Expo highlights the big issues for intermediaries

Visitors and exhibitors at the Mortgage Business Expo, held at Earls Court earlier this month, will not have been disappointed by the experience.<

Not all industry trade events live up to their lavish build-ups but, with over 4,600 visitors and almost 200 exhibitors, this two-day show was a great success.

With attendance up 9% over last year’s figure, those claiming last year’s Expo was the high water mark for the intermediary market could have mulled over this year’s event’s success in any of its packed caf豠and bars. It was certainly no place for wandering prophets of doom to feel vindicated.

One year on, Financial Services Authority regulation has not driven thousands of intermediaries to seek network safety or even out of business, and major crises in the intermediary market have been notable only by their absence. Sure, there are areas which need to be improved – record keeping in particular – but by and large, intermediaries have adapted well to statutory regulation.

It is particularly clear that few firms regret the decision made over their firm’s route. A year ago, some columnists suggested FSA compliance would be simply too much for small firms but is not borne out in the feedback to AMI. In August, AMI asked intermediaries how they felt about their decision and whether they planned to vary or remove their authorisation in the year ahead.

Significantly, 95% of directly authorised firms said they have no plans to change their status, while 4% planned to become appointed representatives. Only 1% expected to leave the advice market altogether and go introducer-only.

A clear majority of appointed representatives also felt content with their decision. 80% did not expect to change their status while 19% planned to apply for direct authorisation. The same proportion (1%), planned to go introducer-only.

Regardless of status, AMI aims to address the issues identified by intermediaries themselves as potential business opportunities for the year ahead. So, prior to Expo, AMI asked members what topics would most interest them, resulting in a very clear top five.

The list featured improving the protection proposition, secured loans, equity release. financial promotions, lead generation and how to buy and sell intermediary businesses – all of which topics were addressed in the AMI seminar room.

On the AMI stand meanwhile, it wasn’t FSA regulation that was the centre of delegates’ discussions.

The arrival of the Home Information Pack – now fixed as June 1 2007 – is rightfully attracting intermediaries’ attention. From this date any existing client looking to move home will require a HIP to market their property, let alone sell it. Firms will need an answer for their clients’ HIP enquiries and AMI has produced guidance for members on the considerations.

As a microcosm of the mortgage industry, Expo is hard to beat. If any single will dominate its agenda in the years ahead, it is HIPs. For intermediaries, doing nothing is not an option. AMI members can access Factsheet 24: Home Information Packs at www.a-m-i.org.uk.