Reasons not to be fearful: Part one
Kevin Duffy is managing director of Mortgageforce
In an age of over-used acronyms and certainly in terms of our political landscape we are getting used to using one acronym more than any other…. WTF (happened )???!!!
Which perhaps like you was how I greeted the election’s first exit poll last Thursday evening.
It’s not easy to keep this piece majoratively concerned with our own parochial worlds of mortgages and property. So I hope you’ll forgive me some initial forays into the political contexts which have shaped my thinking on intermediaries’ collective prospects arising out of the minority government dog’s dinner now before us. And I’ll try to do this impartially, if I can. Honest! I will!
First. Despite what you read and hear this is most certainly NOT Armageddon for the economy, markets, brokers and lenders.
And you know what?
Curiously enough there are actually some sound reasons to be no less confident about our fortunes than what we were on 7 June. But more on those shortly.
For now (and amid some typically British post-election hyperbole and ‘BS’ from our over-emotional and knee-jerking TV media and press corps) let’s survey what REALLY happened.
A) The actual result
NOBODY won! The British public effectively voted for “none of the above”.
The only exception to that may have been the impressive Ruth Davidson who as a tolerant yet dynamic force is quite possibly a future Prime Minister whom our fickle millennials will come to admire. Corbyn certainly didn’t win it and for him to suggest otherwise would be as ludicrous as Chelsea saying that they won the Cup Final 1-2!
B) Theresa May
The robotic Theresa May’s lunacy and hubris lay not in calling the election in the first place. It lay in surrounding herself with two wholly arrogant and unelected flunkies and then launching a Manifesto which was short on hope and inspiration but which was essentially the largest self-harming kit ever assembled.
Her own acronym is of course TM. Though it’s been suggested that this should now stand for “The Maybot” such is her insipidness. She is clearly a very decent woman. Vicar’s daughter etc. And probably a very able “administrator”. But like it or not, modern day politics requires degrees of approachability, charisma and warmth. Of which she possesses scant quantums.
C) The cult that is Corbyn
The Cult that is Corbyn. (Yep… I nearly mistyped that one!?!?). He confounded critics and pollsters alike. But there are those in his own party who actually argue that in as much as this was the Maybot’s own goal, it was equally Corbyn’s missed open goal. He was everything the PM wasn’t… engaged, energetic, on-message and a chameleon when he needed to be. Basically (and as he has been for 30 years now!) Corbyn is a professional canvasser and orator. And with it, comfortable in front of a microphone or even an annoying and now well past his 1987 sell-by-date Jeremy “the po-faced gurner” Paxman .
I for one got the whole forecast one.
Wildly. I had assumed that the prospect of Corbyn in No 10 would be enough to make us all wet the bed and vote accordingly. Which brings us to the nation’s Youth who for once engaged.
A group who have in all fairness seen negligible (real) wage growth and who realistically have very little prospects for home ownership (they even despise the Banks who grant home loans!). And who in relative terms are often paying excessive rents to a body of professional and amateur landlords whom they may also have come to mistrust and resent .
But on this point I can leave the politics to one side and hypothesise on half a dozen upside features of this chaos…!
Let’s start with The Young.
Their voice now clearly can’t be ignored by any of the parties. Even if it’s just for cynical electoral reasons. Buy-to-let landlords may well feel overly-persecuted this past year. But politically the plight of the first-time buyer is now possibly subordinate only to two other concerns; the NHS and immigration and security controls. Don’t be surprised if the Queens’ speech recognises this, especially now that the equally youthful and very talented (and deposed Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell) has been appointed as the Maybot’s new R2-D2 chief of staff. That single consequential appointment could become a really auspicious news story for all us readers.
Three hundred words in and I haven’t mentioned it yet. So I will now.
Now I don’t do Hard or Soft Brexit. These expressions are a nonsense and an unnecessarily polarised narrative because the options essentially should have been labelled as either a ripe and pregnant Brexit or a fudged and half-pregnant one! (Stay with me… I’ll be politically objective in a second!). Notwithstanding, even a buccaneering Brexiteer such as I will now concede that we may have to be less myopic about things such as the movement of labour and trade tariffs. Sure, sterling has weakened. But I bet that in the City’s boardrooms and the provinces’ factories this morning there were bosses daring to now believe that the so-called hard Brexit is now flotsam in the English Channel. That sentiment may keep firms recruiting, investing and growing.
Property prices were seemingly falling in many regions anyway. This may be no bad thing (yep… you did read that correctly). I am no Ghengis Kahn, but perhaps the nation does need more social justice and a wider distribution of wealth. Ever-rising property prices simply take home-ownership even further away from the young. And besides, we as brokers live off transactions, not asset bubbles.
Despite all the perceived chaos, the respected OECD is still forecasting GDP this year at 1.6%. Yes , the economy may be cooling but as we all proved after Cameron’s own referendum mea culpa , the workforce and inhabitants of this country have a centuries old habit of just getting up each morning and bloody well getting on with it . We are a stoic nation and austerity and vulnerability in whatever guise has always been met head on and seen off.
There are two observations here. Firstly, there is the now very timely role being played by the resurgent Building Societies and the maturing Challenger Banks. Several of those recently launched are now more than simply nascent. As Metro’s recent £600m book purchase evidences, some have their bicycle stabilisers now firmly off and as with others who are hitting their first and second Birthdays (such as Vida, TML, Pepper etc) they are scaling up and enjoying greater FCA latitudes. In challenging economic times it’s easy to curb innovation and competition. But thankfully because we are at the point which we are in the recovery trajectory from 2009’s nadir, there will be enough of a stimulus to keep the mainstream leviathans such as LBG , Santander and RBS fit and honest.
The second point with the lenders is quite simply this. As facile and even glib as it sounds, Bankers like to earn bonuses! This is rarely achieved without the achievement of market share metrics and lending volume targets. With several lenders only just about on target right now, I don’t see the recently buoyant predictions for the year end market size coming up short because of where we are politically. It’s locked in.
Not only should all of the remaining lenders with no PT policy for brokers be at the party by November but the opportunity value is considerable. Since of the three millions borrowers presently on an SVR over a million are thought to be mortgage prisoners.
Back to the politics which is where I must finish because alas, the circus that is Westminster will sadly influence moods if not economic out-turns. William Goldman’s first rule of screenwriting should be the mantra now for all elections and punditry such as mine, i.e. ”Nobody knows anything”. But it’s a dull world without conjecture so here is a staccato stab at what might happen next.
The Tory “big beasts” grant May-bot and her watchful cabinet the summer to calm the waters / kids break up for school / the valiant British Lions go down 2-1 in New Zealand / jelly and ice cream every day / a softer Brexit dialogue ensues / business confidence holds up / the predicted hot summer doesn’t arrive / the May-bot actually begins to enjoy folks’ pathos and sympathy as she makes a decent fist of her last weeks / Michael Gove resigns / Federer and Nadal contest a classic Wimbledon final / Corbyn’s 8 June high water mark starts to recede as trade union-manipulated Labour squabbling re-surfaces / Arsenal sign three mediocre nobodies for 100m quid / Moaninho complains about 2018 fixture congestion / the Tories elect Bo-jo as their new leader in September / our capricious Youth begin to engage with a Boris who won back two back mayoral elections in Labour dominated London / the callow George Osborne’s schadenfreude finally dries up / Michael Gove is re-appointed to the cabinet / Rooftop Mortgages relaunch from 2006 their 95% Self cert and absolutely-no-questions-asked mortgage and re-brand it the Corbinista Money Tree Mortgage / an October General Election campaign sees gaffe-prone Boris win a modest majority as the capricious Yoouuf of Today decide to sit the election out as they are now bored and disillusioned with politics again and it’s no longer de riguer or actually cool to vote… and finally, Inger-lund qualify for the Hooligan’s World Cup in Russia with Joe Hart’s deft footwork winning Strictly Come Dancing < left a bit joe… nah, right a bit, actually left a bit sunshine… oops, he did it again. Idiot.
You see. Things aren’t nearly so bad after all are they? I mean, think about it. We’re not exactly Europe’s basket case economy. Or would you rather be in Greece right now, sat around your private and tax-rebated swimming pool knocking back the cocktails? Actually… Hang on a minute…