Which?’s move into mortgage advice sits very uncomfortably with the organisation’s role as an independent assessor of financial services products and services.
The service launches later this month to Which? members and their friends and family and will offer whole of market advice, including direct-only deals. Which? says it is launching the service as its members say they are unsure where to find impartial and trusted mortgage advice.
We suggest there are plenty of impartial and trusted sources of mortgage advice around and perhaps it would be more productive for Which? to highlight examples of good practice rather than launch its own mortgage adviser.
Alarm bells always ring when an organisation resorts to attacking the rest of the industry as a way of promoting its own offering.
Which? advisers will be paid on a salary basis to offer a whole of market service which includes direct deals and Which? will be taking any procuration fees paid by lenders. The concept is hardly revolutionary.
A recent broker census by Money Marketing’s sister title Mortgage Strategy found that around two-thirds of mortgage brokers say they charge fees for their services alongside other methods of remuneration and many brokers have a strategy for advising on direct deals. The vast majority of mortgage brokers source the best deals for their clients irrespective of the size of the proc fee and to imply otherwise is pretty insulting.
As we have seen many times in the past, a salaried workforce by no means guarantees a decent service.
Some commentators have welcomed Which?’s move into mortgage advice, suggesting that at least it promotes the concept of advice. But it is hard to see how promoting its service through comments alluding to the fact that the rest of the industry cannot be trusted does advisers any favours.
By launching a regulated mortgage advice service, Which? has stepped over a line and is now a competitor of some of the firms that Which? members expect the organisation to offer an independent judgement on.
No doubt, the rest of the industry will be keeping a very close eye on how the service progresses. It would be fair to expect that a few advisers will be returning the favour of Which? mystery-shopping exercises with a bit of mystery-shopping of their own.