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A bizarre case of ‘computer says no’

I’m amazed by some lenders’ inflexibility. A rich client wanted to borrow a bit extra but Nationwide rejected him. Thankfully Coventry showed more sense, says a relieved Sue Read

It always surprises me that some lenders are more flexible than others. Since I started my new job I’ve been involved with a case for an important client of our firm, whose business can certainly be considered to be high net worth.

He wanted to borrow a significant extra amount on top of his mortgage to do home improvements (you know, tennis court, swimming pool, that sort of thing).

There are various complications to this story, which I won’t bore you with, but the bottom line is that he planned to combine his large existing mortgage (one soon to be on a standard variable rate) with the new borrowing on a competitive fixed rate.

Enter Nationwide. To be fair, the case was not completely packaged when submitted in January, so it ended up being bounced back and forth between its local processing unit and our office for a while.

My new colleague Paul, who is less experienced than me but no less tenacious, had struggled valiantly with the lender. Eventually the valuation was done and we understood everything had been received. We held our breath for an offer.

Nationwide sent its apologies, but the answer was no. Because of the case’s size it had to go back to its specialist underwriting unit at head office.

But there were compelling reasons to lend to this client. He has an ample investment portfolio with which to cover any possible shortfall, and the LTV will be low when compared with his property’s future value – well over 1.1m.

Nationwide does not have business development managers or head office support units and I could only speak to its local staff. But I couldn’t even obtain a phone number for the head office from them.

In frustration I fired off a plaintive email to Philip Williamson, the lender’s outgoing chief executive. I guessed his address.

One of his assistants called me and I put my case to him. I know that underwriting criteria are there for a reason but sometimes you have to be flexible.

To cut an even longer story short, the answer was still no. Sadly, Nationwide even got one of its local staff members to ring me to break the news, which was unfair. Some discussions continued, but the lender remained resolute. So the end result was an angry Jobson James and a furious client.

I went back to Coventry, the client’s existing lender, to see what could be done there. No problem, it said. He can do everything he wants. The lender even put the combined loan on a rate with no early repayment charges so it could review it again when the client’s work was done. Excellent news.

The client agreed and we went back to Coventry to get the forms only to be told that it had got it wrong. My patience was wearing thin.

But then a girl at Coventry called Mandip persuaded the underwriters to stick with their previous offer. Now that’s what I call underwriting. Nationwide nil, Coventry won.


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