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Something old, something new

It has been a bit of a mixed week for the mortgage industry. Some of the news was new, some was just an update on existing stories and some of the news was just a confirmation of what was expected.

On the new side, Lehman Brothers unveiled two new recruits, with Platform head of marketing Paul Hunt appointed as director of marketing across all of Lehman Bros mortgage brands. Halifax head of corporate accounts Ed Payne will become head of sales at Lehman’s division Southern Pacific Personal Loans.

Another new announcement was the decision by equity release trade body Safe Home Income Plans to set up a permanent office and appoint a full time director general. The move comes on the back of a full review of the organisation and Jon King, Ship chief exec, says the decision marks a Œwatershed moment’ in Ship’s history and is the first step in a determined push to promote the sector.

Still on the subject of industry moves, but more in the confirmation than new news category, is Mehrdad Yousefi’s appointment as director of distribution and sales at Merrill Lynch subsidiary Freedom Lending. Yousefi announced his decision to leave Alliance & Leicester in March but it is only this week that the rumours of his move to Freedom were confirmed.

Away from the world of industry appointments the CML revealed its lending figures for May. This falls very much into the category of an update on a running story – the continued trend for mixed news on the mortgage market.

At £30.6bn for the month lending is up on April’s figure but although it is also up on the May figure of 2006, the CML say this is the smallest monthly increase in sometime and they say they expect lending to cool as the year goes on.

This is partly due to the other ongoing story that was updated this week – the continued rise in interest rates. The minutes from the Bank of England monthly interest rate meeting show that the Governor, Mervyn King was in favour of another rate rise to follow immediately after last month’s. He was however in the minority of a 4-5 split vote (only the second time in the monetary policy committee’s history that King has been in the minority) and a decision to increase the base rate is now widely predicted at next month’s meeting.

If the majority of this week’s news had something of a familiar feel, at the tail end of the week came a genuinely interesting story.

Friday morning saw the announcement of an OFT investigation into the house building market. Although the investigation will also look at the issue of customer satisfaction, it will also look at the process involved in the planning and development stages of house building.

With restricted supply of houses one reason that is consistently cited as a major reason for continued house price inflation, the outcome of the investigation could have a significant impact on the business of mortgage lending and distribution. This is unlikely to be any time soon, however, as the OFT is not due to report until the summer of 2008.


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