More brokers will keep sector on course

Nigel Stockton, financial services director at Countrywide, casts a critical eye over the industry


This year has certainly been a good one for the mortgage industry and current market conditions mean that we are in good stead to make a positive start in 2014.

Looking to the future, we predict that gross mortgage lending in 2013 will total around £185-195bn and this will increase by 10 per cent in 2014.

Some industry experts are predicting that the broker intermediary market share will increase next year, particularly during the spring. At that point branch staff in banks will begin their MMR training and the new compliance oversight process and procedures will be in order.

When Lloyds Banking Group, Santander and Nationwide all come to play, weight will be added to these predictions.

I do believe that then we can approach the predictions with even more confidence.

They have the balance sheet strength and the wherewithal to lead the market to that place.

During the fourth quarter of 2013, I have visited a number of lenders and discussed mortgage market predictions and how they will be approaching the market and lending in 2014. 

I was hugely encouraged by all of the lenders that described their capital issues as manageable and that balance sheet repair was not the main issue on which they were focussed.

I do think that net lending could be done by a few larger lenders this time around rather than be restricted to a few of the hardy and excellent mutual supporters.

This year has also seen an upturn in the housing market with consumers more confident about market conditions.

I discussed in my last article about why talk of a house price bubble was premature.

If house price inflation remains positive and consumer sentiment continues to grow then a mortgage is the means to move and buy a new home and not, as it was seen in 2009 to 2011, as the end of the house buying process in itself.

We now have an industry where lenders are producing a greater variety of mortgage products at varying loan-to-values and increasingly so in the higher LTV space.

Consumers now have much more choice than they have had over the past few years and this is a good thing for the mortgage and housing markets as a whole. 

So what could blow us off course in 2014?

But I do not think MMR is the biggest risk to the industry.

I do believe the need to resource more brokers is key.

In my opinion, the financial services industry can learn a lot from surveying firms who have made major inroads into recruiting more surveyors to aid issues with capacity.

The mortgage industry has a requirement to recruit at least another 1,000 qualified mortgage advice professionals.

Solutions to address this shortage will need to include a combination of recruiting graduates into the industry as well as re-training brokers and financial services professionals already working in it.

Brokers, banks and building societies need to grow the size of their mortgage adviser workforce rather than relying solely on people moving within the sector.

At Countrywide, we are committed to growing our mortgage consultant workforce and our strategy is continuing to gather pace.

It is important we ensure we all have the right people to grow our businesses and deal with the increasing number of mortgage applications.

On a lighter note and continuing the theme of predictions, I believe the following will happen in the next year:

Coventry City will become the first football team to be promoted after a 10-point deduction for administration

England cricket team will retain the Ashes

Wales will win the Six Nations Rugby

Andy Murray will win BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Belgium will win the World Cup

Chelsea will clinch the Premiership title, with Arsenal and both Manchester United and Manchester City qualifying for the Champions League.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas, a Happy New Year and I look forward to a cracking start for us all in 2014.