Bridging experts have called for the introduction of a bridging qualification to improve reputation, education and self-regulation across the industry.
Brian West, director of Central Bridging, who sits on the board of the ASTL (Association of Short Term Lenders), namedropped the old FISA (Finance Industry Standards Association) qualification for secured loans, which he said drove up standards and confidence.
He said: “I regularly push for examinations and training. Pretty much everybody, every underwriter within the main brokerages took the old FISA qualification and got their certificate.
“The bridging industry should be more aspirational. Why don’t we have a bridging foundation course?
“Let’s pull together the ASTL, NACFB and FIBA and some of the bigger lenders. If Brightstar put all its staff through it then Positive would follow suit as would every brokerage out there.
“With regulators you have to be seen to be doing the best you can to self-regulate, so it’s better if the FCA looks at an industry where the main trade federations and bodies are pulling together to produce a bridging foundation examination, even if it’s only a one or two day course to get a basic foundation in bridging rather than seeing an industry doing nothing.
“There are plenty of lenders and organisations that would get actively involved and would be prepared to pay and help.”
Rob Jupp, chief executive of Brightstar, has called for a bridging qualification before and is surprised one hasn’t yet been introduced.
He said: “The short-term lending market has grown significantly in recent years and lenders, distributors and brokers have all worked hard to raise standards and make bridging finance a more accessible solution for thousands of customers.
“But short-term mortgages are a distinct product that come with their own considerations and I am staggered we have still not introduced a qualification that can help brokers to demonstrate their understanding of the sector.
“We worked hard to get this across the line when I was chairman of the AOBP and we need to continue to continue that work to help continue to raise standards in our industry.”
Damien Druce, director at Assetz Capital, agreed, emphasising it should be driven by the industry, not regulators.
He said: “There’s definitely room for this but it should be driven by the industry rather than the Institute for Financial Services or the FCA.
“If you can get all the trade bodies in a forum with some key players, brokers and lenders, you can probably come up with some kind of qualification that’s probably not as formal as a CeMAP but has that practical side to it.
“The biggest benefit to this is the reputational enhancements to the bridging market because there’s still probably a little stigma attached to it, although it’s nowhere near as it was a long time ago. It’s improved massively.”
However Mathew Tooth, chief commercial officer at LendInvest, was against the idea of an industry wide qualification, favouring an on-board course at individual organisations instead.
He said: “It’s up to each to decide how they work and what they invest in. I think it should be an on-board course.
“The notion of a full qualification with an exam at the end where bridging and development is so interlinked and the syllabus would expand, wouldn’t serve a great purpose but some kind of on-board course lasting a couple of days for different types of stakeholder, for someone starting at a brokerage, someone starting at a lender, would be really good.
“So I’m for on-board training but not an industry wide qualification at this stage.”