Intermediary Mortgage Lenders’ Association executive director Peter Williams has revealed his biggest challenges and proudest moments as he prepares to retire after more than ten years with the trade body.
Q: What are the landmark changes you’ve seen in the last ten years?
A: I arrived, and shortly after we went into the downturn. IMLA membership plummeted from 36 to 13 as firms went out of business. So part of it was managing the chaos of that downturn and the image of the lenders in IMLA, who were obviously seen as firms who had taken risks and paid the price for it.
The next phase was all about reconstruction of the sector. IMLA championed the issue of funding. It became obvious that, in the recovery phase, the CML found it quite difficult to deal with some of the more challenging issues around funding.
Obviously a good chunk of their major members were funded out of retail deposits and were quite comfortable with seeing the difficulties that other parts of the market were facing. But for IMLA, wholesale and investment bank funding were key elements. So we championed the issue of where we were going to go in terms of funding, and we ended up with the Funding for Lending scheme, Term Funding, and so forth.
Then we got into the detail of regulation, with the Mortgage Market Review, and conduct and prudential regimes that emerged from that. So we were involved in that, with a focus on the relationship between intermediaries and lenders.
So it’s been a broad sweep of decline and recovery and we are now in a relatively stable position.
Q: Are there any market changes you would like to have seen?
A: I think where we’ve ended up in regulation terms is about right. But I am slightly frustrated by the difficulty in establishing with the FCA and PRA the scale to which the market has changed over a decade.
In areas like interest-only, lending into retirement, the market was curtailed very strongly. Subsequently we’ve seen a stepping back by the FCA to reopen those markets. The market is still underserved, however.
If you look at lending to self-employed, to high-LTV, there are a lot of categories that lenders find more difficult to lend to. The FCA data shows the shrinkage in certain categories has been quite substantial. But there doesn’t seem to have been a discussion about that. When you ask what impact regulation has had on the market then you have this strange conversation where they say ‘well we don’t think it’s done very much, we don’t think many are disadvantaged by regulation’.
I think a frustration for me is an unwillingness, in a more partnership-based approach, to openly discuss what impact regulation has had on the market and whether it is a good or bad thing.
Q: Will you be keeping any stake in the mortgage market after you leave IMLA?
A: Yes. I am a non-executive at Vida Homeloans, I will contimnue my work with Acadata on house price commentary, and I will continue to write and research on the housing and mortgage markets.
Q: What are you most proud of in your time at IMLA?
A: We are back at record membership now, 39. We have managed to retain and enhance the intermediary lender voice. In the last decade we have moved from relatively antagonistic relationships at times with lenders and brokers – not on the front line but on a PR level, sniping at each other – I think over that period we have managed to settle that market commentary.
There is much better collaboration and co-operation between Ami, IMLA, and a lot of that is down to Robert Sinclair and the whole Ami board. The market is on an even keel, operating effectively and meeting a wide variety of consumer needs. There is more we can do, but for me, inevitably, as it is a part-time job there is only so much I can do. I’d have liked to have been involved in more policy debates. So we’ve had to focus, and we’ve focused on that relationship above all else. The only other thing I’d say is I’m very pleased we have managed to create and maintain a series of policy papers commenting on the mortgage market.