On the product front, I know that a number of lenders are working hard on the two big issues. The first is a real solution to equity release. Bank of Scotland and, latterly, Barclays and Northern Rock showed there is fantastic potential demand for the release of equ ity for our ageing population. It wouldn't surprise me if Standard Life gets there first again.
The bigger challenge is to produce affordable support for key workers and first-time buyers in London and the South-east. A significant market awaits the lenders intelligent enough to come up with the right solution in 2001.
Standard variable rates will slowly start to wither on the vine as more lenders follow the intelligent lead of the Portman in supporting their new business offers with tracker-style offerings during the residue period. The big issue here is what Halifax does with its SVR.
The impact of the new regulatory regime will be very significant. With lenders effectively charged with regulating intermediaries, the existing pressures for consolidation in mortgage intermediation will grow. Expect to see significantly greater proportion of this market taken by the leading players, Charcol, Savills Private Finance and London & Country.
A number of the pure dot.com players in our market will disappear. But, the whole market will benefit because of the pressure that the internet market is exerting for a true online community between lenders and intermediaries. A series of fragmented initiatives will start bearing fruit.
It is going to be an exciting place to be this year.