Is the proposed trade body merger a good idea?

Benson Hersch ASTL

There is much to be said for co-operation between trade bodies but separate representation also has its place.

Following the Financial Services Trade Association Review in July last year, moves are afoot to merge trade bodies including the British Banking Association and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, along with others unrelated to our sector, but is this really a good thing?

The review identified many factors where integration would be a positive move, not least of which would be the cost savings to stakeholders who belong to two or more associations; and the perceived benefits of effectiveness with external partners, including regulatory bodies and government policy makers. However any merger needs to ensure that smaller members are still fully represented and that their needs are not overlooked as niche when part of a much larger body.

There is much to be said for cooperation between trade bodies and the Association of Short Term Lenders is engaging in an ongoing constructive dialogue with the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers and the Association of Bridging Professionals. We are doing this, not to promote a future merger, but because we are supportive of efforts by broker trade associations to increase professionalism and raise standards.

Whilst the ASTL represents lenders, it is very appreciative of the work done by brokers in sourcing business. There are many areas of common concern, but it should not be forgotten that, inevitably and positively, there are also areas of natural tension. Lenders have to consider their risk strategies and particular niche areas of expertise. Brokers’ main concern is to be able to assist their customers.

There is no question in my mind that bridging finance lending requires a different approach to that of long-term property finance and that the relatively small part of the mortgage finance sector it comprises is good reason for having a separate trade body to represent the interest of lenders. These are not the same as the interest of brokers.

I have no issue with lenders being patrons or associate members of broker organisations, as there is much to be gained from dialogue. Where there is common ground, we can act together, but we do need to recognise the need for separate representation.

Benson Hersch is chief executive of the Association of Short Term Lenders