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Yorkshire lenders efficiencies unmatched by the UK’s regulators in Kings Landing

Kevin Duffy

February 3, 2021

Kevin Duffy

The lockdown has seen many of us burn through eight series of Game Of Thrones within which a North-South narrative is often bluntly clear.

With one series to go for me I’m getting the vibe that the armies of the North are far more motivated and efficient than those down at Casterley Rock where regulators have long rested, but who have perhaps, shall we say, been complacent and supine in their governance.

The juxtaposition here put me in mind of our own sector’s North-South disconnect in terms of regional competencies and leadership behaviours.

If Westminster (or perhaps even the FCA‘s Canary Wharf citadel?) were the home of Cersei, then Jon Snow is probably about as close as you’ll get to the archetypal Yorkshireman. Like the series’ titular hero, Yorkshire brethren are also known for their candidness (and at times parsimony!).

Lest we forget, over 10% of the UK’s building societies are based in Yorkshire in addition to which we can add Lloyds’ Bank’s recently rejuvenated Halifax.

So at a time when too much of our lives is shaped and manipulated by what comes out of London, it was fitting to read last week that folk in England’s largest county are achieving great things.

The first example of this was at Leeds Building Society. James Chuter and his colleagues are one of those collectives who just go about their business without much fanfare or hubris, happy to let their proposition do the actual talking for them.

Part of their renewed success has been made possible by some significant investment in their systems and protocols. For example, Decisions in Principle are now instant and downloadable. There is also Real-Time case tracking wherein a broker or their administrator can log in, submit new cases and track them effortlessly.

That in itself might not be so noteworthy, but for the fact that these upgrades now also render the Leeds an even more important lender in the later-life lending sphere. This touches slightly on the FCA’s flawed approach to the Mortgage Prisoners Concept (more on that troubled matter from me next week!).

Leeds are one of the few lenders with a fully mature RIO offering. As the demographics of this country alter before our very eyes (we’re all living much longer , despite bloody COVID!) it’s frustrating that so few lenders cater for the grey borrower, especially as many of these senior citizens have bounteous and guaranteed pension income streams and many are also committed to working on into their seventies.

If you haven’t checked out the Leeds ‘ RIO offering, you’re missing out. Highlights include borrowing up to aged 80, and where the LTV is lower than 55% these RIO schemes can be far more favourable than taking customers down the Equity Release route.

Sixteen miles west from Leeds is the country’s sixth-largest city (I bet you didn’t know that about Bradford?!). Home to the country’s biggest water fountain and recently nominated as the “Curry Capital” of the UK, it is also home to Yorkshire Building Society and more pertinently, Accord.

This is yet another Yorkshire success story of late. Jeremy Duncombe has been the Marcelo Bielsa of the mortgage world, having taken a very good mortgage lender and turned it into an excellent one.

This may be in no small part due to the fact that he’s worked both sides of the fence so to speak, and understands what intermediaries and their clients need and want. If you’ve seen cases fly through with them recently, then here’s one reason – they don’t muck around when it comes to hiring underwriters. They hired 26 new staff last month of which 21 were underwriters! No wonder Offer turnaround times are amongst the smartest in the industry.

This love-in with Yorkshire concludes with The Halifax. I am not the only commentator to have remarked that the Hali underwent a period not long ago when they became far too risk-averse . Older readers will recall the colourful leadership roles once played by the likes of Nigel Stockton, Peter Curran and Jack Saxton.

These figureheads embued the brand with very human and entrepreneurial traits. So it’s pleasing to see that this past year Halifax has been undoubtedly one of the three best intermediary lenders. Its speed and service levels are exceptional.

All of which contrasts with the sub-optimal performance of our regulator at the moment which finds itself and it’s former head, Andrew Bailey, under scrutiny on almost half a dozen fronts. In my next piece, I aim to give a balanced critique on this and especially on the FCA’s performance around Mortgage Prisoners where the early anecdotal and empirical evidence does seem to suggest that thousands of homeowners have been at best under-served, and at worst misled as to what might have been possible for them by way of a way out of their penury.


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