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Platform on the move

Only two months after the launch of Platform as Britannia Building

Society&#39s intermediary lending subsidiary, following the merger of

Platform Home Loans and Verso, the firm is in bullish mood, if

slightly overwhelmed.

Sales and marketing director Guy Batchelor admits that, on the level

of business brought in by Platform since it opened its doors as

Britannia&#39s “one-stop shop” for specialist lending on February 3: “We

have been a little bit overwhelmed in some respects.”

But he is not complaining as this is a result of the vast volumes of

business being generated from brokers and packagers – it has been

rec-eiving on average of 600 calls a day and issuing 200 decisions in

principle daily.

Batchelor says Platform is coping with this higher than expected

demand by bringing in more staff and changing its processes to enable

it to keep up its service levels.

It puts this interest from intermediaries partly down to its

competitive product rates and this month it introduced what it says

are leading two-year fixed rate self-cert and buy-to-let products at

4.45 per cent and 4.69 per cent respectively.

Batchelor says: “Following the recent reduction in the bank base

rate, the cost of two-year money has reduced dramatically and so we

have decided to pass this on to customers by reducing our two year

fixed rates for buy-to-let and self-cert.”

He also believes its positioning as a one-stop shop is proving

popular with intermediaries, something he says he was always

confident would work, as it has for competitors such as GMAC-RFC and

BM Solutions.

Part of this service is its “cascade” approach to underwriting. This

means if a potential borrower does not fit the criteria of one

product, they will be considered for others from the Platform range

until an appropriate mortgage is found without the broker having to

resubmit the application.

But Platform admits it did not reach this stage overnight, saying the

merger was a long and complicated process following the announcement

that Britannia was bringing its two intermediary brands together in

July last year.

This move was designed to bring Verso&#39s specialist products, such as

self-cert and buy to let, under the same roof as Platform&#39s sub-prime

range, to avoid confusion among brokers having to deal with two

Britannia subsidiaries.

Batchelor says: “It has been great fun – a lot of people thought we

would just stay the old Platform Home Loans but we have not.”

Despite being adamant that the new firm is a true merger between

Platform and Verso, not a takeover of the former by the latter, only

one employee has made the move from Verso&#39s headquarters in Leek,

Staffordshire to Platform&#39s London Docklands office.

Platform puts this reluctance to move down to house prices in London

rather than anything more sinister involving the workings of the


It also denies that the move from Leek to the higher-rent location of

Docklands does not make economic sense. Managing director David

Tweedy says the cost of space is relatively low, only making up 10

per cent of total overheads.

Platform says it still has a great deal of autonomy from the building

society head office and that the main inv-olvement, in the form of

project management and guidance, comes from the Britannia Capital

Investment Group.

Tweedy says: “Our involvement with BCIG has increased but we still

continue to run our own business. We are pretty much left to run

Platform on our own with support, not interference, from BCIG.”

One of the big benefits of the merger, according to Platform, is that

it has made it a much bigger player in the specialised lending

market, propelling it from the first division, to the premier league.

Tweedy says: “Platform is now so much more part of the society and a

more important part of its business. The £1.8bn lending we are

aiming to do makes up 40 per cent of Britannia&#39s total lending.”

Platform is planning a number of initiatives to meet the needs of

intermediaries, including on-site underwriters based with big

introducers and online decisions in prin-ciple. It may also expand

its involvement in branded lending, depending on the impact of FSA

regulation on this sector.

Batchelor says: “Our bran-ded lenders include Genesis Home Loans,

Grosvenor, Advance and Flagship and we are looking at extending this


In terms of competition, its two main rivals across the board are BM

Solutions and GMAC-RFC. It also comes up against The Mortgage

Business in its conforming business and the likes of Ken- sington,

SPML and Preferred in non-conforming markets.

Batchelor is confident that Platform can fend off the competition,

saying: “We have good relationships and people know us fairly well,

we offer a one-stop shop and cascade underwriting and we are a new



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