Brokers urged to gear up for almost £40bn of remortgaging in January
October is the biggest month of 2021 for remortgage maturities, with £38.9bn of business up for renewal according to research company CACI.
But January will exceed that, with £39.6bn of remortgage business expected to mature with 2022 forecast to be “one of the biggest product cessation years for a long time”.
Brokers are being warned to make sure their client contact strategies are in full swing so they do not lose out to mortgage lenders that contact their borrowers up to six months ahead of the product term ending.
Analysis of Financial Conduct Authority data last year found that mortgage brokers lose 60 per cent of their clients to direct lender channels when they remortgage.
Alex Beavis, mortgage and later life lending propositions director, Sesame Bankhall Group, said: “After over a year of managing through a purchase boom, the next four months present a significant refinancing opportunity for advisers.
“As the legacy of Covid endures, many clients will find their circumstances significantly altered by the pandemic – increasing the need for advice. Work the back book early and look beyond product transfers where circumstances allow. There are some excellent low loan to value remortgage rates and many clients may want further funding for home improvements and renovations. A good client contact strategy in the run up to maturity is key.”
Martin Reynolds, chief executive, SimplyBiz Mortgages, said: “2022 is one of the biggest product cessation years for a long time, with January being one of the biggest months of the year.
“We are now in October so have all those customers who can move in January been contacted by their broker?
“We know that lenders have a duty to contact the customers, but we need to ensure that when that letter arrives the first thing they do is call their broker. We have all seen the statistics around customer retention at the end of a product term and we can improve on this. The number of technology support solutions now around to help means this level of remortgage business is a positive, perfect storm to make 2022 the best year yet for the intermediary market.”
Sesame Bankhall Group embeds wellness policies for all-time post-pandemic – NatWest video debate
In the third in a series of four videos entitled ‘Making mental health and inclusivity working practices in the mortgage advice market’, Golunska detailed a raft of policies the firm introduced during the pandemic and confirmed it will keep in place now.
“We’ve introduced SBG wellness champions who are volunteers from all parts of the business who are raising awareness of workplace challenges particularly during lockdown. One of those areas was home working, so whilst it’s been seen as really beneficial for some it’s also been really challenging for others, who haven’t got the space or ability to work without interruption at home,” said Golunska.
The SBG boss said this issue became even more key during the home schooling part of the lockdown and after asking parents and carers what they needed then offered paid leave to those in that category.
Golunska said the firm also set up a ‘Let’s Talk’ platform of events allowing people to share thoughts on inclusivity and workplace challenges with external and specialist speakers keen to educate on some of those topics.
She suggested firms make sure they signpost wellbeing on their web pages and that they regularly reach out to employees via surveys and temperature checks, making sure they include senior leaders in these efforts. The group also launched a free service for its network members provided by a professional support organisation called Care First offering a 24 hour a day helpline offering counselling, advice and referrals.
“It’s okay not to feel okay all the time,” she said.
“Particularly difficult for me was when we first went into lock down and I was separated from my children who live away from me who I see regularly normally and I wasn’t able to meet up with.”
Watch out for the fourth and final part of this series going live on Wednesday 25 August, in association with NatWest Bank.
With thanks to our panel guests:
Michele Golunska, CEO at Sesame Bankhall Group, (SBG)
Martin Reynolds, chief executive of Simplybiz Mortgages,
Alan Ferguson, senior corporate account, manager at NatWest,
Harpreet Butoy, wellbeing and inclusion champion at NatWest
Brokers should use social media and websites to attract internet-reliant customers – Pepper Money
A survey by Pepper Money found that while 55 per cent of people asked family and friends for mortgage broker referrals in autumn, that number dropped to 37 per cent in March this year.
Meanwhile, searching for brokers online had become the preferred way to find advice, cited by 56 per cent of respondents.
Speaking on a video debate in association with Pepper Money, Stephanie Charman, head of strategic relationships, lender at Sesame Bankhall Group said: “We have become a nation potentially that defaults to online before anything else.”
She also said people probably preferred to speak to brokers already armed with information.
Charman added: “You’ve also got younger generations that actually want to have an informed conversation but want to do their own research first.
“So, they’re going into that conversation, that discussion, possibly with a mortgage broker prepared and more aware of some of the solutions that are on offer.”
“Customers are going to use online research and the web is a default position. Make sure that your website talks about everything that you do. If you’ve got referral arrangement in place, mention those too,” she said.
Watch the video below [9:52], chaired by Victoria Hartley, group editor of Mortgage Solutions, featuring Paul Adams, sales director, Pepper Money; Stephanie Charman, head of strategic relationships, lender, Sesame Bankhall Group and Danny Belton, head of lender relationships, L&G Mortgage Club.
EWS1 lender requests still a ‘grey area’ and ‘mess’ despite updated RICS guidance – analysis
Some lenders stand by the belief a form is needed in order for them to lend, although guidance issued by RICS in March said they would not be required for buildings taller than 18 metres with a valid building control certificate.
Properties which are five or six storeys tall with either no visible cladding or cladding that covers less than a quarter of the building are also exempt, according to the guidance.
However, government advice issued to building owners in January last year states properties of any height need to be assessed for the presence of cladding. This means there is no certainty regarding the safety of buildings which have not yet gone through the process.
Additionally, RICS’ recommendations do not validate buildings which appear to be built by stones or bricks but in fact, have a brick or stone slip external wall system which includes cladding. The possibility of combustible materials being used in decorative panels between floors and walls is also uncertain without an inspection.
Remediation costs can potentially affect the value of a property as well, so RICS acknowledges that “lenders are unlikely to lend until remedial work has been completed, but some may choose to do so with retentions and the like based on their own risk appetite”.
Although lenders are encouraged to adopt RICS’ proportionate guidance to lessen the number of requests for an EWS1 form, UK Finance also admits “this is a decision for each lender to make based on their own risk appetite”.
As a result, the final judgement on whether a form is required ultimately lies with lenders and brokers are having a tough time trying to influence opinions.
Nicola Schutrups, managing director of The Mortgage Hut, said her firm’s attempts to overturn EWS1 form decisions had been unyielding.
She said: “We have had a client who we put in an application for with Halifax and we’d already completed on a couple of properties within the same development using the EWS1 form.
“But then, the particular surveyor on this case wouldn’t accept the EWS1 form that had already been used on other properties within the same block.”
There was no way around the decision even after going through the business development manager (BDM), Schutrups said. The client ended up paying for a new form as the developer refused to issue another one, as other properties had completed using the existing document.
“It’s just a bit of a grey area, who’s responsibility it is. The freeholder is obviously trying not to spend money. It’s the leaseholder who’s normally desperate to sell the property and it’s our client who’s trying to buy.
“So, we have seen some cases where the client ends up paying and then some where the leaseholder has tried to get it done but then has restrictions because obviously, it’s on the whole property. So, it’s all just been a bit of a mess,” she added.
Jane King, director and mortgage adviser at Ash Ridge, also tried to challenge the decision made on a property under 18 metres. She was told it was “standard practice for [the lender] to request the form in respect of wall insulation materials and nothing to do with cladding”.
RICS guidances also suggests forms may be requested for buildings under 18 metres as properties of four storeys or fewer may have the “most dangerous types of cladding present”.
Managing partner at Boon Brokers, Gerard Boon’s attempts have also been futile and resulting in rejections for cases where a form has not been produced.
“The lenders that have declined our cases for that reason are adamant that from their interpretation of the legislation around EWS1 forms, it is a requirement in order for them to lend,” he added.
Some lenders such as Santander are taking a more flexible approach, he said, and instead are asking building managers a series of questions around the construction of properties so they can proceed with that knowledge.
“There are very few lenders in the market that currently share this policy with Santander,” he said.
Stephanie Charman, head of strategic relationships, lender at Sesame Bankhall Group, said assistance could be available through network and club helpdesks.
She said Sesame’s lender relationship team was able to support brokers by using the “strength and breadth” of its relationships to get involved where EWS1 forms were being requested unnecessarily.
Charman said: “We have an established process for adviser and customer cases that require escalation to lenders, regardless of the issue. In the case of a EWS1 form, the process would involve discussing the detail of the property with the adviser, along with the reason why they feel the EWS1 form is not required.
“Before approaching the lender, we would do additional checks against the RICS guidance and individual lender criteria. We would then escalate the case through our lender relationship team, with a view to addressing the adviser’s concerns, requesting that the case is reviewed based on the reasons why we feel the form is not required.”
She added: “We sometimes find that there’s information the adviser has not been made aware of, which has impacted on the lender or valuer’s decision. We’re not always able to overturn a lender’s decision, but we’ll endeavour to support the adviser and their customer to get the right outcome for all parties.”
She also pointed to RICS’ ‘frequently asked’ section on its website, saying advisers and borrowers can find more information on what kinds of properties would require EWS1 forms and clarify why some decisions might be made.
“Whilst lenders have now adopted this new guidance, there can be instances where confusion might still arise on some properties,” she added.
Intermediaries can lead in push to remove stigma around adverse credit – Pepper Money
Speaking on a video debate hosted by Mortgage Solutions, in partnership with Pepper Money, the mortgage club’s head of lender relationships said customers researched options online and panicked when calculators showed they would be rejected for a mortgage.
Pepper Money’s recent adverse credit study found that while 52 per cent of adults wanting to purchase a home in the next year were worried about being rejected for a mortgage, just six per cent of those who actually applied were turned down.
Belton said: “I generally think there is a role for intermediaries to become more visible. And be more visible in channels that customers actually use on a regular basis. Whether that be the likes of Facebook or other social medias.”
He said people would usually speak to family and friends about their credit worries and then be referred to mortgage brokers who could help. However, with people being less connected due to the pandemic, Belton suggested brokers position themselves on online platforms where concerned clients may be.
“I do believe online channels are the first port of call. This then leads to brokers having good quality websites,” he added.
He said updated web systems also helped brokers to keep in touch with existing customers who may have had a change in circumstances by asking them how they were and if they needed help.
Paul Adams, sales director at Pepper Money, acknowledged there was a lack of understanding amongst consumers.
“It’s the very reason why we do the adverse credit study. We want to promote this by social media channels, we take it to the national press as well for coverage.
“It’s a perception gap. People are very embarrassed to talk about credit issues,” he added.
Watch the video below [6:38], chaired by Victoria Hartley, group editor of Mortgage Solutions, featuring Paul Adams, sales director, Pepper Money; Stephanie Charman, head of strategic relationships, lender, Sesame Bankhall Group and Danny Belton, head of lender relationships, L&G Mortgage Club.
Sesame Bankhall hires propositions director; Mojo appoints mortgages director
In the new role, he will spearhead the growth of the group’s wealth, protection, later life and mortgage services to its directly authorised firms and mortgage network advisers. He will start on 7 June and report to CEO Michele Golunska.
Ross will manage the propositions team, which includes Emma Thomson as its head of protection and general insurance propositions, along with Alex Beavis as mortgage and later life lending propositions director. They will also both join the company in June.
He was most recently director of financial planning proposition at Charles Stanley & Co for just over two years.
Before that he worked at 1825 Financial Planning for around four years, initially as head of proposition delivery for around two years and then as head of business readiness for nearly two years.
Michele Golunska, chief executive of Sesame Bankhall Group said: “Craig is a senior figure with an excellent track record in the design and build of new products and business services for advisory firms.
“Craig’s in-depth financial planning knowledge will be hugely beneficial in his new role leading our propositions team, who will help to deliver an exciting new range of market-leading investment, protection, and mortgage services.”
Mojo hires new director of mortgages
Online mortgage broker Mojo Mortgages has appointed Habito’s vice president of operations Cassie Stephenson (pictured) as its new director of mortgages.
The broker is looking to increase its mortgage adviser team to 50 mortgage advisers in the next 12 months as enquiries to its site and submissions nearly doubled during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic levels. The team currently has 20 mortgage advisers along with a separate applications and customer service department.
Stephenson was vice president of operations at rival online mortgage broker Habito for nearly three years and before that she worked at Atom Bank as an intermediary support manager for residential mortgages operation for nearly four years.
She has also held senior roles at Tesco Bank and Lloyds Banking Group.
Mojo Mortgages CEO and co-founder Richard Hayes said: “Cassie’s appointment will play a pivotal role in the future of Mojo as we continue to revolutionise the way consumers access mortgages, advice and information to an industry that still continues to baffle many people.
“We want to help customers to fully understand the process and become more financially confident by empowering them to learn more about mortgages and, of course, find the best deal for them. Not only for those that come to us, but across the wider industry.”
‘Mental health will become a bigger part of the conversation going forward’ – One to One with Sesame’s Michele Golunska
VH: What evidence have you seen at Sesame that mortgage brokers are under strain/have been more stressed than usual during the pandemic?
Michele Golunska: In response to the pandemic, we saw an increase in calls to our helpdesk from brokers asking for assistance. This covered a wide range of needs, from understanding changes in government support to helping brokers navigate their way through the high level of changes in product criteria and affordability that were taking place. This was in addition to other information we were gathering, such as product providers telling us about an increasing number of customer claims due to mental health issues, with more people suffering from higher levels of anxiety and stress through this challenging period.
What this was telling us is that if more of our customers are dealing with mental health issues, then it’s likely that more mortgage brokers will be dealing with these same issues too. Health and wellbeing, home schooling, social restrictions, worries about cashflow and workplace issues – are all things that can lead to increased levels of anxiety. Some of these issues might only be short term, but it will still have an impact.
VH: As a company, what have you done to help deal with the stress or ease the situation?
To help firms trade safely and look after their staff and customers through the pandemic, Sesame Bankhall Group launched its Covid-19 Adviser Support Hub in March 2020 to provide advisers with a wide range of practical information and useful tools. The first thing we wanted advisers to focus on was their personal wellbeing and this was therefore the first section on the Hub. It contains hints and tips to help advisers and their customers to stay healthy – both physically and mentally. This includes support articles, guides, and resources to help advisers and their customers to feel more at ease about the uncertainty created by the pandemic.
The success of the Hub exceeded our expectations and led to the development of a follow-up Bounce Back Hub, which was launched in May 2020. Both hubs have so far been viewed over 40,000 times by advisers from across the financial services industry. As a result of this success and the adviser engagement it’s created, a decision has been taken to integrate this content and the topics covered into future adviser support activity. This will ensure there’s a continuing presence and home for this valuable content.
VH: How much obligation do you feel to support your brokers?
We feel that we have a duty and responsibility to raise awareness of the challenges brokers face on a day-to-day basis, many of which were amplified during the pandemic. Attitudes in society have undoubtedly changed to a point where mental health is viewed by many in the same way that they see a physical impairment. Something that needs to be understood and treated, rather than ignored. And certainly not something that’s seen as a sign of weakness. Coronavirus and the period we’re living through has brought all of this into sharper focus by heightening the issues that were already there. At Sesame Bankhall Group we’ve ensured that brokers have access to the right support when required, and that’s something we’ve been working hard to put in place through various initiatives.
VH: Have there been any cases where you felt the need to refer them for help or extra support?
In April 2020, we took steps to enhance our health and wellbeing support for our Sesame members. We funded the cost of member support services with the specialist independent provider Care first. This is an assistance service that our group already offers to all our employees. This move provided our members with personal access to helpful material, along with a team of professionally qualified counsellors who offer expert health and wellbeing support.
The initiative with Care first was just one part of a much wider package of support. We’ve worked closely with advisers throughout the last year, circulating information on financial support packages, and running working groups and clinics to understand the common root causes of anxiety and stress within our member and client base. This includes detailed work with some of our member firms to understand their business solvency and key financial triggers, assisting with the creation of action plans to improve the financial resilience of their firm.
We’ve also run sessions with advisers supporting several key topics which bring out struggles connected to mental health. For example, hosting an industry session for women that included a discussion about the menopause. This reflects our view about the importance of supporting and contributing to the sharing of lived experiences.
We’ve also bolstered our support for advisers in areas such as vulnerable customers. This issue was already high up on the industry’s agenda, but it’s been heightened further by the Covid-19 pandemic. The impact of the crisis has pushed more people into the potentially vulnerable category. It means that an adviser’s role in making sure that clients make the right long-term financial decisions is more important than ever. It also serves to highlight the steps that advisory firms need to take to ensure that both their customers and their business are protected.
VH: In a partnership/business arrangement like the one Sesame has with its ARs, what part does mental health play?
A higher level of mental health claims tells us that more people in society are suffering. It’s therefore about people feeling comfortable talking about these issues. Financial advisers are just one business community amongst many in the UK, who have the same personal and business concerns as everyone else. However, what’s significant is that advisers are looking after their customers too through, and as we emerge from, this challenging time. More advisers have worked remotely due to the coronavirus crisis, posing initial challenges but also opportunities for how advisory firms operate. It’s very important to get the balance right to ensure advisers take care of themselves and their clients, as well as continuing to trade safely as a business.
Across our industry and society in general, the desire to understand the issues and challenges around mental health has developed significantly. This includes recognition of heightened skills and the creation of safe environments to deal with these delicate issues, which help to open-up conversations rather than close them down. Only by understanding some of these issues better can we provide educated insight, skills and resources that are required to help people access the assistance they need. The one thing we know for certain is that mental health will become a bigger part of the conversation going forward – between all of us.
Sesame Bankhall Group launches six-strong specialist lending master broker panel
The master brokers are 3mc, Brightstar, Crystal Specialist Finance, Impact Specialist Finance, Positive Lending and Watts Commercial.
The panel lets brokers access a wide range of first and second charge mortgages, alongside commercial and bridging finance.
The master broker partners will provide comprehensive support from customer referrals through to packaging complex applications.
The panel has been designed to provide greater choice, bearing in mind the growing numbers of diverse and specialist cases that brokers are encountering.
Stephanie Charman, head of strategic relationships, lender, at Sesame Bankhall Group (pictured), said: “The demand for specialist lending continues to grow as people’s circumstances become ever-more complex. This trend has steadily increased over the past year, due to the impact of Covid-19, making the launch of our new panel of leading master brokers very timely.
“We undertook a comprehensive review of the market and partnered with master brokers who will help PMS and Sesame members to cater for each client’s individual needs, no matter how complex or unusual,” she said.
PMS and Sesame members can already access referral services for equity release from Age Partnership and Key Partnerships, and for self-build packaging from Buildloan.
Skipton’s Alex Beavis to head up SBG’s mortgage and later life division
Beavis has worked for the mutual for eight years and will take on his newly created role on 14 June.
He will be tasked with overseeing development and growth of new services for advisers within the mortgage, protection and wealth markets.
Beavis will work along side Emma Thomson, who was appointed as head of protection and general insurance propositions last month. They will both report to the the group’s new propositions director who will be announced in the coming weeks.
Michele Golunska, chief executive of Sesame Bankhall Group said: “Our group facilitated over £40bn of mortgages last year, giving us a strong market position, however we aim to broaden our range of services and further expand our support.
“Our new propositions team will be key to this, by helping to develop the next generation of services for PMS Mortgage Club, Sesame, and Bankhall members.”
She added: “I’m delighted that Alex will be part of this important work. As an award-winning business leader, Alex has strong industry credentials and a proven track record in the development and delivery of innovative customer-focused mortgage products and propositions.
“Alex will be another welcome addition to our growing and talented team.”
Beavis (pictured) said: “It’s an exciting time and I’m looking forward to helping the group and its members to profit through the delivery of valuable new adviser services that enhance customer experience.”
DIFF podcast: Journey to diversity and inclusion is a relay not a sprint
Michele Golunska, chief executive of Sesame Bankhall Group, said: “If this was a race, it’s not a 200m sprint where you say ‘okay that’s what we’re going to do, I’ll do this and hit the targets’. It’s a relay. Everyone in your business will hand the baton through.
“If this starts from the top down or bottom up or through the organisation, this has to be something that’s understood. You have to constantly keep going at this,” she added.
Golunska said she had seen a focus on gender and sexual diversity both at her current role and while she was at Aviva but noticed there was not sufficient data on the representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees.
The network had since begun a survey to address this, but Golunska said she suspected that as a business it was not alone in having a lack of data.
Pete Gwilliam, owner of mortgage industry recruitment agency Virtus Search agreed and said the Women in Finance Charter had helped to change the culture towards female employees in the sector.
However, to address racial inclusion he said the industry needed to push into a “much deeper cultural change to get BAME representation at the levels that national demographics suggest we should be aspiring to”.
Golunksa added: “As a sector and an employer and commercially we need to reflect the society we serve and understand their wants and needs.
“And that includes the wants and needs of people who work for us and giving them the opportunity to develop and progress and I’m passionate about levelling that playing field.”
Modernise recruitment techniques
Gwilliam said the industry needed to update and challenge the ways it usually looked for new recruits.
He said the industry should “broaden, widen, deepen how we source and actually concentrate on skills and lived experiences, rather than necessary aspects to people’s backgrounds that we just feel comfortable with because we’ve seen that before”.
Golunska said setting targets for increasing the numbers of diverse staff could be helpful.
“In the normal course of running a business, you would have targets and that gives you an ability for you and your team to focus on the important things,” she added.
However, she said businesses needed to use their own performance to address shortcomings and investigate why employees might leave the business to see if there was a incompatibility with the company culture.
When asked if fears over using the wrong terms prevented discussions around diversity altogether, Gwilliam said people should be more vulnerable in accepting that mistakes will be made.
He said: “Asking yourself the question ‘am I inclusive?’ most people by default think that they are. We don’t really ever examine it objectively and I think it’s really important that we’re all able to be open enough, vulnerable enough, prepared enough to ask ourselves, ‘really? Is that inclusive enough?’
“Only by accepting that you’ll trip over slightly the wrong use of language and make the odd confused acronym – those things are going to happen but we shouldn’t lose sight of if the intention is good.”
Golunska added: “We need to be forgiving where people are desperately trying to understand and educate themselves.”