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Patrick Bamford, managing director of UNIFi Partners

When I was asked to write a blog for the Loan Distributor website I immediately said yes but then realised that whilst I’d heard of the term ‘blog’ I didn’t actually know what it meant.

I quite often hear that you can download blogs to your iPod but as I have just mastered the art of downloading my CDs and purchasing songs from iTunes I think that’s for another day.

I spoke to my daughter who just laughed so the next stop was the team in the office who I am sure were laughing but explained that “a blog is quite similar to a diary, you can say anything really as long as it’s interesting.” So, I said, “It’s a trendy name for a diary then?” I didn’t get a response.

2008 – what a year already. Plenty of good sport with 12 minutes of madness at Twickenham propelling Wales towards a Grand Slam, the Champions league with three English teams in the semi-finals and yet another first time winner at The Masters.

But, what about our business? I can’t think of one person I speak to in the working week that has not been affected by the ‘crunch’, the knock-on affect though is starting to affect other industries printing, travel, home improvements and even gym membership. Don’t let it lapse again.

I have either seen or spoken to all the key lenders recently and having come from a lender background know what a tough time they are facing.

I am confident they all want to help and remain committed to this market, however, most have demanding parents some with severe funding constraints and others who have suffered substantial losses in other parts of the world.

I am sure that not a week goes by without the senior teams in some of these companies justifying and arguing that secured loans are good products, have a future and demand is constant.

All we, the brokers, would ask of the lenders is to communicate, communicate and communicate some more. It is only the customer that suffers if products are withdrawn with little notice or if completion timescales are unrealistic.

In times like this it’s important that networks work even harder for their members, supporting them were possible and continuing to update them on market and lender changes as soon as they happen. April saw the new Consumer Credit Act changes go live and while most lenders did a great job in informing brokers there was also a need to back this up with further information and reminders, we at UNIFi fielded numerous calls regarding cut off dates.

There is a danger though that brokers become too diverse and lose concentration on what is their core competence – selling, processing and packaging loans – however there still remains the need to create opportunity for members.

In the last six weeks or so I have been to the Midlands, South Wales, London and the South Coast and the response has been the same, “It’s very tough, we are working hard and if we can just have a period of stability then we can get through it.”

What I have observed, however, is a major lack of PPI sales, understandable in many situations especially with the focus on sales activity, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the complexities, in some cases, of the product.

The concern though, not only in terms of income loss, is the stark fact that more customers than ever do not have any form of cover. This is clearly not good for them, the lender and the economy as a whole. Should the economy slip further then just wait for the headlines because of this lack of cover.

It’s not an easy one to rectify and I know lenders are looking hard at the issue and hoping to arrange forums to debate the issue. The Association of Finance Brokers, the voice of the secured loan broker is very concerned as well and will hopefully be part of the discussions.

Finally, just early this morning, when walking George, the dog, something occurred to me. The banks, we are led to believe, are being put under pressure to reduce their mortgage rates by the same percentage rate that the Bank of England reduced Base Rate thus passing the full effect onto, yes, the customer.

It occurs to me that this would be something you’d call Treating Customers Fairly – perhaps this is a prime example of what all the publicity around TCF was actually about.

See you next time.

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