Market Watch: Take a breath, reflect and prepare

2018 had its share of challenges and uncertainty, but we can all play a part in improving our industry in the coming 12 months

When contemplating this final column of the year, staring at the blank page in front of me, I suddenly breathed a loud and meaningful “phew”. Not that I can rest from the column – because writing is one of my passions – but because that is how the year has left me feeling.

It is a relief it is nearly over and we are almost at the point where we can recharge and come back fighting for the excitement of next year.

It has been a tougher year than many expected, with the usual ups and downs.

Indeed, it has often felt like a slog to get cases through lenders, question valuations, and deal with legal delays and the gross inefficiencies still endemic in the mortgage process.

The industry has been fighting negative press and incendiary and unnecessary social media comments, all the while trying to operate in a country at war with itself over Brexit and with a political class without, well, class or any clear plan other than their own personal agendas.

At least the results from the recent Bank of England stress test show UK banks are “prepared and strong enough” to withstand a major event like a disorderly Brexit.

Cast your mind back. We started off in positive fashion, then were frozen by the Beast from the East, before witnessing improvement that peaked with a glorious summer of belief driven by a great World Cup and hot weather.

Almost as soon as that was over, however, Britain remembered it was divided and we dive-bombed into a pool of murky, grey soup. Just recently, we have begun to emerge bright-eyed into the warmth of a charitable embrace of fundraising efforts for End Youth Homelessness: a bear hug of emotion, self-sacrifice and generosity that should see us through these last few days and restore faith.

What happens next at the macro level is largely beyond our control, so we can only deal with what we can. We need to continue to improve the way we look after our clients and ensure our customer journeys are slick, while retaining the personal touches in which we excel.

We need to ensure our regulator knows in no uncertain terms that it is not a case of cheapest is best; also, that full advice is the best option and that, while we welcome and embrace technology, we will not allow it to dumb down this advice to a point where we see poor consumer outcomes.

You know what really makes me smile?

It is the last edition of the year, so let’s get positive. The last few weeks have reminded me what this industry is all about and why I love it. What started with a Twitter conversation between Brightstar chief executive Rob Jupp and Atom Bank director of retail mortgages Maria Harris, backed by the tireless work of Brightstar director of operations Will Lloyd, ended with 1,000 people sleeping out in December, raising over £100,000 for charity.

And what started with a conversation at an event between the amazing Landbay managing director of intermediaries Paul Brett and I about the talent in our industry, ended in us writing and producing a charity song that we hope will generate more cash and awareness for End Youth Homelessness.

Sometimes we moan, but this industry has a habit of pulling together when we need to, of adapting to change, of putting our personal rubbish aside to help others.

We need to support our trade body, the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries, getting involved and helping where we can to ensure we have a say in our future.

We need to get better at educating the public, promoting financial literacy and shouting about who we are and what we do; to continue to fight for a level playing field where proc fees and retention are concerned, ensuring these levels are fair and commensurate with the amount and quality of our work. And we also need to not just rely on one method of remuneration, but to remember to value ourselves properly.

We need to lead from the front in the financial world by being serious about tackling inequality and supporting mental health awareness and charity, to make sure that, when the public read about or engage with any facet of our industry, they are left in no doubt about how professional, personable and trustworthy we are.

In the markets, three-month Libor has eased up by 0.01 per cent to 0.9 per cent, while Swap rates have also risen a touch since the last edition of Market Watch.

  • 2-year money is up 0.06% at 1.17%
  • 3-year money is up 0.05% at 1.24%
  • 5-year money is up 0.01% at 1.35%
  • 10-year money is unchanged at 1.55%

There is still a host of activity from lenders keen for business. One positive to take from 2018 has been the amount of new players and products, stirrings of innovation and reinvigoration of relationships between lenders and brokers. This bodes well for the New Year.

As ever, I am honoured to be able to continue to write this fine column; to champion the broker and professional advice, to continue to believe that partnership and togetherness is the solution, and to fight against what is wrong, while pointing out the bad, empathising with the sad and celebrating the good.

But most of all, it is always an honour to work with all of you, to hear your views, to engage on social media or to chat and share a beer or glass of wine (ok, bottle). You are the good guys and girls and I salute you.

May you have an extremely merry Christmas/happy holidays and reacquaint yourselves with loved ones, relax, recharge and come back fighting. We have work to do. May the New Year be healthy and prosperous for us all.

Andrew Montlake is director at Coreco

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  • Des Platt 12th December 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Great column Andrew and your views today are pretty well exactly mine too. I will try to take your positivity forwards in the months ahead. By nature I am a pessimist outside of work but am usually positive and passionate in my work as I love helping people . Have to admit to being somewhat dispirited at present partly because this is a difficult world in which to have a strong social conscience and partly through family illness.

    Industry wise, I find the most difficult aspect is that I have always put my clients first in everything but now I find myself thinking “How would a tick box Ombudsman look at this?” That was already happening in examples such as Ombudsmen ruling that we should do decreasing rather than level cover for mortgages when the latter can be far more cost effective and so on.

    I went to a seminar recently where we had some great upflifting presentations on protection and then a final one on debt consolidation as part of compliance. Although debt consol has been a minority of my caseload, I think I’ve done some great and very successful work there. I feel that any reasonable person with decent financial knowledge would agree my files would show that good advice had been given. In the final presentation, I learnt that I would not pass the tick list as I had not suggested going to CAB etc first or recording that.

    As the presentation went on, you could see the life being knocked out of a lot of experienced brokers and several people shared with me their feeling that if you followed every step that had been outlined, you just wouldn’t bother doing any. That was several weeks ago and my morale has not really recovered from it. I have little doubt that as a result of that presentation, there are clients who will not be given the right solution.