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The multi-ties are coming…

Respondents to the Aifa poll on including multi-ties in the trade body could never have imagined that their under-representative responses would ignite such fervour.

The multi-tied provider of any financial product is to consumer benefit what low-budget airlines are to the Euro-traveller. The price may represent value for money but the destination is more often than not a B-list airport some distance from where you want to be and the performance and service is underwhelming.

Multi-ties are not about choice. They are about making money. Nothing wrong in that, IFA-oriented businesses lose money too. I can think of several independent mortgage businesses who struggle but mainly because their management teams fit one of two profiles. The first is the Last Of The Summer Wine brigade – yesterday’s managers pursuing yesteryear strategies, offering nothing new or radical. The second group are more like modern-day US evangelical preachers – “bring your clients, follow us, and jump on board Mr brother consultant”.

Commercial competitiveness is starting to eat away at the moral high ground which the independent practitioner has long cherished. The UK mortgage market is down by almost 20 per cent this year. Next year, it could be another 10 per cent.

Lenders are not going to wave white flags. Instead, they are going to circle wagons and turn an informal cartel into a more interactive one. In their sights will be the brokers who are having to churn their back books, partly because the purch-ase market is still subdued but also under a TCF diktat, it is the right thing to do.

The multi-ties are coming. Bradford & Bingley will be the first behemoth to shrink its panel but by the end of 2006 but it will not have been the last. For the indepen-dents, the commercial pressures encour-aging multi-ties will save them. New entrant lenders will not stop coming, at least in the non-conforming sector which in three years time will surely include lenders with some prime-centric products of their own.

Product supply must not be allowed to contract. Advancing multi-tieism makes a complete mockery of providing consumer choice and protection.


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