At the recent AMI dinner, the focus was on the wider housing sector and the emerging role of Europe in shaping regulation of the mortgage market.
The presence of the cabinet minister with responsibility for housing, Eric Pickles, underlined the growing spotlight on our industry.
He voiced the need for a focus on housing and warmly endorsed the work of brokers. The main messages from the European Commission directorate general internal market’s Jennifer Robertson were the need to create more cross-border competition and to raise professional standards and knowledge to ensure better consumer outcomes. These are already established UK principles.
The AMI set out the view that most UK citizens still want to own their own home and that contributes to a better society. Additionally, a high-quality private rental sector funded through buy-to-let will be essential to cope with the ever-growing demand for homes.
Following these messages of the need for action, we are now faced with a further delay in under-standing current FSA thinking and the move to final rules, as the mortgage market review has been moved back again.
This should allow more consistency with the direction of travel from Europe but means firms continue to battle against uncertainty.
Our European rulers have a harder job in not just managing the competing assertions of consumers, lenders and intermediaries but replicating these across 27 member states. Without a voice and presence in Brussels in the coming months and years, we risk failing to deal with the new decision-making power base.
Of particular benefit has been the way in which the trade bodies have come together to agree common ground on issues as far as possible. To have the CML, Imla, BSA, BBA, FLA and AMI all in a room agreeing our positions, makes us a stronger, more sensible industry that politicians and regulators are more likely to believe in and trust.
The last year has been testament to the resilience of mortgage brokers, who have adapted and reinvigorated their businesses, keeping market share, proving their value to consumers, proving lenders need and want them and increasing their quality, knowledge and professionalism.
As we move towards new EU regulation and the MMR changes, we must ensure a level playing field for all. We need a robust individual registration scheme covering all industry players to drive rogues from our market and limit the risks of fraud.
We want advice to become the norm for customers looking for a mortgage. We respect the right of consumers who choose to go direct but it should be a conscious decision, not one based around ignorance of the help, protection and benefits that using an intermediary will bring. AMI believes in supporting these outcomes.
Robert Sinclair is director of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries