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This week in Mortgages

All eyes and ears this week should have been on the Bank of England and its unsurprising decision to raise interest rates to five per cent, but events at Celtic Manor in Wales for Mortgage Intelligence’s 10th year anniversary celebrations took centre stage after an extraordinary row.

Sporting fans may well know that Celtic Manor is to be the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup where the best golfers from Europe and the USA go head-to-head in battle but another confrontation between two of the industry’s heavyweights, HBOS and Edeus, took place at the same venue this week.

In it, Edeus chief executive Michael Bolton took a swipe at his former employer over its retention strategy during a panel debate, though some may argue that Edeus’ constant digs may start to lose their constructive sense if continued at this rate.

Bolton also accused BM Solutions of “stuffing” him over his own mortgage with an alleged poor retention offer that was 100 basis points above the lender’s normal rate, and he also accused HBOS of fostering a debt culture with what he described as irresponsibly high LTVs to first-time buyers.

HBOS has played the good guy and rarely reacted to the almost constant sledging it has had to endure from Bolton since he quit as head of specialist lending in September last year. But on this occasion, Bank of Scotland Mortgages managing director Charles Haresnape was left with little option but to retaliate once the microphone was placed firmly in his hands and 200 brokers waited with baited breathe for his response.

He accused Edeus of irresponsible lending of its own for lending into the deep sub-prime and questioned whether it would be able to securitise any of its portfolios of such business.

The row certainly turned what may have been just another panel discussion at a conference into something a little more entertaining. Who won the debate? Well, the jury is still out but considering that only 10 per cent of the audience put their hands up when asked if they agreed with Bolton’s views on retention, it seems the clever money is on HBOS.

No sooner had the dust settled from that, and BM came on the offensive, but from a more traditional perspective. It revealed that next week it will launch point of sale offers and unveil HBOS’s eagerly-anticipated FTB product modelled on Northern Rock’s Together deal. However, it stresses that the Mortgage Plus range, as it will be called, that will combine a secured and unsecured loan, will be aimed at a wider audience than just FTBs, with the average borrower expected to be in their early 40s.

BM’s move to instant offers follows GMAC’s similar launch in September, and this week GMAC made its own headlines with criticism of the CML’s lender league tables for failing to compare lenders over the same time frame.

It is the latest attack on the trade body for its supposed poor statistical capability, but the CML has pledged to work with lenders to resolve any issues.

And finally, amid the week’s rows, controversies and product launches, there was the 0.25 per cent rise in the base rate to five per cent, which was possibly the worst-kept secret of the year. Money Marketing’s inbox was full to bursting point with every Tom, Dick and Mehrdad looking to comment on the rise, but as the well-respected mortgage guru himself, Mr Yousefi, puts it, it was “as close to being a done deal as you can get”.

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