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HBOS is the best in show

The Midland Bank was once regarded as the Listening Bank but today it can be applied more deservingly to HBOS which is winning graciously and seems unencumbered by arrogance, vanity or complacency.

Strategic presentations to intermediaries last week were consultative and enlightening. Ninety minutes of corporate messaging but then 300 minutes of soliciting feedback. How many other lenders poll their distribution partners in such a fashion?

In the main, we liked what we heard. A willingness to help the firsttime buyer as well as the property landlord, continued investment in technology and a concerted wish not only to give intermediaries a voice but also user-friendly choices across product matrices, including general insurance.

Probably its greatest achievement is that it recognised about three years ago that the intermediary and direct channels are not mutually exclusive. The talk in 2003 was that HBOS was looking at building up its highstreet proposition. Some of its peer group stuck their heads in the sand and hoped that 60-40 did not become 70-30 but it has and some of these competitors are now having to abseil down from their ivory towers.

Where can it improve ? In a near 30bn buy-to-let market we need more help with valuation and rental yield assessments. Colleys’ Brian Abram is right to insist on brokers acting in a prompt and fully transparent fashion when newbuild loan solutions are first sought and, to assist this, I would like to see Colleys develop an industry-authoratative best practice document for brokers outlining a procedure and behaviour code.

Elsewhere in its garden, HBOS just has a touch of topiary to do. BM Solutions’ latest catalogue of Go John/Dave has not met its high standards. One broker pictured looks like a Neanderthal, which is not universally representative. I would also like to see some flexible two-year fixed rates. There is an agenda in parts of our industry to abolish conventional two-year fixtures which are seen as churninducing . Funny , I thought that giving consumers affordable product choices was what TCF is all about?

HBOS’s garden is a winner . It is best in show in so many categories that it is difficult seeing anyone humbling it next year – which, ironically, is not what us intermediaries really want, is it?


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