannot criticise any lender for how they behaved during the pandemic because nobody knew any different, this wasn’t another financial crisis. This was a completely different situation than we’ve never had before,” she said.
She added that the key learnings for lenders was that they had to be able to make decisions quicker, understand markets better and make appropriate changes, “both positive and otherwise”.
She said she didn’t think there would be any “long-term ramifications” from Covid on the specialist lending market due to its resilience and adaptability.
Hollands said over the past few years, larger high street lenders had taken a “slightly more specialist view”, citing examples like limited company lending.
“I don’t see the high street lenders becoming more specialist. I think there is going to always be a place for those challenger banks and new lenders to enter the market and that’s a good thing because it drives the competition, and it keeps us on our toes and makes us think about other innovative ways we can help customers,” she said.
‘We can see more people and build stronger relationships’
OSB Group recently hired three specialist managers, Ross Williams, Mo Parmar and Kevin Beale, which brought its specialist finance team to seven.
Williams focuses on the South West and has bridging and commercial experience, and Parmar’s remit is London. Beale’s area is the Midlands.
Hollands said: “We absolutely have the capacity to grow even more, but although it is quite a big jump from four to seven the team are up to speed and already making a positive impact.”
She added that the integration of the Kent Reliance for Intermediaries and Precise Mortgages sales team had gone well.
She noted that it was “already a proven concept” as her team had been dual branded for the last 18 months with Interbay and Precise Mortgages. However, she said that the brands were still separate and has their own unique selling points.
“We can impact so many more brokers, we’ve got a big sales team doing both. It just means that we can see more people and build stronger relationships.”
Sancus Group makes £10.3m loss in 2021
According to its latest results, the group reported £6.4m of operating losses relating to credit losses under IFRS9, and there was growth in operating expenses from £5.6m in 2020 to £6.2m in 2021, which reflected investment in sales and credit teams.
The loan book at year-end stood at £142m, which is down from £171m in 2020, which is due to offshore loan repayments and knock-on effect of Covid-19 on loan closures. There were £3m worth of impairments due to a review of its loan book last year.
The loan book comprises £96m in offshore markets, £29m in the UK and £17m in Ireland.
New facilities in UK and Ireland rose to £69m, a 76 per cent increase on 2021.
The group said it had seen an improvement in the quality of its loan book as the worst effects of the pandemic had reduced, but it had made £3.4m provision for the second half of the year which “draws a line under recent losses”.
Origination, loan management, funding and finance and operations
The lender said the four key pillars for its success were origination, loan management, funding and finance and operations.
On the origination side, it increased total business development heads from 8.5 to 15 over the past 15 months, and in the UK specifically it had risen from two to eight in the same period.
The report said new loan facilities written during the year had come to £80m, which is up from £50m in 2020.
Loan deployments are expected to grow from £69m at the end of 2020 to £76m in 2022, with strong growth expected in UK and Ireland, as well as its offshore business.
It added that it would put “greater emphasis on diversifying and growing [its] origination channels” to more brokers and introducers as well as using a wider range of marketing tools. It added that it had established a working group to evaluate how technology could support origination growth.
The group said its loan management priorities include maintaining high quality credit processes, standardising the loan execution process and putting more emphasis on managing loans once initial drawdown has been made as well as taking a “proactive approach” to delinquent or defaulted loans. It added it would make more investments in recruiting its loan management team.
Sancus said it wanted to grow the funding capacity of the business and work with a “diversified mix of funders”. Currently its four sources of funding are co-funders which make up the largest channel, its loan note program, institutional funders and proprietary capital.
During 2021, the loan book funded by institutional funding increased by 22 per cent with most of the UK and Irish loan book coming from this avenue.
It said it wanted to grow this channel as well as its loan notes.
On the finance and operations side, it said its own proprietary loan management systems would be further developed this year and there would be continued focus on improving corporate governance, compliance and risk.
Outlook and plan for future
Rory Mepham (pictured), chief executive of Sancus Lending, said since his appointment in June last year he had prioritised the turnaround of the group’s financial performance.
He added that 2021 was a “transitional period” for the company as it “rebranded, strengthened the management team, invested in technology and expanded [its] presence in the UK and Ireland”.
He said: “Our plan is to return the group to profitability by growing the group’s loans under management while ensuring that our credit and other processes are best in class. We will also broaden our funder base and improve funding terms.
“The business will continue to focus on expanding the group’s presence in the UK and Ireland together with rebuilding its loan book in the offshore markets of Jersey, Guernsey and Gibraltar.”
The report added that investment in assembling its team, having the right structure, implementing effective institutional management systems and technology would continue.
Mepham said: “The perennial imbalance between supply and demand for housing continues to offer a favourable landscape for the group’s anticipated growth in its target markets. Banks having retrenched from both SME and development financing further provides attractive opportunities for alternative lenders.
“We continue to track the geopolitical situation closely and note the potential for further supply chain disruption and inflationary risks in the construction sector.”
Mepham added: “The perennial imbalance between supply and demand for housing continues to offer a favourable landscape for the group’s anticipated growth in its target markets. Banks having retrenched from both SME and development financing further provides attractive opportunities for alternative lenders.
“We continue to track the geopolitical situation closely and note the potential for further supply chain disruption and inflationary risks in the construction sector.”
Recognise Bank hits £100m lending milestone in six months
The bank was granted its full banking license in September 2021, with the purpose of supporting overlooked SMEs. It combines a one-to-one personal approach with managers and cloud-based fintech to speed up loan approvals and access to funds.
Bryce Glover, chief executive at Recognise Bank (pictured) said: “Not only is this a huge lending milestone for Recognise Bank, it is also absolute proof that our digitally enabled relationship banking model works. Through our lending we have supported a wide range of growing firms – whether to acquire their own business premises or to help fund a green housing development – who otherwise would have struggled to find a bank that understood their needs and was willing to lend to them.
“The power of our relationship focus is evident in the customer satisfaction levels we’re achieving: Our net promoter scores with customers hit an average of 81 for the first quarter of 2022, well above the usual levels for the financial services sector.”
He continues: “Our next chapter is to continue helping UK SMEs, who are the lifeblood of the UK economy, but with an even greater focus on technology. We will also be accelerating our digital agenda, including improving operational and customer touchpoints, as well as developing new products and services.”
Recognise Bank is finalising plans to create an Innovation Hub that will leverage the bank’s existing technology platform and insight from working with growing businesses.
Later in April the bank plans to enter the business savings market, helping SMEs maximise the interest income potential of their cash surpluses, which is increasingly important in the current economic climate.
Smartr365 reaches £50m pre-money valuation with latest funding round
A pre-money valuation is the value of a company before it goes public or receives external investments.
Now in it’s fourth round of funding, Smartr365 confirmed that it has received over £10m to date, but did not disclose how much Legal and General invested.
The FinTech company is committed to driving the digitalisation of the UK mortgage market.
As part of this goal, it intends to use the extra funding to hire new partners and integrate Experian’s Work Report tool, which will allow users to access pay slips at source and deliver an automated income verification process for the first time. Smartr365 has been using Experian’s open banking and credit referencing services since December 2021.
Founded in 2017, the company saw early stage investment from NewModel VC and three rounds of investments from L&G. It currently has 3,500 broker clients, following growth of more than 500 per cent in 2021. It is hoping to welcome its 8000th user by the end of the year.
Conor Murphy, founder and CEO of Smartr365 and Capricorn Financial Consultancy, (pictured) said: “We have always believed that a fully automated customer journey is the future of the industry and our services are helping brokers, introducers, lenders and buyers.
“This latest investment demonstrates our strong position in the market and will propel our growth. The combined expertise and impact that Smartr365 and Legal and General have make this investment a strong strategic fit, and we are excited to integrate further capabilities into our market-leading platform.
David Lundholm, non-executive director of Smartr365 and director, new income streams of Legal and General said: “The UK mortgage market needs further innovation and transformation to benefit borrowers, brokers and lenders. We are delighted to demonstrate our continued support for Conor and the team with our additional investment.”
MFS targets £1bn loan book after securing additional funding
The lender said the funding, which comes from multiple “global financial institutions”, will be devoted towards growing its loan book across both bridging and buy-to-let mortgage products.
MFS said having multiple dedicated funding lines meant it now had the capacity to grow its loan book to a target of £1bn in the next 12 months, with large bridging loans and buy to let two being key areas of growth.
The lender said its team had doubled in size over the last year, but would be expanding further in the coming weeks. It is currently recruiting across a range of roles, including underwriters, business development managers and marketers.
MFS moved into the buy-to-let market earlier this year, to complement its bridging proposition.
Paresh Raja (pictured), CEO at MFS, said the new funding would “greatly accelerate growth” across its various product lines, particularly buy to let.
He continued: “Following a successful 2021, in which our team grew rapidly, we will now look to hire the best talent across the bridging and buy-to-let markets. In turn, we will reinforce the quality of the products and services that we deliver to brokers and private clients.
“We have bold ambitions, wanting to increase our loan book to £1bn by early 2023. We’re very confident that between our bridging, large loan and buy-to-let products, and with such strong funding lines and great personnel in place, we have all the components in place to meet and then surpass our goals.”