Birmingham Midshires Solutions is part of the UK's fastest growing bank, HBOS, and is the UK's biggest specialist lender. It employs 2,000 people at its corporate headquarters at Pendeford in Wolverhampton (pictured). It provides a range of specialist lending products and manages assets in excess of £20bn. Firmly established as a market leading specialist mortgage lender, BM Solutions has won numerous industry awards.
Q: How is BM Solutions structured?
A: BM Solutions is the intermediary brand of Birmingham Midshires, part of the HBOS group. BM Solutions launched its specialist strategy in 2001 and became the specialist lender of the Halifax. With two processing centres in Wolverhampton and Cardiff, we have a large team of specialist underwriters and extensive market knowledge.
Q: What sets you apart from your competitors?
A: Our technology and excellent service are major differentiators, combined with some of the best online technology in the mortgage industry. BM Solutions Online provides brokers with a range of time-saving options including the One Minute Mortgage, which provides a cast-iron online decision. Come regulation, intermediaries will also be able to get accurate KFIs at the same time as their virtual mortgage offer.
Q: What are the pros and cons of your core product range?
A: All our products are transparent and fair with a variety of innovations, such as our buy-to-let tracker with a fee-free switch option. We have a wide choice of products available but sometimes this can be a disadvantage for time-starved brokers, so we launched an online product-matching system to help overcome this by allowing brokers to quickly narrow down products that suit their clients' specific needs.
Q: What is your distribution strategy?
A: We aim to secure distribution by providing top quality service. We have worked hard to ensure that we have the best compliant online service to back up our product range. Unlike some of our competitors, we believe in delivering great service to both big organisations and one and two-man bands.
Q: Do you use mortgage packagers?
A: We ensure that we only deal with quality packagers who have our Seal of Approval. This allows us to provide other services such as our guarantee to pay sub-prime procuration fees for business placed through our Seal of Approval packagers.
Q: What services do you offer to intermediaries?
A: We have a strong belief that technology is the future in providing top service to intermediaries. BM Solutions Online provides all the tools brokers need to submit business faster and more efficiently. Alongside the One Minute Mortgage, brokers have the ability to follow the progress of their business with the online case tracker.
Other time-saving facilities include product matching and intelligent application forms. We also have expert centres at Pendeford and Cardiff to help with queries. Brokers receive their procuration fees directly via BACS.
Q: What impact will regulation have on your business?
A: Regulation is obviously the focus for all mortgage businesses at the moment. Being part of HBOS gives us the advantage of being able to draw on lots of resources, ensuring that we can overcome issues that small and mid-size lenders might struggle with. Regulation is a great thing for the market, helping everything to become more transparent. We firmly believe that areas such as buy-to-let and second charge should become regulated.
Q: How do you see the intermediary market in two years' time?
A: The intermediary market is certainly set to change over the next two years. It is hard to tell what exact effect regulation will have, but the main feeling is that the market will realign itself into large organisations and smaller niche players.
It is also likely that as things settle down brokers will, with the help of online services, find it easy to move seamlessly between other regulated financial product areas. This could give rise to the 'super intermediary' dealing in a range of areas, whilst undoubtedly some intermediaries will decide to stay as specialists.
Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Mike Fitzgerald – Brentchase Financial Services
BM Solutions' online system is the easiest to use in the market – it's quick and user-friendly and delivers a virtual offer, which is exactly what it says on the tin. While it is almost idiot-proof, you do have to complete online forms accurately for them to be processed, so it keeps brokers on their toes. I have nothing but praise for it. The products themselves are solid, and I'm a great fan of the cascade underwriting system that BMS uses, as it's transparent and finds the best possible deal for the client. Overall a first-class lender with service and products to match.
Mark Osland – Fidelius
BM Solutions has achieved a solid reputation as a quality niche player. We don't have many sub-prime clients and therefore only use BMS occasionally, but it has always been a straightforward process. Online applications with most lenders are pretty fiddly and require a lot of detail. This can make them time-consuming if you are not used to them, so it's really valuable that BMS offers easy access to real people. Because getting through on the phone is usually fine, this gives brokers the confidence that any problems that do arise with the online system can be quickly resolved.
Rod Murdison – Murdison & Browning
I have been impressed with BM Solutions Online. It has had a few teething problems – setting up an account in the first place was pretty fiddly, as it didn't tell you certain key details that really held the process up. Products are usually there or thereabouts, although I am a little disconcerted that self-certifiction deals now carry a 1% completion fee. Rates will therefore have to be cutting edge if BMS is to account for this charge and beat its competitors in this market. A few things need fine-tuning at BMS which will no doubt be sorted out soon, but it deserves a thumbs-up for its excellent rates alone.