First Direct halts new lending

First Direct has suspended new lending after applications soared to five times their normal volume.

The lender says the suspension means it can focus on processing the backlog that has built up in recent weeks. Chris Pilling, chief executive of First Direct, says: “We have seen unprecedented demand for our mortgages since January thanks to our competitive pricing and the decision of other lenders to raise their rates.” Drew Wotherspoon, spokesman for John Charcol, says: “First Direct’s pricing has been around 0.5% better than its rivals recently. Many borrowers wanting two-year fixed rates will have ended up at its door, so this move was on the cards.”