In my A to Z of lenders' intermediary marketing material I've arrived at N, with NatWest and Newcastle. Those nice people at NatWest were keen for me to compare their new intermediary packs with the old material so they sent me both. And yes, the new stuff does look better than the old. But I do think that by sticking with the previous design concept of 'your mortgages cases solved', in which the bank's relationship manager is supposed to be the case-solving detective and also not reviewing the text, NatWest has missed an opportunity to strengthen its intermediary credentials. (Actually, I misread the detective idea to start with, taking it to mean the intermediary. Heigh-ho.) Tell me what you think by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Sullivan of Connect Mortgages pretty much sums it up: “A bank that is trying to break into the broker market. We like that. But it hasn't entered with anything new.” Recognising its dilemma, NatWest has not gone for competing on price but tried to build an intermediary proposition based on service and it's true that in a commodity market like mortgages, service can be a key differentiator. Unfortunately I can't see NatWest winning here either when it puts sentences like this in its support material: “Sometimes you may need an answer in hours rather than days”. If it had put “ seconds rather than minutes” then I think we might start to take it seriously. The material itself – a pack for the main product range and a separate pack for the NatWest One account – has just gone through a revamp and looks a lot better for it with new layouts and colourways. The text sits in plenty of white space – much cleaner and smarter – but some of it reads like a patronising consumer guide rather than matter-of-fact information for professional advisers. There's a new intermediary-dedicated website due to go live in a month or so but there's nothing special here I'm afraid – and no online submission yet.
Yes, yes, yes, said the man at Newcastle when I phoned to request copies of its intermediary material. When nothing had turned up five days later I phoned again to be told no, no, no. As the Newcastle tends to deal with only a handful of intermediaries who create their own material using Newcastle information, the man in the North-East preferred that I didn't review it. So stuck with a copy deadline and no material to consider I thought instead I'd have a look at Newcastle's own The Mortgage Adviser website so you can see what you're up against. You can find the site either by following the links on 'specialist mortgages' from its main site or by going straight to
'www.getmortgageadvice.co.uk'. When you get there it doesn't just offer specialist mortgages but does the lot – and insurances to boot. And I have to say it looks good. The information reads well too, although sections like 'choosing the right mortgage' could do with fuller indexing. The contact telephone number is always on screen and prominent and there's an online enquiry form for times when the call centre isn't open. It may not be perfect but as an example of how to design a strong broker site, it works for me.