Homedirect loanFeature: Lender ratings - strength in numbers

Feature: Lender ratings – strength in numbers

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Panel members

Emily Smith, mortgage expert, Habito
Mark Pattanshetti, associate director, Largemortgageloans.com
David Hollingworth, associate director of communications, London & Country
Dale Jannels, managing director, Impact Specialist Finance
Sarah Tucker, managing director, The Mortgage Mum
Matt Tilbury, senior mortgage and protection adviser, Just Mortgages
Greg Cunnington, chief operating officer, LDNfinance
Aaron Strutt, product and communications manager, Trinity Financial
Jonathan Clark, mortgage and protection adviser, Fairstone Wealth Management
Sebastian Murphy, head of mortgage finance, JLM Mortgage Services


Shutterstock / katjen

Complaints of lender product withdrawals and service delays have been common among brokers over the past few months.

Social media has been awash with calls for lenders to face a minimum notice period for product withdrawals.

Potential borrowers are anxious about the rising Bank of England base rate and the continuing flyaway prices in the housing market, so they are piling pressure on both lenders and brokers.

Although everyone favours a busy market, product withdrawals at the eleventh hour make life particularly challenging for brokers on the receiving end.

Halifax has remained a beacon of consistency and excellence on service standards

Given everything the market has endured over the past few years, many are questioning why some lenders still struggle with the same old problems, and how this squares with the ethos of Treating Customers Fairly.

Nevertheless, for those lenders that do get it right there is much to celebrate. The broker community is appreciative, as our latest residential lender ratings show.

Halifax

It has been a closely fought battle for the top place on the leaderboard with three players in the running: Accord, Halifax and HSBC. Ultimately, Halifax and HSBC tied for first.

“Halifax has remained a beacon of consistency and excellence on service standards, as well as offering superb business development manager (BDM) support,” says LDNfinance chief operating officer Greg Cunnington.

JLM Mortgage Services head of mortgage finance Sebastian Murphy shares Cunnington’s sentiments, calling Halifax “the most solid and consistent lender”.

Although its telephone helpdesk is good, you need an hour on hold to get through

He adds: “An easy-to-use system, great existing customer products, all combined with super-knowledgeable BDMs.”

Meanwhile, Impact Specialist Finance managing director Dale Jannels says Halifax is his firm’s “go-to lender”, being “simple and straightforward”. However, although “its telephone helpdesk is good, you need an hour on hold to get through”.

Fairstone Wealth Management mortgage and protection adviser Jonathan Clark adds: “A relaxation of its interest-only plus the ability to lend to age 75 are all that’s needed to create the perfect lender.”

HSBC

In joint first with Halifax, HSBC is another top performer for the panel.

“HSBC is reliable. Its products are good and there’s alignment between retention and new customer options,” says Habito mortgage expert Emily Smith.

Brokers are a fan of HSBC’s online system

She calls it “great across the board” for service and products but feels there is a lack of longer-term fixed deals.

“It processes cases quickly and doesn’t ask as many questions as some other providers do,” he says. “Brokers are also a fan of its online system.”

Largemortgageloans.com associate director Mark Pattanshetti welcomes HSBC’s “market-leading rates” and its ability to deal with foreign income and foreign nationals.

He adds: “Its BDM support is good, but criteria flexibility can be limited.”

The Mortgage Mum managing director Sarah Tucker says, despite some recent issues with down-valuations, overall HSBC continues to be a “great lender” with good BDM support.

YBS (Accord Mortgages)

Accord only narrowly missed out on the top spot.

“It’s a consistent performer that’s prepared to develop its proposition, shown through the launch of its Cascade Score products,” says London & Country associate director of communications David Hollingworth.

If it can get its pricing right, it could end up being the lender of choice for most brokers

Pattanshetti praises the lender’s “fast underwriting and very responsive BDM support”, adding: “It has well-priced products but it needs to offer more flexible underwriting.”

Murphy, meanwhile, calls Accord “the most improved lender in recent years”.

He adds: “It has great BDMs and management teams who will look to lend where they can. If it can get its pricing right, it could end up being the lender of choice for most brokers.”

Smith, however, feels there is room for improvement.

It has well-priced products but it needs to offer more flexible underwriting

“Accord is always great, but sadly its products just aren’t very competitive on pricing at the moment,” she says.

“That said, it can be very flexible on criteria and there’s good communication between BDM and underwriters — always willing to go the extra mile.”

Coventry BS

One of the biggest gains in the table was made by Coventry, with a jump of two places.

“It’s not a new thing but sticking to the pledge to give notice when changing products should be recognised in the current market, when rates are being pulled frequently and with very little notice,” says Hollingworth.

You can always have a good conversation with the BDM, who gets things done

Cunnington agrees, saying:  “Coventry’s commitment to 48 hours’ notice for rate withdrawals is superb.”

Just Mortgages senior mortgage and protection adviser Matt Tilbury calls it an “excellent lender all around, with quick, fair and excellent processing times”.

Tucker says Coventry is “an easy, reliable lender with quick offers”. She praises its straightforward approach and helpful BDM.

Jannels finds the lender easy to deal with.

“You can always have a good conversation with the BDM, who gets things done,” he says.

Smith is disappointed by the removal of Coventry’s flex fixed option, but she welcomes the lender’s return to the self-employed market.

Its commitment to 48 hours’ notice for rate withdrawals is superb.

“Case requirements are not always consistent, but its BDM team is friendly and helpful,” she adds.

Santander

Like Coventry, Santander has climbed two places.

“Excellent BDMs alongside a good online system and affordability makes Santander a good choice,” says Tilbury.

Unfortunately, service-level agreements have been a disappointment in the past 24 months

Pattanshetti praises the lender’s excellent large-loans team.

“It’s very good for interest-only loans and larger income multiples, with fast processing and response times,” he says.

Jannels, meanwhile, observes: “It’s simple to use and its system offers useful case updates.”

Murphy feels Santander can be “a bit of a postcode lottery for BDM support”, but says its BDMs are “super helpful”.

He adds: “Unfortunately, service-level agreements have been the biggest disappointment in the past 24 months.”

Excellent BDMs alongside a good online system and affordability

Although Strutt deems Santander “one of our go-to lenders” because of its criteria and rates, he is less happy about “issues
with its free-legals service for remortgages”.

Nationwide

This lender has also moved two places in the ratings, but in the opposite direction from Coventry and Santander, falling from fourth to sixth. It received a mixed review from the panel.

“Underwriting is a little slow at the moment and very quick rate increases caused stress within the team,” says Tucker. “But our BDM is so helpful,” she adds.

Our brokers like using its system, and the live chat is really efficient

Murphy praises Nationwide’s wide range of products but says, if an application falls outside normal processing, the case can take a long time.

Pattanshetti appreciates “strong products, and it’s good for cases requiring gifted equity”, while Strutt adds: “Our brokers like using Nationwide’s system, and the live chat is really efficient.”

Cunnington is a fan of the Helping Hand proposition, which he says remains “very popular” with first-time buyers.

RBS (NatWest Intermediary Solutions)

RBS has plunged four places and received mixed feedback from the panel.

“Live chat is extremely slow,” says Tucker. “You log on and you are in position 158. The telephone line is much better.”

However, she praises RBS’s new packaging requirements and policy changes.

Hollingworth has noticed a slip in service but a good response.

“Strong volumes for RBS as a result of some very sharp pricing,” he says. “This did impact service at times, but action was taken quickly.”

Live chat is extremely slow. You log on and you are in position 158

Clark says: “RBS has consistently sharp rates combined with generous affordability and great service.”

Smith describes the lender as “competitive across the board” and adds: “Its green options are innovative and current pricing is good. Its online and telephone BDMs are really helpful.”

TSB Bank

TSB is a non-mover in eighth place.

“Our BDM and national account manager are amazing,” says Tucker. “TSB looks after us beautifully and we are impressed by its culture.”

Murphy talks of a big sea change at TSB, with the lender now offering “super affordability metrics and very competitive products. It’s really refreshing to see it being competitive.”

A common-sense lending policy, especially with shared ownership, makes it one to consider in most situations

He has a complaint, however: “It still has regular IT issues, which can be frustrating.”

Smith says: “It’s OK, if the case isn’t complex. Its retention deals are some of the lowest in the market. That said, it is not very flexible and its communication regarding outstanding requirements could be better.”

Tilbury adds: “TSB’s common-sense lending policy, especially with shared ownership, makes it one to consider in most situations.”

Barclays

Barclays is another non-mover, remaining ninth in the table.

“Barclays had some further positive criteria changes this quarter, such as making part-and-part available for clients up to 85% loan-to-value,” says Cunnington.

Tilbury talks of “fairly quick service and reasonable products but its online system is challenging sometimes”.

Our new BDM is amazing and the new policy relating to a P60 for the self-employed was a huge help on a case

Murphy agrees that Barclays’ system is its weak link.

“The mortgage system lets down its great proposition, with ongoing niggling issues,” he says. “Try porting an existing customer without wanting to cry.”

Nevertheless, the lender has “great BDMs and management teams who are always willing to help”, adds Murphy.

Tucker too gives Barclays a mixed review.

Try porting an existing customer without wanting to cry

“Our new BDM is amazing and the new policy relating to a P60 for the self-employed was a huge help on a case,” she says.

“But its system is tricky and causes a lot of stress internally in navigating it. Documents uploaded don’t show on the system and there is a huge delay, causing us unnecessary calls.”

Virgin Money

Virgin lingers at the bottom of the table and the panel is frustrated.

“Regrettably, I have little confidence in using Virgin, based on consistently poor service and BDM support,” says Clark.

Great products, BDMs and management teams, but not much use if you are still waiting weeks on end for an offer

Murphy comments: “Terribly slow service at present and almost impossible to get through on the phones. Great products, BDMs and management teams, but not much use if you are still waiting weeks on end for an offer.”

Pattanshetti, however, has had a different experience.

“Good pricing and good overall service levels,” he says.

Tilbury adds: “Good lending quirks make Virgin our choice for out-of-the-ordinary. Investing in a new online portal is long overdue.”

Playing catch-up

Demand in the mortgage market shows no signs of slowing despite soaring inflation and a cost-of-living crisis. The lenders at the bottom of our table have a lot of catching-up to do to win over brokers again and benefit from a buoyant market.


Wild card – Platform

As is common for the wild card, Platform comes last in our table but has received some positive feedback from the panel.

“Platform has shown it can take on the bigger players at times with sharp product pricing and its all-round proposition,” says Hollingworth.

Great rates and generous affordability but yo-yo rates mean you have to be quick

“Turnaround times may not typically be offering the quickest processing but that looks like a clear area of focus,” he adds.

Tilbury says Platform used to be a top sourcing lender but his firm has experienced problems with it.

“We have had issues with lending amounts reducing on application from agreement-in-principle stage,” he says.

However, Pattanshetti commends Platform’s “strong offering for the self-employed and its flexible underwriting”, while Clark says: “Great rates and generous affordability but yo-yo rates mean you have to be quick.”


This article featured in the June edition of MS.

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