And when it comes to sorting out the wheat from the chaff in terms of mortgage deals, brokers are definitely best.
For example, take the latest eye-catcher from HSBC. Superficially, it works on all levels. While the rest of the mortgage world is shutting up shop or restructuring deals for greater profit, HSBC has hit the headlines with an audacious move in the opposite direction.
It is encouraging borrowers to fill their boots, lining up its Rate Matcher mortgage to offer matching rates as low as 5.45% for customers coming off their existing deals. Well, almost.
The problem with silver linings is that they normally come up with giant-sized clouds attached. In the case of HSBC, the clouds are the need for significant equity and potentially punitive arrangement fees – nearly £5,000 for the maximum £250,000 loan.
But let’s not be niggardly. The rate and product do what they say on the tin and the deal is a PR masterstroke.
With the market in turmoil, brokers who have bothered to invest in developing their customer bases will be best placed to survive. Those who have been trading on the ‘wham bam, thank you ma’am’ margin of the industry are already seeing their bread and butter vanishing from the table.
Typical of those with the pedigree to survive the crisis is Mark Stallard, mortgage broker at Stroud-based BJB Life and Pensions. Stollard’s thoughts will no doubt resonate with brokers across the country.
He says: “Life is difficult at the moment with hasty product pulls, less market choice and more expensive deals. But on the other hand, borrowers have never needed brokers more. “Our role is to contact all our customers and ensure they are not burying their heads in the sand, waiting for the storm to blow over.”
He adds: “With fewer customers about, this is a good time to maximise our time and effort with those we already have to ensure they are protected and have the best possible deals.”
In good times, placing mortgage business is like shooting fish in a barrel, and we all lived the high life for a decade. We’re probably a year away from those halcyon days returning and in today’s rocky financial landscape, it is the fittest who will survive.
In a world where loyalty is still prized but often seems to count for little, brokers who develop empathy with their clients have the best chance of making it through.