Kevin Duffy is managing director of Mortgageforce
Amongst infinitely more decorated peers, I was recently fortunate enough to spend some time with Santander‘s uber-conquistador, Miguel Sard.
In the wake of the lender’s Product Transfer launch it was a jovial joust over an ever so slightly tawny glass of Tempranillo in what passed as the bank’s City grey ham cellar. (He expressed a purely personal consternation at Britain’s thankful exit from the EU and I predicted that his own beloved Barca team would also be exiting Europe shortly… at the hands of the vulgar petro-dollar sponsored PSG.)
Anyhow. This nauseous and fatuous name-dropping to one side. It was a landmark occasion for the invited guests as it most certainly validated my January belief that Santander is going to be the most improved and progressive mainstream lender this year, to which end intermediaries should now get fully behind them.
Since this chat, we have seen, amongst others, Nationwide and Leeds building societies announce plans to join the product transfer party.
And as I augered back in the very first week of January, Sard and his compañero, Brad Fordham, have truly become the gift that keeps on giving… because without that bold initial salvo so early in the year we would all still be rambling on about if (and not when) more lenders were going to finally ‘get it’.
But like the long overdue expulsion of the deluded soccer manager Arsene Wenger, the tide is now irrevocably on the turn and it simply can’t be arrested.
The next remark may sound fawning and premature for the third week of February. But Santander is therefore already my Lender of The Year.
For sure, the PT piece and its fantastic and resultant domino effect possibly wins them that accolade in isolation. But when you also consider the other platters of tapas that we are being served by them, it becomes pretty indisputable.
The chutzpah of the 0.99% fixed rate product is exactly that. Slightly gimmicky and that product’s scorpion tale with its reversionary rate will naturally need firm explaining by brokers from Skelmersdale to Skegness.
But consider the lender’s wider collective… a minimum proc fee of £400, enhancements to both the Interest Only policy AND its maximum age criteria, and vaunted improvements coming our way hopefully in terms of buy-to-let affordability measures.
Then throw in the improved website functionality and you clearly have a lender that spent the Christmas period buffing its shiny red chassis and planning astutely for a fast start in 2017.
It’s only anecdotal but we may already be seeing Santander (and of course Hali and Woolwich) being selected above the likes of NatWest and Nationwide in Q1 and Q2 where the client’s most suitable option features no variance between these lenders on pricing or flexibility. (And with the FCA now sending out its ‘surveys’‘ to brokers seeking product selection justifications and observations, this is going to be an even more interesting space in the next six months.)
Santander’s renaissance is all the more commendable when you consider that it has been competing with some mainstream challengers this past 10 years who were given a leg-up of one kind or another. The expected 2017-2019 growth rates of the mortgage books at RBS and Lloyds will owe much to the fact that they have risen from low and disturbed baselines.
Some had troubled times which had to be underpinned and bailed out by you, dear reader, and other taxpayers. Barclays Bank also got some Middle-East assistance which obviated the need for state support.
So when these lenders shortly publish sparkling growth charts we need to remember that Santander has been pretty much a £27bn pound model of year-on-year consistency through all this and that comparisons on short-term growth-spurts alone are a facile exercise. Some pundits may not give a funky gibbons about that but I feel that it’s relevant.
Anyway, Que Sera Sera. Green eyed competitors, analysts and commentators will all have their say next month in the reporting window. But for now, it’s clear that Santander is starting to make a lot of things much easier for us all.
The un-placeable and trickier enquiries of last year are now no longer well ‘ard and in the same fashion that competitors quickly followed its lead on PT pricing, they will hopefully do the same on pricing and criteria.
Finally. And to which end, if wins for the populist candidates in Holland and France‘s upcoming elections do sadly precipitate Sard’s amusingly self-hypothesised emigration to Australia, we will gladly ship Santander’s winning lender silverware to Ayre’s Rock.
That’s a long, long, way away. But at this rate Los Rojos are putting some early distance between themselves and their rivals.
And to boot, it could now be a very, very, good year for any broker with a decent CRM system and a client bank and loan book which features most of these mainstream behemoths.
2017… The Year of The Product Transfer.