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Woolwich’s halfway house tactics on funds are not good for brokers or their customers

I have spent three days attempting to book Woolwich funds and it was only by staying up into the early hours that I was eventually able to secure funds for my client.

There have been many other brokers, as Mortgage Strategy stated in last week’s edition, who have also been burning the midnight oil, with some having more success than others.

While intermediaries have to fight daily for funds and stay up all hours, clients can contact Barclays direct without any restriction.

A former colleague lost a case for this reason and if I had found myself in a similar position with my large loan case I would have been outraged.

Not only would I have potentially lost a client for the future, I would have had to explain to my introducer that delays in securing funds meant that he would not receive his introduction fee despite taking the time in numerous meetings to sell the benefits of using an intermediary to his applicant.

I would rather Woolwich withdrew a product range and repriced to manage volumes as I don’t believe this halfway house works.

I understand that the lender wants to do what is best for customers but how do you define best?

It can’t be best for brokers to make a recommendation that clients use Woolwich and then be frustrated to find that funds have been restricted and spend days trying to secure them.

Brokers have no timescale on when funds may be secured so their client is unable to proceed with the application and is left in limbo.

It is impossible to manage customer expectations and the last thing they need is to be told that funds cannot be secured.

It further underlines the view expressed in the media that mortgages are as hard as ever to come by despite great efforts from the intermediary market to explain that while there are difficulties, the majority of applicants can borrow.

If Woolwich insists on continuing with its funds booking system then it should communicate that funds are being restricted from the outset, as a lender would do with withdrawing a product range.

Brokers can then make a decision with their clients on whether to take a chance on booking funds with the potential for delay or to consider another lender.

It is not fair for intermediaries to make a recommendation to their client without being in receipt of all the parts of the puzzle, which is one reason why lenders publish service updates.

We all know the potential consequences of delaying applications, so my advice would be to pay an extra few percentage points on a rate in the knowledge that the lender can process the application in the time required.

Colin Payne
Associate Director
Chapelgate Associates

Diary of a broker trying to get funds online and failing

With regard to the reduction in Woolwich’s tranche booking system, I thought I’d take you through a recent evening I spent in the run-up to midnight to access the next day’s funds.

11.25pm: T-minus 35 minutes before funds become available through the Woolwich system. I am feeling nervous. My laptop has been running slow. Can I call my BDM at midnight? What if there is a power cut? I know I am working in a five-minute window to get these urgent funds booked for my client – I can’t take any chances.

11.33pm: Nerves get the better of me. Thanks Del Boy, but I must hit pause and get in front of my laptop ready for launch.

11.37pm: I make tea. Strong with lots of sugar. I am ready and walk to my garden office through the mist and I am on route to secure my Woolwich funds.

11.45pm: I go to the fund booking site, key in my client’s details and sit patiently waiting for 12am to hit, contemplating how things in the industry have got this bad that I am sat up at midnight for a client – I am not charging a fee might I add – to secure their funds.

Well, it will be worth it.

11.53pm: Getting nervous.
11.57pm: More nervous.
12.00am: Go go go – I submit and… the funds are no longer available at this time. Excuse me?
12.01am: Pick my jaw up from the floor.
12.01am: I try again. Funds are no longer available at this time.
12.02am: I look for some tissues to wipe away my tears.
12.03am: I throw my stapler at the window. It cracks. Brilliant.
12.04am: I start writing a furious email to my BDM, even though it is not his fault.
12.27am: I curl up in bed with my wife and cry myself to sleep.
12.31am: I need a new job.

This is a snapshot of the emotions I went through when dealing with Woolwich’s online funds system. It was a roller coaster and at the end of it I had nothing to offer the client.

But it’s OK, as he popped into his local branch where funds were available to him there and then.

Thank God one of Woolwich’s USPs is that it does not dual price.

Lea Karasavvas
Prolific Mortgage Finance


B2L lenders make it hard to find default SVRs on their sites

Having spent all afternoon plotting a complicated portfolio refinance I was irritated to see how many leading buy-to-let providers do not make it easy to find their default SVRs on their websites.

Lenders talk about long-term affordability in the regulated part of the game but when they get the opportunity to be transparent in the non-regulated part they showcase headline rates.

Come on guys make it easy for brokers to be professional – it’s not as if they won’t find out eventually.

Danny O’Sullivan
Stirling Partners Finance


Regulator must stop pandering to firms, start protecting us

I have to agree with the sentiments expressed by Rob Knight in his letter in the March 12 issue that the SVR increase by Bank of Ireland is nothing short of disgraceful.

What is even more disgusting is that banks get away with it. Just because a bank has stopped trading in the UK, does that give it the right to charge what it likes to captive clients in the knowledge that most will be unable to move elsewhere?

There should be a system whereby it is not allowed to trade again in the UK even when times get better – perhaps that would stop it from exploiting clients.

I have to ask why the various watchdogs cannot stop this.

If we can’t be protected from unscrupulous lenders after what we have gone through since 2007 what hope is there for us?

It’s time we stopped pandering to financial institutions and reminded them of the rules of the game.

John Toogood


Profit is always the motive for lenders’ behaviour, not TCF

I was interested to read the story last week in which the Financial Services Authority warned that funding pressures in the mortgage market could trigger the return of aggressive dual pricing strategies.

Its Retail Conduct Risk Outlook analysed the main risks facing consumers and firms over the next 12 to 18 months and highlighted dual pricing as a particular threat to brokers.

Am I the only one who cannot get my head around this?

Over the past 12 months we have been reassured by lenders that they support brokers. We have been told by the FSA of the importance of clients receiving advice and being treated fairly, yet the people making these claims seek to do the opposite.

Why can we not have a lender offering the same products and giving customers the choice of going direct or seeking advice?

Let’s do away with proc fees and charge clients a £999 arrangement fee but give them the option of paying either the lender or broker.

Surely this would be a demonstration of really treating customers fairly.

It’s not about TCF and never has been. It always has and remains purely about profit.

Name and address supplied


Consumers should be entitled to choose service they desire

With regard to the FSA’s concerns on dual pricing, is it not the normal process of a free competitive market?

The manufacturer sells products at a discount if they have sufficient outlets.

The consumer buys at the preferential rate if they want to take charge of all the hassle that accompanies the direct purchase of a product.

Or they can go to a broker who can advise on suitable products and do all the ancillary administration.

So long as the process and the costs are transparent consumers should be entitled to a choice.

The FSA’s fetish with the perfect scenario is the most distorting factor of all. If consumers want independent advice and free access to the market, charge them for the advice.

If you do not like the way some providers operate, do not use them.

If you do not like the way the FSA is interfering in the market, band together and take it and the director of the Office of Fair Trading to the European Court for being in breach of the terms of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

Glen McKeown


We’ve got NewBuy but we really need more social housing

The government has unveiled its NewBuy housing scheme but it should be building decent social housing.

The government did it after WWII with prefabs.

With modern construction materials and techniques and millions of people unemployed they should be able to complete a programme to make a difference within a few years.

Unfortunately, with planning laws and the ill-conceived idea that everyone needs to own their home, the problem will not be addressed properly.

Bill Wells



Radio 4, written by Johnny Vegas and Stewart Lee


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