As the current chairman of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, you could say that things are never dull.
Imla recently held its inaugural Great Mortgage Debate with a panel representing intermediary lenders, direct lenders, brokers, consumers and the consumer press, which was followed by the annual dinner.
It was one of those days that really cemented the optimism and camaraderie in the intermediary community and had me reflecting on just how far we have come in 2013, never mind since the dark days of the credit crunch.
An overriding factor in this recovery has to be the increased professionalism within the intermediary market and its continued importance to the overall lending arena. Long forgotten are the days of churn and burn practices and intermediary firms have really upped the ante in their advice processes, with many adopting a more holistic approach.
Improved standards and practices have been embraced and while numbers have inevitably declined, thankfully, the market remains one in which the cream will continue to rise to the top.
Anyway, back in reflective mode, I recently came across an article I wrote at the back end of 2012 reviewing the lending arena and looking forward to the year ahead. On re-reading it, I was definitely trying to be as upbeat as I could and when assessing overall market conditions it was clear that there was an underlying current of could do better. Now I would usually wait until the end of the year to review such a review but so much has been accomplished in the first three-quarters of 2013 that I feel I am justified in revisiting a few of these 2013 lending hopes and see how they now stack up.
This was summed up by a couple of comments at the recent Council for Mortgage Lenders mortgage innovation conference. The CML’s Sue Anderson said lenders could do more to create innovative products for existing customers rather than solely looking for new business. More forthright comments came from Matthew Wyles, senior adviser at Castle Trust, when he said that any new products tended to be met with great scepticism by networks.
Inevitably, innovation is something that needs to be thought out thoroughly and while we as an industry continue to head in the right direction, there will always be arguments that more could be done or certain aspects embraced better. Positive steps have been made but this does remain a delicate balancing act for lender and out intermediary partners.
More competition, and in the right areas
Increased competition is a given but the main positives are that this is happening at slightly higher LTV levels and in areas of lending which have previously shown little appetite. All positive stuff.
Increased business volumes for lenders and intermediaries
You only have to read the reported number of “record months” to appreciate that business volumes are continuing to rise pretty much across the board. And with muted talk of £190bn gross lending targets in 2014 and end-of-year targets set to exceed early indicators, I think it is safe to say the majority of these working within the intermediary marketplace have seen some degree of accelerated business volumes.
Sustained momentum in government initiatives
In terms of the housing/mortgage market, there is no argument that the Funding for Lending Scheme has proved integral to rising house prices in 2013 and improved lending conditions in general. How long and to what extent this continues remains up for debate but for the moment at least, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
The market is edging towards genuine recovery but despite growing media debate and variation in regional property inflation, it remains a long way from experiencing a house price bubble.
Looking even further forward, still with my positive hat on, the performance of 2013 thus far has only re-emphasied my belief that we will see an eventual return to £250bn-plus of annual gross lending. This remains some distance in the future but the path ahead, while not quite lined with gold, does at least have a certain glow to it.
David Finlay is intermediary managing director at Barclays and chairman of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association