Do you think retail-only lenders are losing their grip on the mortgage market?

Lenders can best serve brokers and consumers by offering them a variety of distribution options, say our experts

Nigel Stockton is managing director of HBOS Intermediaries
Yes. It is clear that retail-only lenders are missing out on the lion’s share of the mortgage market. Research consistently shows intermediary dominance and it is estimated that 74% of mortgage business for 2006 will have been via intermediaries. Borrowers vote with their feet and this is undoubtedly taking most of them into intermediaries’ offices.

Retail-only lenders are few and far between in today’s market. A single method of distribution is not viable for growing businesses. The vast majority of lenders in the UK market offer multi-channel distribution, responding to borrowers’ requirements and allowing them to go direct to lenders or to use the services of brokers. The point is they have a choice and it is important it stays this way.

HBOS offers a multi-channel route to market. Our retail network allows borrowers to shop direct if they choose to or access products via an intermediary. This means we allow borrowers to make their own choices. They can use branches, the internet, the telephone or an intermediary.

At HBOS our commitment to the intermediary market is shown in our actions. We have worked hand-in-hand with brokers to established propositions which support them across our BM Solutions, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and The Mortgage Business brands.

Brokers can search the whole of the market and offer expert advice. Borrowers searching directly with retailonly lenders would have to undertake several visits and appointments.

In such a dynamic industry lenders can’t afford to stand still. Lenders offering retail-only propositions have already been standing still too long. The key to success is offering the best possible service to consumers and brokers, whichever distribution route borrowers choose.

Tim Hughes is head of intermediary markets at Nationwide
While Nationwide recognises the important role that intermediaries play in the mortgage process we are increasing the amount of mortgage business we are doing in our branches.

Customers go into our branches for a number of reasons. Often when they come into a branch and apply for a mortgage they are already coming in to do something else, such as take money out of their current account. It is a matter of convenience for customers.

But intermediaries also have a vital part to play in the process and the amount of business we do through brokers has increased over the years. We want this to continue.

Nationwide is a whole of market provider and we want to accommodate customers whether they choose to come direct to us or through an intermediary.

Part of the reason our branches are so popular is because people still value face-to-face service and want to see the whites of a person’s eyes despite the increasing number of applications that are being done online. Often, with a lot of our smaller branches there is a good relationship between customers and staff, which is not always the situation in a lot of larger high street banks.

It is being widely predicted that technology will have an impact on the amount of business that is done through branches as more customers go online or use online broker services. But we are not a backward company and will be adapting to the challenge. We believe this will be more of a steady trend that will not happen as quickly as people predict.

While we are confident that customers will continue to use our branches because of the great value deals we offer, we still firmly believe the intermediary channel has a vital role to play.