It’s great that Portillion will be an intermediary-only lender and its experienced management is likely to spot lending opportunities - more competition is just what we need

Swaps continued to fall last week, with two and three-year swaps at the lowest levels we have seen. Three-month LIBOR is still 0.64%.

1-year money is unchanged at 0.93%
2-year money is down 0.04% at 1.54%
3-year money is down 0.07% at 2.11%
5-year money is down 0.08% at 2.92%

The news from Checkmate Mortgages, now rebranded as Portillion, is all positive.

There have been comments on Mortgage Strategy’s website that there are too many chiefs at the lender but it is privately funded so this is not a vast bank creating jobs for the sake of it.

The owners of the business know that to launch a lender you have to show the Financial Services Authority you’re in the business for the long term and you have a board that can handle any challenges that might arise.

Looking at the new team there’s a vast amount of experience at every level and I’m sure the regulator will take this into account when granting Portillion the necessary permissions.

But we must temper our enthusiasm as this lender is not going to save the intermediary sector on its own – it won’t suddenly start lending billions and challenge high street banks but it will be nimble and lend where it identifies opportunities.

The best news is that it will be broker-only. The mortgage market desperately needs competition and Portillion will be part of this.

NatWest Intermediary Solutions has refreshed its core and semi-exclusive ranges. The highlight of the core range is a two-year fixed rate at 3.55% for loans up to a maximum LTV of 70%, with a £999 arrangement fee.

I’ve heard that trying to book funds via Woolwich has been a challenge recently. Apparently this isn’t because of a lack of funds but rather due to technical issues which have put a strain on the lender’s processing.

As a result it is limiting funds for a short period to allow its processing to catch up. I know some brokers have criticised its booking process but we should remember that unlike most other lenders it’s not dual pricing so we have access to the same products that clients can get direct.

lso, Woolwich’s range has been competitive – especially the trackers – so it’s no great surprise it’s been busy.

I know I’d rather battle to secure funds occasionally and not lose clients than have no booking line but lose out because clients are going direct.
Meanwhile, Scottish Widows Bank has launched a standalone version of its offset calculator you can download to your PC.

Another green shoot is Alliance & Leicester’s launch of a £1bn residential mortgage-backed securitisation deal, the fourth securitisation so far this year.

All have been squeaky clean prime deals but at least it shows there are investors out there.


heroes & villains


HERO OF THE WEEK is Abbey for hiking its maximum loan sizes for first-time buyers who want new-build properties. The limit for flats is going up from 70% LTV to 80% LTV while for houses the limit is increasing from 80% LTV to 90% LTV.


VILLAIN OF THE WEEK is Halifax which plans to stop guarantor deals due to lack of demand. It suggests borrowers use Lloyds TSB’s Lend a Hand scheme which needs a 5% deposit and someone to deposit 20% with the bank.