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Mortgage Express delivery

Mortgage Express managing director Tim Dawson has been celebrating the 10th birthday (of sorts) of the specialist lending arm of Bradford & Bingley.

MEX is based in Barnet, North London and Dawson joined the firm on January 1 1990 as financial director which maksesMEX somewhat older than 10.

Dawson explains: “MEX went through a number of problems because of a major system change. Coupled with problems in the property market, an arrears’ problem emerged and we closed to new business in April 1991. The official relaunch of MEX was in September 1995, hence the 10TH anniversary.”

Bradford & Bingley bought MEX in 1997 with a commit-ment to enhancing management operations and funding. From 1997, the specialist lender has grown to be one of the leaders in self-cert, lifetime mortgages and buy to let, predominantly through intermediaries. It is owned by the 10th-biggest lender in the UK.

Dawson says: “The problems in 1991 were probably one of the lowest points of our history. You have got to continue to motivate staff and train those people who have been moved out of their roles into other roles as a result of closing down to new business.”

The gloomy days have been balanced with successes. Dawson says one of the highlights came in 1996. He says: “We applied for the UK quality awards from the British Quality Foundation and were runners-up in 1995 and won it in 1996. For a company that was out of the market in 1991 to win a prestigious award and be one of the first financial services companies to do so was a great feeling.”

But MEX is having to deal with its own service issues again. A software update in August caused a fault, making the system unavailable to buy-to-let cases. MEX has been inundated with paper applications and phone calls, jamming the service centre despite having extended its phone operation hours. The online system is running again now for brokers but the backlog is causing headaches.

Dawson says: “The knock-on effects of this is not on the mortgage offers but the processing. The level of phone calls has gone up by 100 per cent while the phone service has gone down materially. I doubt that this will get back to normal before the end of October.” He maintains that MEX is committed to getting services back up to scratch.

Developments in its core areas still continue. MEX’s lifetime mortgage range was launched in 2003 and in a year achieved 36 per cent of the intermediary lifetime market.

Since then, MEX has been working with lifetime mortgage competitor Northern Rock and the Council of Mortgage Lenders on an equity-release guide. There are plans to look at the equity-release process to see whether there needs to be another step of confirmation, to add protection to the client and the intermediary. MEX will also be stepping up its equity-release roadshows.

In June, MEX cut its lifetime mortgage fixed rate from 6.89 per cent to 6.64 per cent and expects the market to grow by 30 per cent this year.

Another area of the market that MEX expects to continue growing is buy to let. Dawson says: “Landlords are much more objective and less emotional than some of the reports we read. Our success is down to the fact that buy to let is not a niche product. We treat it as part of our core product range. Other lenders do not give it the focus and attention that we do.”

The demographic make-up in the UK is spurring self-cert business which makes up 20 per cent of MEX’s business.

MEX recently launched new BTL deals with all fixed products ending in September extended to December. Additionally, two three-year fixed-rate buy to let deals have been launched to intermediaries at 5.24 per cent and 5.74 per cent.

As for the next 10 years, Dawson is keen to continue the evolution of the business. He recently lost head of sales Cammy Amaira to Ge Home Finance. Amaira was a well respected figure at MEX and spent seven years there.

He says: “We plan to continue to dominate the specialist lending markets. We are currently the leading buy-to-let lender and plan to remain so. We also intend to remain a major player in our other specialist markets such as lifetime and self-cert.” August brought an early birthday present for the firm with record business volumes for MEX and Dawson is looking for many happy returns over the next 10 years.


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