Robin Hood is the icon of the Nottingham, an irony that is obviously wasted on this financial services organisation. Nottingham treads the well-trodden path of many mutuals in hiding its intermediary-facing website. The One account has a fair bit of functionality, which is surprising as it’s part of the RBS group – a bank that has successfully avoided broker-facing technology for some time. Paragon, on the other hand, is a specialist that only lends in the buy-to-let market. This allows it to operate outside of the rules that restrict mainstream lenders. Its website functionality is as good as anything I have seen reported on these pages.
A well hidden intermediary website is available from Nottingham, but like many of the mutuals I have reviewed in recent weeks it’s a bit of an afterthought. There’s little by way of functionality, which is limited to an online KFI. There is no online AIP or application. Instead you are directed to a downloadable application. The site is simple and I find the colours tedious, with little thought having gone into colour schemes or graphics. One screen mixes purple, dark green and lime green, indicating a profound lack of design flair. Nottingham has an estate agency arm as well as the society with a fair degree of coverage and, unlike many of the smaller mutuals, it lends across England and Wales.
The One account
More of a product than a brand, The One account does at least have a direct link from its customer-facing site to its intermediary site, although it’s a little annoying that you have to ring the call centre to get a registration log-in and it is only open during the week until 7.30pm. Once you get a log-in you can obtain a KFI and do an AIP. While you can track your application online, the application needs to be submitted in paper form and comes in two parts. Outside of that there are only a handful of products and the look and feel of the site is simple – even a little too plain. I suppose it’s practical and you don’t really want to spend any more time online than you need to, which is just as well.
This specialist buy-to-let lender has a clean, simple and easy-to-use website. Not being bogged down with the need for IDD documents or KFIs it is free to concentrate on the service side of its business. Paragon makes a big deal of principally dealing through the intermediary sector and provides direct customers with a database of advisers in their area. You can obtain an AIP and apply online and can then track cases online through to completion. Customers can look up their annual statements online and there are a range of specialist tools including SIPP opportunities and pre-registration in advance of pensions A-Day.There are also some useful assessment tools like a house price evaluator and buy-to-let and income calculators.