Internet Insite

Mortgage Strategy\'s weekly guide to what\'s hot and what\'s not on the web. Kevin Paterson takes a look at lender websites, working his way from A to Z

Stalwart of the broker market Northern Rock does not disappoint this week. Online and offline, everything you need is there. Northern Rock gets on with it quietly and diligently and listens to its customers. One day the big boys are going to turn round and wonder how they lost their crown to NR because if they’re not careful, that’s what is going to happen. Norwich & Peterborough was a pleasure to review even though I struggled with the registration form. I’m staggered at the obvious investment it has made in the broker market – one of the best kept secrets out there. By contrast, Newcastle is stuck in the Stone Age and epitomises the websites of parochial lenders with no vision.

Newcastle’s website is depressingly familiar. It’s one step away from a brochure site and there is no functionality at all. There is no online Key Facts Illustration, no mortgage application facility and no tracking. This is all the more surprising as Newcastle has a lot of functionality around its savings accounts, similar to many online banking systems. Surely if it can do this for its savings accounts it should be a simple matter to provide at least an online KFI instead of aiming you at a telephone number. Admittedly the phone lines are open until 8pm on weekdays and 4pm at weekends but more than a year after the implementation of regulation I would have thought an online KFI would have been relatively easy.

Northern Rock
One look at the Northern Rock website and you will understand why NR is the broker’s favourite lender. Coupled with aggressively priced products and the ever popular Together plan, everything you need is here – online and offline. There are KFIs, AIPs and applications complete with case tracking. The graphics could do with some work but that’s a minor issue. Northern Rock took the sensible decision to develop its own online facilities even though it is a member of the MTE consortium, which seems to be having problems. A call centre backs up the AIP process which is reliable and consistent.As well as all the services and facilities for brokers, NR is a bank – in fact, the eighth largest in the UK.

Norwich & Peterborough
For a relatively small lender, Norwich & Peterborough has spent a lot of time and money developing its website. The site punches well above its weight when it comes to functionality and puts a number of larger lenders sites to shame. Registration is a bit tedious. I’d like someone at N&P who does not know the registration process to have a go to see what I mean as I can see this putting off some people who are less persistent than me. That said, once you get in all you need is there – KFIs, AIPs, applications and case tracking are all available online. The site is clean, simple and uncluttered, even if it could do with some work on the graphics. N&P is also part of the MTE consortium.