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Royal resolve

Lender profile: Guy Anker looks at how Royal Bank of Scotland Intermediary Partners is overcoming its service problems

It has been a tough first few months for Royal Bank of Scotland Intermediary Partners since its launch in February.

The company has had a string of complaints from brokers about its service and its troubles were compounded when it admitted in its half-year results that it took a step back from broker business.

But the banking giant insists its business is recovering from its early teething problems and says it has begun to punch its weight in the broker market over recent months, a claim that has been backed up by Legal & General housing director Stephen Smith.

RBS consumer finance managing director Jayne-Anne Gadhia says: “Our issues with service and online capability should be resolved by next February. We thank brokers that have stuck with us even when we did not provide first-class service. You cannot expect a business that is new and fresh to have all its staff at the experience level all of the time.

“We all concluded that if we could have brought all the aspects of the business such as service, online and everything else in one go it would have been remarkable. Bringing together four sales processes is not one big fit.”

Gadhia explains that RBSIP’s plan is a four-stage evolution culminating in its target of being fully operational with online application capability and top-class service for brokers by next February.

That will have been 12 months after the intermediary’s arm launch on Valentine’s Day this year when it brought its four intermediary brands Royal Bank of Scotland, First Active, The One Account and NatWest under centralised control.

The four-stage plan was to get the structure of the company in place in the first quarter after launch, to put in place its advanced affordability calculators in the second quarter – two aspects RBSIP says have been implanted successfully.

At present, in the third quarter, the lender plans to move to full fast-track applications for business under 65 per cent loan to value. The fourth aspect in the final quarter of its first year is to provide a full online service.

Gadhia says: “One broker said we must be aiming to get it all together at once. From a personal point of view, I would have liked to have tried to build the broker business in one go but we will never get everything at 100 per cent from day one.

“We will not compromise quality for quicker time-scales. In all of those improvements, we are building on foundations and the volume of business will increase quarter by quarter and it is about quality and not just price.”

She also explains why the online proposition, one of the biggest brokers bugbears, has been slow to get off the ground, with RBS falling behind competitors when it comes to speed of service.

She says: “History shows you how difficult it is to develop online systems. In the past, brokers would have needed four passwords and part of the reason for us to wait is to sort that out. Eventually, they will get the KFI and be able to complete a full application online and we will be able to continue to improve the system.”

Gadhia is also refreshingly honest about some of the problems RBSIP has experienced so far.

She says: “During one short period, we were taking 23 days to get an offer on RBS business but now all fully packaged business is there within 11 days. Of course, we would have preferred to get to 11 before but we had a blip although we are back to our initial stated obligation to the intermediary.

“During July and early August, only 41 per cent of the business came in fully packaged and we have tried not to send business back to brokers when that happened but worked with them so they can process the cases. It turned into a vicious circle as it took us more time and so we will be tighter. Brokers can help them- selves by having all the information.”

She also explains how the NatWest brand needs to improve. She says: “It has got a long way to go to be the specialist lender of choice. We are working on innovative products where we have not performed well enough. NatWest is famous for offering good terms for self employed and buy-to-let and I want us to go back to our roots.

“We have tried to position NatWest as a specialist lender so it means new and innovative products are required and we have not got those yet and we are working on that.”

RBSIP also says the reason it conducted less broker business in the first half of the year is because it was not prepared to price as low as some of its competitors and sacrifice profit. But it claims to be now conducting a lot more broker business as the price war has eased off.

Gadhia says her overriding message to brokers is that RBSIP is committed to intermediaries.

She insists: “It is wrong to say we are not committed to brokers. As Nigel Stockton at HBOS said earlier this year in Money Marketing, it is rubbish that HBOS is not committed to intermediaries and that message is the same from RBSIP.”

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