Enness Private Clients calls for rethink over high net worth definition

Large mortgage and high net worth specialist Enness Private Clients, has responded to the latest Mortgage Market Review paper, in which it calls for the regulator to rethink its definition of a high net worth client.

The paper, published last December, suggested a more tailored and alternative approach for high net worth borrowers because of the complex nature of income and the short terms of most loans. 

It offered a number of proposals including:

  • Suggesting the FSA could either disapply the mortgage rules to high net worth borrowers or allow them to forego the protection of the mortgage rules.
  • Defining what constitutes a high net worth customer –it suggested a gross income of no less than £1m pa or net assets of no less than £3m.

In its submission to the FSA, Enness is fully supportive of the approach which places high net worth borrowers outside the normal rules and regime.

It is also supportive of disapplying the mortgage rules to high net worth borrowers however believe there still need to be guidelines in place. 

As it feels this would make customers more comfortable rather than a situation where the rules were removed completely.

In defining what a high net worth individual is for mortgage purposes, Enness has suggested gross income of £500,000 plus pa and an asset base of £3m – excluding the main residence –  or £5m if the main residence is included.

In addition, Enness also proposes that individuals who work in certain financial sectors and hold specific qualifications, such as an ACA qualification for example, should also be exempt from the rules as they will have the financial knowledge to make an informed decision.

Hugh Wade-Jones, director of Enness Private Clients, says: “We are on record as calling the proposals ‘balanced and coherent’ however there are a few areas where we believe greater clarity is needed, in particular around what constitutes the definition of a high net worth borrower. 

“We believe £1m income pa is too high and clients earning this level of money are uncommon.  Plus the employed tend to be heavily bonus-led which increasingly includes stock and other incentive schemes – it needs to be made clear whether this would be included as income. 

“There also needs to be a greater understanding around the asset figure and whether this includes a main residence. Many individuals will have benefited from significant house price growth over the past 20 or so years and find themselves living in million pound-plus homes. 

“Yet, they would never be deemed to be high net worth and should not be treated as such; we need to know if, as many private banks already do, this net asset figure excludes the main residence.

“One further area we feel also needs to be addressed is the area surrounding funds being placed on account to give more security with regards to affordability.

“Many high net worth individuals, especially older customers, will have large overall wealth but limited yearly income so banks will often ask that a number of years’mortgage payments are made upfront and placed on account.

“It is certainly worth exploring this area and addressing how banks will judge funds on account versus yearly income when it comes to mortgage affordability.  Our view is that money in the bank, so to speak, is far better security than income that may, or may not, be earned in the future.”