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Lenders do their homework

Most lenders would agree over half their lending is curren tly generated by the intermediary sector and it would be a brave commentator who would suggest this trend will change over the next few years.

Lenders which have recognised the importance of this distribution sector to their overall business strategy have made huge investments in improving the processes and services they offer intermediaries. As an industry, we must strive to make it easier for the intermediary to deal with us.

Yes, we are trying to ensure we each achieve at least our natural market share but this is not the only factor to take into account. The benefits of creating and sustaining good intermediary relationships should not be underestimated.

Lenders are listening to what intermediaries have to say. Dedicated processing teams are springing up around the country. Most lenders now offer fast-track processing, guaranteed turn-round times and systems offering an answer in minutes or even seconds.

The advantages of electronic trading and increased use of the internet are drummed into us in our day-to-day operations but I am sure those of us in the mortgage market would agree these have not yet delivered their full potential. But lenders and intermediaries should be aware that this will happen. Enlightened lenders are already building IFAs&#39 requirements into new systems developments.

We all know meeting client needs is not just about getting the best rate. Lenders realise they could offer the lowest rate on the market but, if dealing with the lender was a living hell of unanswered calls, inexplicable rejections and inefficient processing, IFAs would go elsewhere. Frankly, they would be right to.

As a result, lenders have sharpened up their act and have a real incentive to go the extra mile.

Mainstream lenders are having to respond to the new economic and employment environment and, challenged by the specialist sub-prime lenders, we now offer a wider range of products for your clients and a more commercial view to underwriting issues.

Some, including Leeds & Holbeck, now use credit scoring only as an aid to underwriting and not as a decision-making tool. Prudence is still achieved by the use of sophisticated decision trees built into our systems. We have a responsibility to provide intermediaries with a clear and consistent decision-making process. We do not want to waste your time, your clients&#39 time or ours.

Lenders should recognise communication is the most important factor in building relationships. If there is a problem, you need to know what it is. You need to know which lenders will work with you and give you access to their underwriters because, let&#39s face it, these are the ones you will use again.

As well as providing the service and support deserved by key business partners, we recognise there are other factors in the equation. The provision of exclusive products for your clients and realistic procuration fees are areas lenders ignore at their peril.

But it is not just about the money. It is also whether fees are paid in a reasonable timescale and queries sorted out with minimum fuss.

Continuing improvements by lenders towards meeting the needs of intermediaries should not just be about grabbing market share. It is about creating and sustaining a two-way relationship which can produce incremental business levels for both of us.

The demands of intermediaries force lenders to look at their systems to see whether there is room for improvement. By listening to you, we can improve our relationship with you and any resulting changes are likely to benefit the business as a whole. You can provide us with valuable feedback on which products are popular in marketplace, which are hard to sell and whether clients are demanding fixed rates or discounts. This helps us improve our product range.

A wise lender sees improvements to the services and processes it offers to the intermediary market as a sound investment for the future.

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