Which? adviser service to open to public in autumn

Which? is expanding its mortgage advice service by hiring more advisers and plans to roll out its offering to the public later this year.

Following a successful pilot at the consumer champion’s offices in London last November, it opened an office in Bristol earlier this month with an expanded team of 12 staff, up from six.

Currently the service is only available to Which? members but will be opened up to the public in the autumn.

Chris Gardner, commercial director at Which?, says demand has been good and it is looking to recruit more advisers.

He says: “The pilot has been successful so the service has been made permanent. We are looking at a tentative rollout of the service to the public in the autumn.

“We will work with strategic partners to offer our service but it is too early to speculate on who they will be.”

Gardner admits it will be tricky to work with banks and estate agents as they have their own mortgage services.

Which? is not looking to use lead generation firms but Gardner does not rule it out.

He says: “We are trying to do something different whereby customers can call up and get free impartial advice so lead generation may not fit with that.”

Which? advisers receive a salary and offer advice on all mortgages including direct deals. Commission is reinvested into the organisation.

When the mortgage advice pilot launched, Which? was criticised by the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries for trying to be both a consumer champion and a commercial operation.

But Dominic Lipnicki, director of Your Mortgage Decisions, says the Which? model does not threaten advisers and that the organisation will struggle to attract the best people.

He says: “I would question how it can motivate quality advisers by not giving them any incentives through commission or bonuses. Processing a mortgage is not as easy as it used to be and I struggle to see how you can get the best staff on that package.

“Our advisers spend an average of six hours with a client and I can’t see how Which? can do that without commission. Which? is a consumer body and is good at it, but it is not an expert in financial services.”