Woolwich staff worked Easter to catch up

Robyn Hall

April 3, 2013

But despite the lender apologising for its slack service levels and trying its best to catch-up brokers are still threatening to take their business elsewhere if things don’t get better.

A spokeswoman for Woolwich said the majority of applications progress through the underwriting process quickly but some will be referred for further assessment and the timescales for its higher value mortgages are currently between 8-14 days.

She said: “These current timescales are longer than we would want and we are working to reduce these short-term issues by working extra hours to get through the back log including over the bank holiday weekend.”

But despite the lender’s efforts to get back on track, brokers have said that the current turnaround times are too long and that their clients risk losing the home they wish to purchase because they cannot get an offer in time.

Colin Payne, managing director of London-based Chapelgate Associates, received an email from his business development manager explaining that for his loan of £700k it would take between 13 and 14 working days before it received an initial review.

He said: “I appreciate they are working evenings and weekends but it should not have been allowed to get to the stage where it takes three weeks to even look at an application.

“This will definitely affect my choice to place with the Woolwich. Most of my clients need the offer within two to three weeks so I need the application looking at within days.

“I would even recommend my clients take a slightly higher priced mortgage to get an offer quickly to avoid losing their property.”

Payne said the lender should manage its pipeline more effectively by using its online funds booking system to reduce volume.

Mike Fitzgerald, managing director of Essex-based Brentchase Financial, said that the types of customer who want big mortgages are the higher earners with a lot of “financial nouse” who won’t put up with long delays.

He said: “It’s the poor broker who gets it in the neck. I may have chosen the best rate for my client but if the service is poor it reflects badly on me and has a negative impact on my relationship with my client.

“They need to recruit more staff with a higher mandate to cope with the volume, loans of this size are no longer out of the ordinary particularly in London.”

Getting through to the Woolwich team for updates on cases has been described as “frustrating” by some brokers which is compounding the problem of lengthy turnaround times.

Richard Bousfield, managing director of The Surrey Mortgage Broker, said: “I sat on hold for 15 minutes and in the end I gave up, I don’t have time to wait that long.

“I haven’t received any acknowledgement and I can’t get an update – the lack of communication is frustrating and I don’t know where my case is up to.”

The Woolwich spokeswoman added: “These mortgage products are proving very popular with customers and clients and so we need to manage the demand and flow of business whilst ensuring we continue to provide our brokers and their clients with the best service possible.

“Our intermediary website is updated regularly with a service snapshot and the intermediary business centre is available to support brokers and advise on current timeframes.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and would like to thank our intermediary partners for their support and understanding at this time.”

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