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Halifax on top again in latest MS lender study

As the 25th Premier League gets under way, mortgage lenders face their own title race and relegation battle in this quarter’s lender league table.

Halifax for Intermediaries

Halifax Intermediaries – the Chelsea FC of the mortgage market – wins comfortably on points again.

“Halifax has been dominant in the market for a long time, despite fierce competition,” says London & Country associate director of communications David Hollingworth.

TenetLime managing director Gemma Harle ranks it highly for rates and product transfers.

“Intralinks is now up and running and its new download facility is being tested, which will go down well with brokers,” she says.

Alexander Hall technical director Richard Merrett is disappointed to see the scaling-back of the lender’s high-value Premier team, however.

“Over the years this has been staffed by some excellent people and set the bar on service,” he says.

Virgin Money

Virgin Money is the second-top scorer this quarter.

“Improvements to its online system and the move into the custom-build market have been welcomed,” says Harle.

Chadney Bulgin mortgage partner Jonathan Clark feels the lender’s product matrix is a little too complex, but says: “Its affordability calculator can throw up some surprisingly generous results and lending to age 75 gives it an edge over rivals.”

John Charcol managing director Walter Avrili describes the lender’s direct underwriters helpline as “priceless” when it comes to securing “out of policy deals” for advisers.

RBS – NatWest Intermediary Solutions

NatWest has lost some form this quarter, slipping one place.
It still attracts business with its simple and generous affordability calculator, says Clark, but “its rates and criteria need an overhaul”.

Perception Finance managing director David Sheppard says the lender has been more rate competitive of late, but adds: “It’s still charging for valuations, which can make a difference.”

Brokers are fans of the lender’s service and keenly priced rates, says Trinity Financial product and communications manager Aaron Strutt.

“It’s incredible it’s offering its cheapest fixed rates for mortgages up to £10m with standard arrangement fees – something many private banks would not dream about doing,” he says.

Santander for Intermediaries

Santander has played a tactical game this quarter, gaining two places.

Although its overall time to offer has slipped slightly, Merrett says: “Its main positive is the significant traction it’s getting from its retention proposition, especially as others have yet to bring theirs to market.”

Personal Touch Financial Services has noticed a marked difference in the lender’s approach to advisers.

“It’s providing an excellent service through a good solid product range,” says mortgage proposition manager Victoria Jefferies.

Strutt would like to see the lender launch a good “broker exclusive.”

YBS (Accord Mortgages)

Accord has put in an impressive performance this quarter, moving up the table two places.

“Accord really deserves credit for the job it’s been doing in improving service,” says Hollingworth.

“A very good quarter for Accord,” says Sheppard. “It has worked hard on improving its service and rates are very strong. It has been more willing to look at cases that may not fully fit its criteria but are good clients.”

Merrett praises Accord for having the quickest turnaround times this quarter.

“The service issues that Accord suffered a year ago are now a distant memory,” he says.

Barclays (Woolwich)

Barclays has dropped down the table one place this quarter.

“We keep hearing that its new online system is imminent but no date has been forthcoming as yet,” says Sheppard.

Despite the lender sourcing well at the moment, Harle says: “Its persistence with overseas processing remains a bugbear and constant source of frustration.”

Meanwhile, Clark describes Barclays’ online system as “traumatising” for “even the most tech-savvy brokers”.

MoneyQuest Mortgage Brokers director Rob Clifford says advisers feel “the recent intake of new staff has temporarily dropped service levels”.

Coventry Intermediaries

The panel feel Coventry took its eye off the ball last quarter, dropping three places in the table.

“Coventry hasn’t been as sharply priced as we’ve come to expect,” says Hollingworth. “The free valuation it offers is now widespread so doesn’t differentiate it from its peers.”

Harle adds: “Coventry usually enjoys a good reputation among our brokers but seems to have lost its way a little recently. Local BDM support seems lacking, although telephone support is excellent.”

Nationwide for Intermediaries

Nationwide is joint ninth this quarter, with mixed feelings from the panel.

Clark says: “Nationwide is gradually improving its service standards but where is its keenly anticipated product transfer facility that we were told would be here this summer?

Sheppard feels getting a case through can be a struggle. “I hope it can improve because the market needs good competition,” he says.

Jefferies, however, feels there has been plenty of change from the lender this quarter in terms of technology and service, “putting it back in favour with advisers”, she says.

TSB Bank

TSB Bank has gained one place in our table, drawing level with Nationwide on goal difference.

“Its pricing and processing have been good and its focus on five-year fixed rates and remortgage business has been successful,” says Hollingworth.

Merrett feels the lender has had a quiet quarter.

“This appears to be calculated in advance of the launch of its new system,” he says. “This should help it further establish its own identity as one of the best new lenders in the market.”

Clydesdale Bank

Clydesdale remains anchored at the bottom of the table, which some panel members feel might not be the case if buy-to-let were also rated.

“As always it feels unfair to be marking such a useful and valued lender in the lower reaches of the table,” says Hollingworth.

Harle thinks the lender offers good underwriting and has made many positive changes of late.

“Five times multiples on income over £75,000 a year and up to 95 per cent LTV is good for London and first-time buyers.

“It is one of the only lenders that are happy to discuss business on the telephone,” she adds.

Panel members still felt Clydesdale’s service could be improved, however.

Platform (Wild Card)

Platform was this quarter’s Wild Card, debuting in eighth position. 

“Platform is good in several areas,” says Merrett. “Its stand-out point is its affordability for first-time buyers where it is one of the best lenders in the market.”

Harle says Platform has a reputation for being easy to deal with.

“It’s good on affordability with excellent BDM support. A genuinely good all-rounder,” she says.

This view is echoed by Jefferies, who adds: “A good solid proposition and improving service make them a strong choice for advisers.”

A game of two halves

With the second half of the year well under way and several lenders’ online offerings yet to be revealed, it’s still all to play for as we enter the final quarter of 2017.

Panel members

Walter Avrili, managing director, John Charcol
David Hollingworth, associate director of communications, London & Country
Gemma Harle, managing director, TenetLime
Richard Merrett, technical director, Alexander Hall
Aaron Strutt, product and communications manager, Trinity Financial
Bob Riach, mortgage broker, Riach Financial Advisers
David Sheppard, managing director, Perception Finance
Rob Clifford, director, MoneyQuest Mortgage Brokers
Jonathan Clark, mortgage partner, Chadney Bulgin
Victoria Jefferies, mortgage proposition manager, Personal Touch Financial Services.

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