As a bystander, I observe handbag- wielding stand-offs between lenders and mortgage clubs near enough every week.But it needn’t be like that as each week arch rivals form alliances in the cause of the greater good. It’s a case of the ancient adage, united we stand, divided we fall. So why not consider forming a united front to resolve wider industry problems? The Association of Mortgage Intermediaries and the Association of Independent Financial Advisers are now as one and they could, following a democratic referendum or vote, collect an advertising and marketing fund via a levy on members. This could then convey a generic message from the industry through the national media to consumers. There have been plenty of industry debates of late on first-time buyers – with little or no action resulting – and it appears the next sector under scrutiny is remortgaging, which accounts for between 40% to 70% of the marketplace at any given time. Without being diverted into discussing a specific strategy, it is generally accepted that when sales are down companies cut advertising budgets. So imagine the scenario – you’re watching prime time television and a Halifax advert comes on and you think: “If only I had the money to advertise like that.” Well guess what? You can have the money for national advertising whether you are a one-man band, a big network, a small or large building society or even a mainstream lender. Simply form United Mortgages (or whatever name you want to call it) and start contributing to a generic advertising fund. Naturally, it is ideal to have a brand name on all advertising but a generic message could be conveyed which would benefit all parties, running in parallel with individual firms’ inhouse marketing. And to take a topical example, we could advertise the potential benefits of remortgaging. Advertising on a scale not yet seen could be paid for from a fund held by United Mortgages. OK, so the concept of unification is not unique but the remit of an independent organisation selling the benefits of an idea is surely worth some consideration. James Taylor, mortgage product manager at West Brom, says: “It’s a great idea if it is taken up by everyone as you could have a situation whereby those not paying for it benefit.” And Ian Beaumont, managing director of Matrix-Data, a leading Customer Intelligence company in the financial services industry, says: “The recent regulation changes have increased the complexity of the subject for intermediaries and consumers alike so the idea of a united body to assist in general marketing and education on the industry is an excellent one. “However, it would be essential to have complete buy-in from all areas of the industryin order for it tosucceed.” If the statisticians and pundits are to be believed and we are in the grip of an ailing market then some steps need to be taken to re-energise the industry. Also, in bringing all parties together from various sectors including the National Association of Estate Agents, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and even the Law Society, in a united front would be a giant step towards forging a better environment to compete in, not just for today but for the longer term.
For more years than I care to remember I have called for less fragmentation in the mortgage industry. I am convinced this can be achieved by a certain measure of unification but without creating a cartel.