On the beat

It might well look like something out of a horror film. Just as intermediaries were beginning to feel that memories were fading following the October 31 introduction of MCOB, a new horror dawns. Creeping and stalking, ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey in early 2005, is ICOB.

More regulation, more form-filling, more new processes and procedures to take on board. When and where is all this going to end? It is no understatement that our industry has gone through a steep learning curve in a short space of time. Change is an every day part of business life. If anything, the pace of change is accelerating. New regulations, systems and products to name but a few.

In a year or two we will all look back with some amusement on what 2004/05 delivered but right now I don’t hear the sound of laughter. To make matters worse we seem to be heading towards the season of the ‘up, down and sideways’ approach to calling the direction of property prices and interest rates. It almost seems like a national pastime and that is just the professionals. Of course, as always, there are the gloom and doom-mongers versus the happily deluded. Each week sees the publication of a variety of reports, one saying one thing, another predicting something entirely different. My advice is to ignore them. all.
I recall a quotation by Winston Churchill, who said: “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.” Wise words indeed.

There is much to be proud of and to focus on, such as continuing to advise customers and help them find the mortgages that they need. Just remember that the total lent in 1998 was nearly £90bn, in 2003 it was just over £270bn and in 2004 it will not be too far away from the 2003 number.

In addition, it might be worth recalling that mortgage intermediaries will have been responsible for up to 60% of that total. I think we can all feel that represents a job well done taking into consideration everything that has been thrown in our path.

But it is no time for complacency as the rate of change will as always accelerate. There is no time to stand still – to use a cliché – evolve or die. One thing that does not change is that the business environment is as competitive as ever. Customers will be as demanding and information hungry.

Right now ICOB may seem a small bump in the road but the industry will, as always, rise to the challenge of whatever 2005 throws at us. One thing is for sure, we will all raise a glass in the festive season to what has been achieved and what we have to look forward to.