Short-sighted H2B scheme needs exit strategy

Robyn Hall

October 8, 2013

Angel Mas President of Mortgage Insurance Europe, Genworth, warned that the scheme could have negative effects on banks’ reputations, the private mortgage insurance industry and the stability of the market.

He said: “Using government resources to directly guarantee high LTV mortgages creates a reputational issue for banks when they come to claim on the guarantee. It will be hard for banks to move public opinion away from the memory of bank bail outs if they are claiming taxpayers’ money to cover mortgage debt that has gone bad.

“£12 bn is a significant contingent liability for Help to Buy 2 – especially as private capacity offered on commercial terms is readily available in this market.”

Mass said he anticipated the commercial fee rate to be at the lower end of any commercial pricing range without incorporating the capital consumption and realistic administration costs that other “enterprises” would have to incur in the open market.

While the pricing structure is designed as a one size fits all Mass also raised concerns that it did not take into account the same individual lenders’ risk profiles as commercial guarantors would.

He said: “The problem with this is more prudent lenders will end up subsidising the rate for more aggressive lenders. And if those more prudent lenders do not participate in Help to Buy the one size fits all rate would be clearly insufficient.”

Mass highlighted the risks of insufficient rates for the tax payer by using the example of the state backed US mortgage insurer (FHA) in the US which will be requiring extra taxpayer funded capital injections.

He added: “It is also critical that Help to Buy does not crowd out the existing private mortgage insurance market which offers a similar product to protect against high loan to value risk and incorporates all the experience associated with underwriting these risks for many decades.

“The fee is not the only important factor here. If a capital relief solution is only developed to suit the Help to Buy scheme then this will affect the ability of the private sector to compete and may raise state aid issues.”

Capital relief

While there is no mention of capital relief in the rules Mass said it was essential the government and regulator do not create a capital relief solution which only works for the short-term Help to Buy scheme.

He added: “Help to Buy is a temporary scheme to address a permanent problem. High LTV lending consumes three times more capital than low LTV lending and Basel III rules will only increase pressure on bank capital.

“The capital relief solution needs to be sustainable, predictable and simultaneously available to the private sector to allow us to compete.

“The continuation of the private mortgage insurance industry in the UK is critical to ensure that the temporary Help to Buy scheme remains temporary.”

Morgan Stanley said: “A transition from the state scheme to a private mortgage insurance scheme is in line with international precedent and is the right path to provide an exit strategy for Help to Buy without destabilising the market by a sharp withdrawal of high loan to value lending when the scheme comes to an end.”

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