Gross lending figures published last month by the Council of Mortgage Lenders revealed that healthy competition is finally returning to the UK mortgage market.
These figures – coupled with similarly encouraging statistics from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, suggesting that house buyers are returning to the market in their largest numbers for four years – is a heartening sign that the mortgage market in the UK is on stronger ground than it has been for a number of years.
According to CML’s statistics, despite little overall growth 2012 saw market share diluted, with the top six lender’s combined portion of 77.2 per cent considerably down on the 80.4 per cent seen in 2011 and lower than at any point since the height of market activity back in 2007.
The rankings of the six largest lenders have also reshuffled and CML’s figures hint there has been positive growth for some of the lenders outside of the top six, including new names to the sector such as Tesco Bank at joint 21st place in the table.
These are all positive signs that competition has made a reappearance; a development that can only be to the advantage of the customer who will benefit from the lower prices, better choice, higher standards and greater professionalism that come with increased competition.
Competition is evidently good for the mortgage market because it encourages firms to innovate and differentiate themselves from their peers by investing in greater knowledge, expertise and professionalism.
Keeping up with continuing professional development will become even more necessary as customers expect their mortgage advisers to be up-to-date with market movements and new developments in order to provide them with the best possible service.
The power is now, quite rightly, with the customer and demonstrating a commitment to ethical standards will also be increasingly under the spotlight following well publicised scandals and the subsequent additional scrutiny from the Financial Conduct Authority.
To help in this area the Chartered Insurance Institute has recently issued two brand new pieces of ethical guidance, Building a culture of integrity and Ethical culture: a practical guide for small firms, designed to provide a helping hand to all firms but especially smaller employers who do not necessarily have the resources in house to deal with these issues.
The Society of Mortgage Professionals was created by the CII eight years ago to provide specific focus and momentum for the professional development of all those working in the mortgage market, across lending, administration, advice and broking, and associated support functions. As the mortgage market continues to recover its confidence and stability, as we can see from the positive results emerging, this support has never been more important or so necessary.
Steve Aspinall is director of corporate development at the CII Group