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Striking accord

Andrea Tryphonides finds that Accord puts a high priority on broker relationships.

Accord Mortgages hits its second birthday this month with a new product range to service the increasing number of borrowers coming off two-year deals.

It will be paying a 0.2 per cent procuration fee for existing borrower transfers. The new range is a mixture of fixed rates, 100 per cent mortgages, trackers, offset, discount variable rates, prof- essional products and newbuild house purchases.

The product range comes after the announcement that Accord will be paying proc fees to intermediaries who advise clients to stay with them to the end of a special deal period. The aim is to make it as easy as possible for intermediaries to recommend another Accord product and is one way that managing director Linda Will wants to reward brokers for their continued relationship.

Accord takes its broker relationships seriously. Within three months of its launch two years ago, it had taken from its parent Yorkshire Building Society 99 per cent of its broker business.

One of Will’s proudest achievements is to have instigated group sessions with brokers. Accord will is hosting around 48 broker focus group sessions this year, a key way to keep in contact with intermediaries and get feedback on products.

It was from these focus groups that Accord decided to reorganise its new busin- ess processing support teams earlier this year. Instead of one big processing factory supported by one call centre, Accord now offers four processing teams, each backed by a broker phone support team. Each team supports brokers in a geographical area and is self-contained with its own underwriters, processors and management.

Other issues brought up at the focus groups include regulation, with brokers saying mortgage applications are taking between 50 and 100 per cent longer. There are also complaints about KFIs. Will says: “I do not believe that KFIs are read by the customer. There is nothing on them that is redundant but I do not believe customers go home and read a 12-page KFI.

“I have not seen the FSA get stuck in yet. The impact of regulation will be a slow process – it could take 12 to 18 months. The FSA do not want to bring in extra or new rules but the intelligence I am getting is they will be giving more guidance to lenders and networks. The guidance and rules will change though to become more prescriptive, for example, the FSA will have to say KFIs should be a maximum number of pages.”

Will says there will be some consolidation in the market but is less pessimistic when it comes to the fate of sole traders who are dir- ectly authorised. She also brushes off recent reports that lenders are having to bow and scrape to get panel placements.

She says: “Mortgage clubs, networks, etc, have always been the key to distribution and although regulation has led to some attempts by these bodies to gain stronger control over where their appointed reps place their business, many still operate very big panels.

“There will undoubtedly be more consolidation but it would be disingenuous to paint a picture of a dozen big networks holding the lend- ing industry to ransom. After all, a very healthy proportion of brokers are directly authorised and free to do what- ever they please with whoever they please.”

Accord’s main priorities are seeking distribution and niche markets which will allow it to generate the volume to produce returns to reach target profit levels. This year it intends to lend just short of 2bn, up from 1.5bn last year.

The firm now processes 97 per cent of its broker business electronically which has been an important factor for Will who is keen to use technology to its full potential – emailing mortgage brokers to keep them updated on applications and processing applications quickly and efficiently over the internet.

Will is assessing new areas for Accord and is interested in professional mortgages, especially 100 per cent lending.

Securitisation deals are also capturing her interest. At present, Accord does not securitise as it is consolidated with its parent but if t continues to grow at its current pace it may look at a securitisation programme.

Will says she believes her biggest achievement is to have created a place in the market. She says: “I am proud that we really listen to the broker and act on what they say. No one else does what we do.”

Every case that is placed with Accord is followed up with a feedback form, with brokers asked to mark services with a total score out of 100.

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