Platform sales and marketing director Guy Batchelor is aiming to build on last year’s buoyant business by adding to the company’s e-commerce capability.Batchelor, who joined Platform in 1997 is set to take over as chairman of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders’ Association, says there is likely to be a period of major change at Platform and admits that it will be difficult for the company to emulate what he describes as a “great 2005”. A major development at the firm, which is based in London’s Docklands, has been the establishment of an online system for brokers. Click Decision was launched in June last year, after a quiet few months following the onset of mortgage regulation, and Batchelor says there was a 300 per cent increase in applications in its first three months in operation. In November, he says Platform completed 500m of business, equivalent to the year’s total business for 2001. But he admits that Platform had been behind its competitors in this field. He says: “It takes intermediaries five minutes to input client details and press the send button. We then send them a likely decision in a minute, which is a major advance for us. “It is not just about speed but about giving assurances that we can lend so the customer and broker feel comfortable. It is about brand and improving products and distribution.” Platform, which has an almost even business split of non-conforming, buy to let and self-certification, is now planning to develop its technology facilities. It wants to add to click decision with a fully fledged online application process as the current system means that brokers still have to fill in an application form on paper if the likely decision is positive. Batchelor says: “That system would mean an extra two days saved by not relying on the post as the entire application is done online. It should be ready in the summer but we want to make sure it is as good as click decision so we are spending a lot of time on it.” Much of Platform’s business comes from packagers and Batchelor insists they will not be at a disadvantage compared with brokers once the new system is running. He says brokers will be given the option of going via a packager or direct. The company, which was bought by Britannia in 2001, is aiming to add 40 staff to its current workforce of 300 by the end of the year. Changes are likely on the product side, with Batchelor hoping for Platform to write more buy-to-let business after the launch late last year of House Plus, where earned income is declared on a self-cert basis rather than using rental income. Developments are also expected in the non-conforming sector. “There are more opportunities in the near-prime sector. There are a lot of people with minor credit problems who need more options and that is an area that we could explore further,” says Batchelor. He emphasises that part of his task since 2003, when Platform Home Loans merged with sister company Verso to create the current organisation, has been to help shift the brand from being a non-conforming to a specialist lender. He says: “It took us time to complete that shift but our brand awareness in the intermediary market has become stronger in the specialist market and the approach and awareness became much stronger as we backed it up by improv-ing products and pricing. “We have worked hard with third parties such as packagers and mortgage clubs to make it clear what we are about, what we offer and how we can help them. “Over the last 18 months, we have been dealing with intermediaries that we have never dealt with before and we have got a lot of business from IFAs as well as the traditional mortgage sector.”
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