Feature: Photo finish in latest lender ratings survey

The residential lending scores are in and it was a race to the wire, with only a fraction of a percentage point separating the three lenders at the top of the table. Natalie Thomas reports.

Halifax Intermediaries

Halifax narrowly pipped Accord Mortgages to claim the top spot this quarter. Chadney Bulgin mortgage partner Jonathan Clark reveals a recent purchase case went from application to offer in just two days, which he attributes to Halifax’s “slick underwriting” and desktop valuation.

Trinity Financial product and communications manager Aaron Strutt says: “Halifax is more flexible than other major banks and our brokers are surprised just how many niche applications it takes.”

The lender still does not offer market leading rates, says Just Mortgages senior mortgage and protection adviser Matt Tilbury, but he adds: “Its niche lending earns it good business.”

Yorkshire BS (Accord Mortgages)

Tilbury describes Accord as his “current favourite lender” due to its great products, underwriting and BDM support, while John Charcol product technical manager Nicholas Morrey calls it a “good solid lender” and backs its purchaser welcome boxes.

Large Mortgage Loans managing director Richard Merrett says: “Its growth series podcast demonstrates how it wants to work with intermediaries.”

Alexander Hall director of lender relationships and new homes Greg Cunnington says: “Its recent new build proposition was a real show of support to this market.”


Coming third, Barclays was just half a percentage point behind the leader. Merrett describes its online rate switch as a “significant enhancement”, while Cunnington feels its large loan department shows “a great understanding” of clients.

London & Country associate director of communications David Hollingworth feels the lender is flexible and prepared to tweak price where necessary. “The green mortgage, family springboard and joint borrower, sole proprietor proposition all show its ability to add to a strong core product,” he says.

Perception Finance managing director David Sheppard says, while its IT system lags behind its competitors, submitted cases are “relatively smooth” if no amendments are needed.

Nationwide for Intermediaries

Nationwide may have slipped three places but its score of 80.4 per cent is actually higher than its last residential score of 79.2 per cent. Clark says its contractor policy is winning it business but its rates and products lack “sparkle”. Morrey believes the lender offers “good” BDM support. He would like to see a good interest-only proposition also, as would Merrett, who calls it a “consistent and dependable” lender.

Tilbury commends its “good products and policy” but says there is still room for improvement on service, while Riach Financial mortgage broker Bob Riach feels it offers an easy to use online system, consistently good service and “one of the best” BDM support services.

Coventry BS

Coventry has fallen two places but is still a favourite among some of the panel. “Always a pleasure to deal with” says Sheppard. “It is fast, helpful and always looking to do the business.”

Merrett says it remains a “go-to lender” in the self-employed sector. Riach has seen a big improvement in service latterly but says it can be “very strict” on underwriting.

Clark hopes the recent tweaks to its affordability will enable it to compete with the “more generous” lenders, while SDL Group’s group commercial director Rob Clifford says its proof of address requirements are “challenging” at times.

RBS (NatWest Intermediary Solutions)

It is a case of mixed feelings from the panel about NatWest this quarter. “An improved quarter on service from NatWest,” says Sheppard. “As a lender that will consider things others won’t, it is good for certain clients.”

He applauds its telephony BDM team but would like to see a field-based one.

Clifford would like to see more detailed case tracking from the lender but believes this is being worked on.

Hollingworth says the lender has positioned itself well in the five-year fixed rate market, while Clark says its products continue to win business but criteria seem to be applied “inconsistently” by underwriters.

Virgin Money

Virgin Money has climbed one place. “It has really got a grasp on what is wanted and tries to accommodate most cases,” says Tilbury. “It offers a flexible approach to underwriting and strong BDM support,” he adds.

Clark says the lender has sharpened its rates of late, particularly on higher LTVs. “These, together with a useful interest-only policy, continue to win business,” he says.

Sheppard, however, says its service and IT systems need some improvement when porting cases. “It also needs to update its online system in regard to our BDM who left six months ago,” he says.

Morrey says: “Great underwriters and BDMs but needs better products.”


HSBC has made inroads this quarter, gaining two places. Strutt says: “HSBC is still offering really good rates and recently offered a £1m-plus mortgage for us in nine working days.”

Merrett says the lender has firmly established itself in the intermediary market with a great team, superb products and some good niches, “particularly with its appetite for expat and overseas business”.

Cunnington says: “The migration to its new online system has been a big plus.”

Sheppard, however, says it can give “mixed messages” on what is acceptable when submitting cases.

Santander for Intermediaries

The panel have had issues with Santander’s service this quarter, causing it to drop three places.

“It used to be very good but service has gone very wrong of late,” says Sheppard. “Underwriters are taking around two weeks to look at a case.”

Morrey has experienced similar issues. “If a case gets initial decline it is almost impossible to talk to someone to straighten things out,” he says.

Clifford also says it can be difficult to get in touch with Santander by phone. Strutt misses its competitive products. “It’s been a while since we have had a seven-day special and it would be great to have another one,” he says.

TSB Bank

Tilbury describes TSB as a little lost and says: “It has fallen out of sorts with the market and not sure where it stands now.”

Morrey, however, feels the lender is “starting to source better and get its act together”.

Clark says the community will know it is serious about intermediary business when its long-awaited product transfer system is finally launched.

Hollingworth also feels TSB is getting back to a sense of normality. “It has kept the mortgage business ticking over without hitting the higher volumes we know it is capable of,” he says.

Wild card- Metro Bank

Metro Bank scored 74.8 per cent this quarter, an improvement on its score of 72.6 per cent when it was last rated by the panel in August 2016.

Clark says: “Metro Bank is offering great rates, an interest-only option and a flexible contractor policy but service standards can be variable.”

Tilbury says: “Good niche products and policies.”

While Merrett says its reduced fee of £499 on remortgage products is a great touch.

Clifford, however, says high-value cases can take longer than competitors to get to offer.

Morrey describes its service as “a bit patchy” and says that getting underwriters to explain things can be hard.


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  • Katie Newell-Tucker 12th November 2018 at 2:53 pm

    What a fabulously diverse panel. You look like a veritable GAP advert.