Go-ahead mutuals make net progress

While the familiar names retain their lead, this year\'s lender website study shows considerable progress being made by specialist lenders and building societies, says Frank Eve

The 2005 Benchmark Study on Lender Intermediary Technology has now been released to the lenders that took part. The results were used to provide the data for the Mortgage Strategy Technology Service Awards 2005 at the Mortgage Business Expo last week.

More than 20 lenders from across the industry took part in the study which identified emerging best practice in intermediary distribution technology. To define best practice, website functionality is sorted into categories to clarify which examples provide lenders with competitive advantage. The study also identifies what technology is being used by lenders and which technology suppliers they are partnering with.

This year’s research has identified some interesting trends. Since the mortgage market became regulated, lenders have focussed their IT development on intermediary-based technology. This year the larger lenders such as Abbey, the HBOS brands of Halifax, Bank of Scotland and The Mortgage Business, together with Northern Rock and Alliance & Leicester again provided the most functionality on their websites. But progress is being made by specialist lenders and building societies. Last year we identified the progress made by specialist lenders such as GMAC-RFC and this year the building societies have made significant progress with their online technology.

Now that all sectors of the lender community are focussing their IT spend on the development of online functionality, I believe that within the next 12 months all lenders operating in the intermediary sector will have what is described in the study as best practice web functionality.

This year’s study also shows that most of the specialist lenders such as Southern Pacific Mortgages Limited, Platform and Accord Mortgages, and some of the building societies such as the Coventry and West Bromwich, have developed online decision tools.

Nearly three-quarters of the 24 lenders have an online decision tool that gives an automated decision subject only to confirmation of data and valuation. GMAC-RFC has recently launched its cascade system and a number of sites including Abbey and Alliance & Leicester have both online and offline systems so that intermediaries can input data offline and then submit it electronically, later.

Links to third party systems were, however, restricted to Trigold, Mortgage Brain, Countrywide and Launchpad from Legal & General.

The ability to track cases online in real time has become widespread and is considered best practice in the study. All the lender sites were capable of producing an online Key Facts Illustration. BM Solutions has developed the communication potential of its site to deliver BMTV, an online conferencing facility to inform and present product launches and information broadcasts.

Lenders’ intermediary websites have matured into a key communication and delivery mechanism for the intermediary mortgage market. The country’s largest lender, Halifax, only accepts applications through its website. This process will become standard in the next few years.

The next phase of development will require better interactivity between lender and intermediary systems and I will be reporting on this in the new year.