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All systems go

Lender profile: Guy Anker looks at how Edeus is aiming to be number one by putting brokers at the heart of its operation, creating a unique technology package and vowing to slash the time it takes from loan application to offer

Edeus was unveiled under a blaze of publicity earlier this month but the talk about its branding is over and it is time to outline its real plans.

Managing director Alan Clearly emphasises that brokers will be at the heart of the operation.
Cleary and chief executive Michael Bolton are aiming for Edeus, which is funded by the Oakwood Group, to be the market leader in terms of technology.

Cleary says: “By skipping a generation, we are not planning to enter the pack but to be number one. When we were at BM, we launched the one-minute mortgage in 2003, which meant getting decisions in 60 seconds. Here we are in 2006, with BM still the front-runner followed by GMAC and Platform.

“The rest of the market have not reacted in any great shape and the other new entrants are not doing what we are as they buy software off the shelf. We could have launched quicker but we wanted to be creative.”

The technology is a mixture of UK and US software in a bid to ensure that it cannot be copied by Edeus’ competitors.
Cleary explains: “It has been built in the UK and the US under Oakwood’s supervision. The most advanced mortgage market is the US – it is five to 10 years ahead of the UK. If you are going to build a revolution here, you have to look at other countries and you can be revolutionary without it being brand new technology.

“People will try to copy us but the reason that we have built it in the UK and the US is that you keep intellectual property rights. If you do it with just one software house, they can sell it on to anyone. This way, only the management team understands the system so no one can
sell it.”

Edeus, which will offer prime mortgages through to unlimited adverse and do buy to let and self-certification but not equity release, will sell to the whole of the intermediary market, including IFAs, brokers, mortgage clubs and a dozen packagers. Cleary cannot name the packagers yet as not all contracts have been finalised but many may wonder whether that represents a contradiction, given Bolton’s tirades against the sector.

Bolton said he had been “misunderstood” in his outbursts against packagers and that his comments were only directed against “bad packagers”.

Cleary says Edeus will slash the time it takes to get from application to offer. He says: “At the moment, it is up to 28 days with some lenders but BM and GMAC are on 10 days. We are going to slash that to within 24 hours.”

He accepts that some cases will take longer when borrowers’ circumstances are more complicated but the 24-hour promise will apply in the “vast block of cases”.

Brokers will also see additional features that aim to cut out call centres. Cleary says: “One of the strategies is to build the intermediary into the heart of the operation. Why are intermediaries any different from employees? If we want to change something for the customer, why not let the brokers do it straight without using a call centre?”

Edeus has identified five main reasons why brokers ring call centres such as changing address. Cleary says: “Why do you have to ring up for that stuff? We want to get away from that. Brokers will have access to our systems on their system but you cannot do this on day one and that will happen over time.”

Another pledge to brokers is that Edeus will not withhold information which could allow the intermediary to remortgage their client in future – a tactic used by some lenders to the dismay of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries. “The customer belongs to the broker,” says Cleary.

He stresses that Edeus will not necessarily launch on September 14, the date that it plans to be up and running. “You have to accept that if you are technology-based, you have experience of doing IT projects and things can get delayed and if we do not get systems we want on time, then we will delay it. There is no problem with that.”

Cleary insists that when fully operational, Edeus will not be chasing volume at the expense of profit. He has criticised HBOS for running “stupidly priced products” to win business and he says Edeus will not use such tactics.

He says: “We are not volume egos. We are here to run a business that makes money and we are not here to run a loss-leader.”

In a final blast at HBOS, Cleary says Edeus will have fewer barriers to creating products than in his previous experiences. “I had a product at Halifax where I attended 11 committee meetings,” he says. But soon the talking will be over and the time to deliver will come.

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