There must be readers who, like me, are transfixed and humbled by the Chilean mining story. It provokes countless emotions and the one which is consuming me most is the sheer concept of marking time.
Our industry’s travails pale by comparison but a realisation that there are no quick fixes has now surely dawned on everyone and the recent raft of economic data suggests it could be 18 months before anything resembling an active marketplace returns and that is contingent on some kind of rollover occurring with the special liquidity scheme.
This is not meant to sound defeatist, it is simply where we are. Those still practising should congratulate themselves for having got through the worst of it because we are nearer the end of the cycle than the beginning. I am counting down the months to spring 2012 and to a point at which I believe over £15bn of total monthly advances will comfortably support those intermediaries who have survived.
How do we get from the existing £11bn per month to £15bn within 18 months?
Well, there are three key events which need to occur between now and then. First there is the SLS. This has the makings of a game of blink between the Government and the lenders but I think that behind the scenes the authorities must know that some kind of continuation is unavoidable and sensible.
If public sector job losses this winter do total 500,000, then there have to be rebalancing initiatives elsewhere in the recovery plan, especially as both the ECB and the US government are maintaining support for their own zonal recoveries.
Whether it is autumn next year or spring 2012, I sense that as soon as we get that first base rate rise, then the comatose remortgage market will get a genuine shot of adrenaline because even borrowers on low SVRs will begin to take fright about a rising curve. If anything, consumers’ experiences of the last three years has inbred a greater sense of risk management.
Thirdly, I do not see some of the more ominous portents that surround the mortgage market review becoming statute. Fast-track, for instance, in a re-labelled form may well survive what is at present an ill-informed and shallow consultation process.
Another area where I am predicting that lenders could win the day is the interest-only saga. On some toxic combinations, it may become obsolete, but in the vast majority of cases, interest-only is not inappropriate.
A wise man once said that the longest distance between points A and B is time. By their very nature, brokers can be straitjacketed by extremely short-term phenomena – products change daily, property deals occur weekly and their own bills need paying monthly.
But I am afraid that we are all in an 18-month time capsule. Those that can function within that reality will emerge from it in a great shape because a £100bn intermediary market being serviced by 10,000 brokers is clearly a better place than a £230bn one which in 2006 was serviced by 30,000 brokers.
Kevin Duffy is managing director of Mortgageforce