By Paul Crewe, director, Smart Money Loans
Having been to all the trade shows in the past two months, culminating with the event in Docklands, the presence of three major events would suggest that the lending sector and its supporting industries are all running at full steam, yet at the height of the boom, we made do with just one national trade show. The reality though, is slightly different.
What we actually have is some long needed competition for brokers’ attention and exhibitors’ cash, at a time when the market is only just beginning to get back on its feet but we shall all be better served as a result.
To me, competition is a good thing and provides the customer with choice and better value. Businesses in a monopoly position tend to become complacent and actually need competitors to keep them on their toes, so it is good to see a very competitive market developing in secured loans.
No one lender is going to be allowed to rest on its laurels, as Shawbrook Bank, Blemain and Prestige Finance, among others, keep raising the bar with refinements to product, pricing and criteria. The announcement that Precise Mortgages is joining the party this month is also good news for the sector for the same reason and relative newcomers like Masthaven Secured Loans, with the appointment of Paul Brett to head their sales effort, are clearly preparing to mount a considerable challenge in 2014.
As a distributor working closely with intermediaries, it is great to be in a position to offer so much choice. Particularly after the preceding period when the choice available was similar to Henry Ford’s offer of any colour scheme to customers for his cars, as long it was black.
However, while we now have more of a feast than a famine, the next challenge facing the secured loans market comes with formal regulation under the Financial Conduct Authority as part of the Mortgage Market Review.
Whoever it was, certainly had a sense of humour by making the official start date as April 1. While the regulator is certainly making a real effort to communicate with the industry, in contrast to its unlamented predecessor, the possibility of a protracted process remains a distinct possibility, partly because of the largely unnecessary, but legally binding European Mortgage Directive, which is still not finalised. However, brokers and anyone involved in providing advice on secured loans had better have applied for interim permissions from the regulator before the start date or the April Fool will definitely be on them.