We should start by saying a big hello – “Hello” – to the Financial Conduct Authority, and goodbye, farewell, auf weidersein, adieu to the dear old FSA.
We have had some laughs, some good times, more than a few tears, a couple of scandals and the odd falling out but time moves on.
There have been a couple of interesting pieces already starring the new regulator with its initial comments around concerns that lenders are withdrawing too far from interest-only offerings andreviewing regulation for potentially misleading comparison websites.
Also the fact that it will have a more forward thinking approach with regards to social media monitoring, which needs to be discussed with those of us in the industry who use it.
There are also some dangers, not least where the thorny subject of costs and fees are concerned as well as the potential power to use product bans where they believe necessary.
As FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley says: “The creation of the FCA is our opportunity to reset conduct standards. This power, along with our other new powers, helps define how we will regulate going forward.”
We all hope that the change represents a step forward and welcome a collaborative approach.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Budget the detractors have been out in force over the Help To Buy scheme and whether it can be mis-used, for example where second home purchases are concerned.
No doubt there will be changes before this part of the scheme goes live in January. It strikes me as strange that schemes like this are released without the Government seemingly having spoken to anyone in the industry. After all any decent mortgage broker could have pointed out some of the issues straight away.
In the markets, three-month Libor is not worth talking about any more at 0.51 per cent, while swap rates are up again in the short-term but dipping once more over five years.
- 1-year money is up 0.01 at 0.515 per cent
- 2-year money is up 0.02 at 0.62 per cent
- 3-year money is down 0.02 at 0.68 per cent
- 5-year money is down 0.01 at 0.965 per cent
Product wise Abbey has improved its residential lending policy by allowing income where an Alphabet share structure is concerned, as well as changes to Let to Buy policy and no longer needing to see bank statements unless borrowing above 90 per cent LTV.
Woolwich, on the other hand, has made a couple of disappointing changes where its buy-to-let offering is concerned with limits over the number of properties it will now accept to four as well as the level of exposure to £3m.
NatWest has made a welcome move in making two of its 90 per cent LTV products available to all applicants, rather than those just with existing bank accounts as well as cutting rates on some existing 60 per cent LTV deals.
Leeds has released a nice three-year fixed product at 2.45 per cent up to 65 per cent LTV with a £999 fee, while up to 80 per cent LTV the rate is an excellent 3.14 per cent.
Meanwhile in the five year fixed rate battle, repayment-only lender Yorkshire Building Society has blown everyone away with its 2.59 per cent offering with a £1,345 fee. I predicted at the start of the year that five year fixes may hit 2.49 per cent and we are getting closer to that much earlier than I thought. A five-year fix at 1.99 per cent anyone?
On a final note you can tell things are improving because I have noted a return of some mudslinging amongst broker firms. This never got anyone anywhere pre-crunch and if you feel that the only way to make yourselves important is to belittle others in our industry then that is a sad state of affairs.
Healthy competition is one thing, but as an industry there are still too few brokers and too many challenges ahead which means we need to show respect and work together for the good of the industry and ultimately, consumers.
The new FCA. Let’s face it they have done nothing wrong yet and we should welcome them with bright expectation.
The EU for its handling of the crises in Cyprus. Seizing savers assets is a dangerous precedent to set and could have repercussions across the whole of the Eurozon