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Credit that&#39s just one minute away

Abbey National is counting on intermediaries embracing the internet and has invested £5m in developing a mortgage-introducer internet service.

While not ignoring the direct approach, Abbey is hoping a direct link with intermediaries for mortgage applications will strengthen its position as a major player.

The site aims to remove the hassle for intermediaries and consumers applying for a mortgage.

It is seeking to simplify the application process and reduce the time involved.

Also, in an effort to reflect the unconventional working hours of an intermediary, the site will be open from 8am to 10pm Mondays to Saturdays and 10am to 4pm on Sundays.

Abbey has modified the traditional application survey so customers do not have to answer questions that are irrelevant to their needs. This “dynamic questioning” system assesses consumer responses to find the next set of appropriate questions.

Head of retail intermediary e-commerce development Neville Sharman says: “The system gets rid of the need for unnecessary questions. It can determine all the data it needs to make a decision and with a lot fewer questions.”

Once the system has all the information it needs, intermediaries are invited to go ahead with the credit check.

Abbey says it will provide a fully credit-checked agreement in principle for mortgage applications within 60 seconds.

Sharman says, unlike other lenders giving agreements in principle online, its system is entirely electronic and does not require any manual back- office support, which is why it can boast such a fast turnaround on decisions.

There will, however, be cases where a 60-second response is not possible, the most common reason being the credit check not being able to locate the consumers address, and Sharman says there is a contingency plan for these instances.

An underwriting referral team will be available during the full opening hours of the site. This team will automatically be notified of any referred applications and have to inform the intermediary of their decision within an hour.

Sharman says the underwriters are able to make these decisions by assess-ing the data they have and sourcing other information within Abbey&#39s credit-scoring system.

He says: “Our underwriters are equipped and experienced to make such decisions and we feel very confident we can react within an hour. The system has been set up to deal with a vast majority of problems and so very few will end up being referred.”

Abbey is hoping this system will cut down on paperwork for intermediaries. Once an agreement in principle is given, mortgage applications can be printed out with the consumer data already filled in. The system will also retain the customer agreement details for 60 days so intermediaries will not have to go through the process again if their clients want time to consider the offer.

If the details of the application are changed within 60 days, the application will have to be registered again, but the details of the credit search are retained so the process is not repeated.

Abbey says the site is designed to be user-friendly. There is an explanation link next to every question and any requests outside Abb-ey&#39s lending policy will be identified.

The site is not expecting users to be internet-savvy and Sharman says it has been called the “Fisher Price” of mortgage applications.

According to Sharman the site has been developed following requests by intermediaries for total automation of mortgage applications and instant decisions.

It has also launched a real-time tracker service to give intermediaries up to date details from the initial application to completion.

Sharman says the system is fully live – as soon as the information is on the system, intermediaries will be able to access it.

Abbeys hope the site will give IFAs the ability to quickly access information when they need to. Intermediaries will be able to provide quick answers to client questions and this could improve their client relationship.

Any intermediary registered under the mortgage code ca
n apply for free registration and Sharman says they are very pleased with the response received since the October 9 launch.

Abbey plans to continue improving the site and is adopting the same approach to submitting online mortgage applications – its fingers are crossed now that this approach is successful.

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