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All parties must come together to boost the sector

As I have spent the past few days talking to mortgage firms of all shapes and sizes, I am in a position to say that the industry expects 2009 to be tough. No surprises there.

The Association of Mortgage Intermediaries is determined to support members through a difficult 12 months and to help them help themselves.

We began our initiatives to tackle the credit crunch with a series of business diversification workshops encouraging members to consider new sources of income.

In the new year we will offer sales skills courses to help members identify and make better use of business opportunities.

President Abraham Lincoln, much quoted by US President-elect Barack Obama, made a statement today’s travails.

“Everything comes to those who wait – but only the things left by those who hustle,” he said.

We are also in discussions with the Financial Services Authority about regulatory fees next year.

Given that fees are backward-looking it would do brokers serious damage to set them according to a period when the market was much healthier than it is now.

We need lower rather than higher fees and the delivery of much discussed regulatory dividends for well managed firms.

This is a view shared by FSA chairman Adair Turner, whose thoughts have been widely publicised in the Financial Times. He says small firms have paid too much for too long and it’s time for the balance to be restored.

We are working with the FSA to ensure the viewpoint of its chairman is reflected in next year’s levy.

We also need the Financial Ombudsman Service to offer more free cases as we expect complaint numbers to rise. This has little to do with the advice given and a great deal to do with the economic situation.

As borrowers struggle to pay their mortgages they will look for others to blame and brokers are in the firing line, even if clients didn’t take their advice about budgeting and lifestyle changes to help repay their mortgages.

How tragic it would be if these clients were left exposed because they opted out of buying mortgage payment protection insurance due to the bad press it has received and then lost their jobs.

Providers had the chance to deliver better products and if they had done so the situation would be different.

So we must see the number of free cases climb to 10 per firm, with the potential to bulk buy more in advance for larger firms that need them.

Finally, we need sensible policy decisions by our politicians. The freezing of Corporation Tax was a positive move, as was the extra business support announced in the pre-Budget report.

But I was surprised to see proposals to increase Home Information Pack requirements. They are poorly timed and we will call on Whitehall to think again.

Above all, we need sensible lending policies from lenders. The mortgage market will not be as big in 2009 as it was in 2008 but consumers will still need advice.

It’s time for a new openness in the market that will benefit current and future borrowers. We are determined to open this dialogue as without it lenders, brokers and consumers will lose out.

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