Fewer networks serve the same ARs

Though the number of ARs has remained pretty static the FSA web register shows the number of networks is falling - a trend that seems likely to continue, says Richard Griffiths

The table below shows the number of appointed representative firms in the mortgage networks as of September 30. The data was extracted from the Financial Services Authority web register.

The table shows the new mortgage networks that came about as a result of FSA regulation of the mortgage market. These networks are regulated for mortgage activities, with most of them also being regulated for insurance activities.

They are not, however, regulated for investment activities and the table does not include the IFA networks that are regulated for this type of activity.

Overall, the number of AR firms has remained relatively static, with the small increase of 3% being masked by a number of mergers and takeovers.

Despite the fact that the merger of Genesis and Guaranteed Home Loans seems to be more of a courtship than a marriage, they are shown as a combined group that now ranks as the third largest network.

Direct Life & Pensions, trading as Enable, is the only network to drop out of the top 10, being replaced by Mortgage Intelligence which enters the top 10 for the first time.

The main loser in the list is Prestbury Holdings, which curiously continues to trade under the two separate brands of Solution Network and Blue Pearl with 81 and 49 member firms respectively.

In contrast, the acquisition of the ARs of Optoma Interpartners by Mortgage Broking Services, owned by Manchester Building Society, has seen the ARs being transferred to the latter brand.

The transfer had not been completed by September 30 with the FSA register still showing 22 firms under Optoma Interpartners. This number has, however, been included in the total of 129 firms shown for Mortgage Broking Services.

In addition to Optoma Interpartners, other networks that have disappeared from the June 30 league table are Lifelink, Professional Mortgage Network, The Mortgage Union, MML Administration and One2One Mortgages.

The Lifelink AR network was acquired by Thinc-Destini in early July. One2One Mortgages went into liquidation. The Mortgage Union and MML, which both had a small number of AR firms, simply chose to terminate their network operation following in the footsteps of The Mortgage Operation earlier this year.

PMN, now part of the Berkeley Berry Birch group, is still shown on the FSA web register as having 50 AR firms. But the promotional spin emanating from BBB refers to 440 member firms of PMN.

In reality, this is the total number of advisers in the Berkeley Independent Adviser network according to the recent annual report of the BBB group released on July 29.

This is a somewhat disingenuous interpretation of numbers. If the same attitude was adopted by the Tenet group, the second largest IFA network which owns LIME, it would be claiming that over 2,000 advisers belong to LIME. The LIME list of ARs in fact just shows those who have LIME as their single principal – the 83 firms are not also ARs of one of the Tenet IFA networks.

Altogether, the number of mortgage networks is down from 28 to 24 over the past quarter.

It’s a fair bet that the number at the end of December will be below the 20 mark.