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Experience in specialist lending pays dividends

Bank of Ireland mortgages

Bank of Ireland Mortgages entered the market in the early 1980s as Bank America Finance, one of a few specialised lenders. In 1987, acquisition by Bank of Ireland helped to consolidate the firm&#39s market position. It is now a significant subsidiary of Bank of Ireland UK Financial Services.

Based in Reading (pictured above) with 250 staff, the company administers over 40,000 mortgage accounts for customers in the UK and Northern Ireland and has won a number of industry awards.

Q: How is Bank of Ireland Mortgages structured?

A: Bank of Ireland Mortgages is a subsidiary of Bank of Ireland UK Financial Services, part of the Bank of Ireland Group. We have our own sales and marketing, underwriting and customer service departments and operate through a national network of financial advisers and mortgage intermediaries supported by a team of field and telephone sales consultants.

We offer expertise in mortgages for the self-employed, buy-to-let, self-cert and mortgages for first-time buyers.

Q: What sets you apart from your competitors?

A: We are a specialist lender and realise the importance of building long-term relationships with our broker contacts. We have 20 years&#39 experience in intermediary mortgage lending and understand what brokers and their clients need. Much of our success is dependent on working in partnership with intermediaries. We have a reputation within the industry for offering direct access to our skilled underwriting teams and for our speed and reliability of service. We also pride ourselves on our employees – we have a low staff turnover and employ people with knowledge and experience.

Q: What are the pros and cons of your core product range?

A: We offer a competitive range of standard, buy-to-let and self-cert mortgages which are available for purchase or remortgage. We also have a range of fees-free Easy Switch products for standard and buy-to-let customers, aimed at taking the hassle out of remortgaging.

A further addition to our core product range is 1st Start which was designed to help first-time buyers purchase a property with the aid of their parents. It is significantly different from a guarantor mortgage. It is available to 95% LTV and is open to all occupations, not just graduates. There is a choice of property ownership – joint or sole title. The 1st Start scheme is not restricted to first-time buyers. Applicants such as those relocating to a more expensive area, or divorced or separated borrowers, will also be considered.

Q: What is your distribution strategy?

A: BIM has a number of strong relationships with networks and mortgage clubs with whom we work closely. This complements our activities in concentrating on the IFA sector which represents 60% of our business.

Q: Do you use mortgage packagers?

A: Not as a general rule as our distribution strategy is to deal direct with the broker.

Q: What services do you offer to intermediaries?

A: They are supported in a number of ways. Firstly by field sales and a telephone based business development unit, then by direct access to aligned underwriters. This structure offers intermediaries a secure and straightforward decision-making process coupled with award-winning service.

Q: What impact will regulation have on your business?

A: We have a project team working on all aspects of mortgage regulation and how it will affect our polices and procedures. We believe the biggest impact will be on distribution in the marketplace and are currently engaged in an exercise to understand how brokers plan to react to mortgage regulation.

Q: How do you see the intermediary market in two years&#39 time?

A: Mortgage regulation is going to be a major factor in shaping the intermediary market over the next few years. Intermediaries have always been a significant part of the market and we see no reason this should not continue post-regulation. How many brokers will choose direct authorisation as against appointed representative status is unknown but this will play a major part in how the market evolves.

Bank of Ireland Mortgages has always offered excellent service. Underwriters tend to have been with the company for some time which provides consistency. No lender is perfect of course. Loans are limited to £1m but this does not affect many brokers – although MIG kicking in at 85% will. Procuration fees are on the low side. However, some of these issue are under review. Products are usually there or thereabouts. The 1st Start deal was an innovative addition to the market which obviously took a lot of thought and planning. It&#39s good to see lenders applying a bit of imagination to product design.

I do not have particularly strong feelings about Bank of Ireland Mortgages one way or the other. I have never had any problems with it but I have also not had any reason to use it recently. Its products have not been cutting edge of late and I have been able to find stronger deals elsewhere. Bank of Ireland Mortgages is good at keeping in touch, however, and as soon as a top deal comes up we will be made aware of it. It seems to be concentrating on the buy-to-let market at the moment rather than standard products and remortgaging. The 1st Start deal was a clever innovation.

Service tends to be good with Bank of Ireland Mortgages. It is obviously keen to get business and offers dependable intermediary channels. There is always someone knowledgeable at the end of the phone if you need to talk through a case. We don&#39t use BIM much though we recently did a large selfcertification case with it – it is strongest in niche areas. Bank of Ireland Mortgages does come up occasionally for more run-of-the-mill stuff though. And hats off to it for its innovative deals such as 1st Start. I would always be open to using it if the product was right.

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