The recent innovative move by Halifax to pay a full proc fee to an intermediary where they recommend a client to return to the lender has reignited the \'whose customer is it?\' debate. This issue took up a proportion of the debating time at the Mortgage Summit in Jerez and was even the subject of Mortgage Strategy\'s cover feature last week These discussions have gone on for decades. I remember debating the issue as a lender with intermediary groups back in the early 1990s, while running the centralised lending arm of a big building society (now a bank). The views of both sides have not changed. On one side, some lenders take the view that they have paid the intermediary for the introduction so the customer is now theirs, while on the other side brokers would like to impose protectionist systems whereby lenders cannot communicate with customers. Don’t get me wrong – some lenders encourage customers to deal with intermediaries and not themselves for strategic reasons, and this stance is welcome too. Some lenders offer intermediaries ‘no cross-sell’ agreements but are these really enforceable and do all the lenders’ departments understand and implement them? Sure, the sales division will be passionate about complying but are you telling me that if a lender’s annual mailing run contains reference to a specific product, that reference will be removed from letters or leaflets sent to a customer of a particular intermediary group? I don’t think so. So although no cross-sell agreements and other reassurances are nice to have, brokers must operate in the real world. There is little to be gained from wasting much time on such documents. It is far better for brokers to use the time to develop tactics to boost their business. And what better marketing introduction could an intermediary receive than a customer who has already been warmed up by a lender? In the real world, if an intermediary wants to retain a client for life they have to take control rather than rely on an unenforceable document. Brokers must work hard to develop long-term relationships with customers. This can be achieved in many ways but the objective has to be a state of trust whereby customers return to brokers when they see a product that might interest them. The customer’s letter box might continually flap with lender offers but they must be educated to see that lenders will only offer their own products and brokers – especially directly authorised ones – will search the whole market. Why would a savvy consumer not give the original broker a chance? But don’t assume clients will return if you don’t keep telling them what services you can provide.