O’Neill Patient recruits sales director in bid to become the number one conveyancer

Jessica Szczelkun, has just joined, O’Neill Patient Group (ONP) as its first sales director. Jessica joins from SortRefer where she was sales and relationship director for four years.
ONP is one of the two largest conveyancing solicitors in the UK with ambitious growth plans, evident earlier this year when it purchased Cavendish Legal Group. This acquisition saw the group increase its market share, geographical presence and further diversity in the conveyancing sector to accommodate the more complex areas of property law. This growth is what attracted Jessica to leave SortRefer to help ONP to achieve its plans.

Jessica qualified and practiced as a solicitor for ten years before running her own mortgage brokerage. Latterly she joined SortRefer as a relationship manager, soon becoming the sales and relationship director.

In her new role Jessica wants to expand ONP’s relationships both with panel managers and their mortgage broker clients, continuing to strive towards improved communication and levels of service. With investment into state-of-the-art technology, ONP is committed to delivering; whilst it already provides some of the fastest conveyancing turn-around times available in the UK, there is still an opportunity to keep making strides.

Jessica Szczelkun says: “The opportunity to join ONP was a really exciting one as I knew the growth curve ONP was on from dealing with them as a panel manager. I could see how forward thinking they are as a business and felt I could be an asset to the team.

“Having worked as a solicitor, a mortgage broker and as a panel manager, I can see things from all sides. I recognise the huge amount of work that goes in from the conveyancing firm, the mortgage adviser and the panel managers and know too well the frustration when things don’t go right or take too long.

“The conveyancing process in general is still a long drawn out process and it is a shared ambition with the board to improve this. ONP’s state-of-the-art technology goes a long way there and I believe it is the most efficient in the UK, but the thing that is really going to make a difference is collaboration between all parties involved in the transaction. My aim is to keep building the relationships that make that possible.”

Andy Scaife, group CEO of ONP adds: “Jessica’s experience and depth of knowledge of both the mortgage market and of the conveyancing process is unrivalled and we are very excited to have her on board. “We believe that she can play a key role in helping us to achieve our ambitious growth plans, which includes becoming the number one conveyancer in the UK both in terms of size and quality of service.”

Foundation Home Loans announce buy-to-let rate reductions across all product tiers and property types

Foundation Home Loans, the intermediary-only specialist lender, has today announced a wide range of buy-to-let rate reductions across all product tiers and property types, with the new offering available to both individuals and limited companies.

Products which have seen specific cuts include Foundation’s:

  • 80% LTV two-year fixed-rate – reduced by 20 basis points from 4.29% to 4.09%; available to F1 borrowers – those with an almost clean credit record.
  • HMO five-year fixes – reduced by 60 basis points for 75% LTV rates, down to 3.94% from 4.54% for properties with up to six occupants, and down to 4.04% from 4.64% for 75% LTV for larger HMOs with a maximum of eight bedrooms and all multi-unit blocks to a maximum of 10 units. 65% LTV rates have also seen reductions of 25 basis points
  • Short-term let fixes – two-year 65% LTV at 3.49% from 3.59% and 75% LTV at 3.89% from 3.99%; five-year 65% LTV at 3.94% from 4.04% and 75% LTV at 4.54% from 4.64%.

Foundation has also extended all end dates to the 31st January 2023 for two-year deals and 31st January 2026 for five-year.

Jeff Knight, Director of Marketing at Foundation Home Loans, said: ““Foundation is on course to achieve a record quarter for new business. Our sales team are receiving record levels of enquiries but we continue to provide a reliable service to intermediaries. We are building on this success with these rate reductions to our core range to ensure we support existing brokers further and support the growing number of new brokers we have recently onboarded too.”

FCA’s consumer credit proposals welcome – but credit rating protections needed beyond October

The Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline has welcomed the FCA’s proposed further guidance on consumer credit and overdraft customers impacted by Covid-19, but called for continued credit rating protections for people experiencing temporary financial difficulty beyond October.

Jane Tully, Director of External Affairs at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said: “The FCA’s Covid-19 measures to date have helped millions of consumer credit customers through this difficult period – and the regulator is right to issue specific guidance to help firms put in place tailored support beyond October.

“With the full economic impact of Covid-19 yet to be felt, the support available to customers cannot go back to normal, when their lives and finances remain anything but.

“We are pleased to see that firms will be expected to offer targeted payment reductions and deferrals for customers facing short-term uncertainty beyond October. We also welcome the FCA’s specific guidance for firms on refinancing existing credit agreements where lower payments can be made over a longer term – this is an important post-Covid forbearance option that should be made more accessible to customers.

“The regulator’s plans could go further, however – in particular, we need to see continued credit rating protections where the outbreak has caused only temporary financial difficulty.”

StepChange reacts to FCA’s further Consumer Credit & Overdraft guidance

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has today (16 September 2020) announced additional guidance for firms on how to support users of consumer credit and overdraft products whose finances have been negatively impacted by Covid-19.

Reacting to the announcement, Richard Lane, Director of External Affairs here at StepChange, said: “The FCA has recognised the unique circumstances that continue to face people whose finances have been negatively affected by the pandemic, but the effect may still be to leave them at serious financial disadvantage through no fault of their own. While we welcome the broad thrust of this new guidance, we have concerns that it leaves open the risk of different lenders adopting very different approaches, leaving customers caught in something of a lender lottery in terms of how their ongoing problems may be managed.

“We need to understand how lenders will implement the guidance in practice, but we welcome the strong signposting to debt advice that the FCA flags as an appropriate measure that lenders should put in place. With over 4 million people having built up significant debt as a result of the pandemic, we see it as vital that people shouldn’t be put in a situation where they experience long-term financial difficulty or exclusion as a result of measures taken to control the virus. Government support needs to complement regulatory action to achieve this.”

Millions of homeowners still missing out on mortgage savings of up to £5,000

Almost half of homeowners are on their provider’s Standard Variable Rate (SVR) and could make savings of up to £5,000 by switching to a new fixed rate deal, new insights from Experian reveals.

The number of mortgage holders on an SVR mortgage has increased to 46% during the UK lockdown period. This figure is up 2% from March when Experian reported 44% of homeowners had switched on to their provider’s SVR.

Moving on to an SVR can be financially damaging at the best of times as the interest rates on these mortgages are often higher than introductory offers – sometimes more than double. But now, as many households struggle with the financial aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, this rise in homeowners on their providers SVR is even more worrying.

A homeowner with a £150,000 20-year mortgage loan on a typical lender’s SVR of 4.44% will have a monthly repayment of £944. The same mortgage on a typical 2-year fixed rate remortgage deal of 1.14% will have a monthly repayment of £699, representing a saving of £5,880 (£245 per month)1. Taking the arrangement fee of £999 into account, this would still leave a homeowner better off by £4,881 over the period of the offer.

While rates on fixed rate mortgages remain very competitive, with the base rate at an all-time low of 0.1%, average rates and fees have begun to increase. This could encourage more homeowners to act now and take advantage of low interest rates before they rise further.

Amir Goshtai, Managing Director of Experian Marketplace, said: “Our latest analysis of the number of homeowners on an SVR mortgage may come as a surprise, especially when many households are facing financial struggles. But, with people focused on the health of loved ones and managing life in this new environment, it’s not surprising that household finances may have slipped to the back of many people’s minds.

“We want to help people take the stress out of managing their finances and support them over the months ahead, particularly given the economic uncertainty. That’s why we’ve been proactively contacting customers we think may be coming to the end of their existing mortgage and encouraging them to compare current market offers before they get switched on to their provider’s SVR, potentially saving them thousands of pounds. Additionally, our unique mortgage savings tool makes it easy for homeowners to quickly check if they can make a saving on their monthly mortgage payments.

“We’re starting to see interest rates and fees for fixed mortgages slowly increasing as the credit market reopens. Therefore, homeowners should review their mortgage now and take advantage of competitive interest rates while they still can to lock in a lower fixed monthly payment, giving them peace of mind and certainty for the months ahead.”

Despite SVR mortgage levels remaining high, further Experian analysis found some homeowners have been taking positive action during lockdown and seeking savings on their mortgage. Remortgage enquiries through Experian were up 92% over the last four weeks compared to the first four weeks of lockdown.

Experian’s Remortgage Savings Calculator is a unique mortgage tool that informs users in minutes if they can make a saving on their current mortgage repayments. Designed to simplify the remortgage process, the savings calculator details the amount of savings a person can make and directs them to best mortgage offers on the market, matched to their needs.

Goshtai continued: “For a few years now, there has been an inertia around switching because people think it takes a lot of time to find the best offers. Yet online tools such as our eligibility services make it easy for people to compare and search credit providers so they can make savings. The market is changing as lenders regularly review their acceptance criteria and capacity to handle applications. This makes it particularly important to use a broker and eligibility services to help you find the right lender, especially for higher loan-to-value ratios”.

As well as looking for a cheaper deal with a different lender, homeowners should also contact their existing provider before renewal to see if they can get a better rate. Anyone with concerns about meeting regular mortgage payments during the coronavirus pandemic should also speak to their lender as soon as possible. If you have recently taken an agreed payment holiday and you’re about to apply for a mortgage, then you should check with the potential new lenders directly whether a payment holiday will affect your application.

SimplyBiz Mortgages welcomes Zephyr Homeloans to lender panel

SimplyBiz Mortgages has announced the addition of dedicated BTL lender Zephyr Homeloans (Zephyr) to its panel, with immediate effect.

Zephyr, which lends to both individuals and limited companies, now offers standard and specialist products to 75% LTV. In addition, it offers no upfront application fees across the entire product range and requires no minimum income for standard applications.

Martin Reynolds, CEO of SimplyBiz Mortgages, commented: “I am delighted to welcome Zephyr Homeloans to the panel. Despite being a fairly new name to the UK mortgage market, the heritage of its parent company, Computershare Group, and the experience of its team, make Zephyr an exciting entrant to the sector.

“The flexibility of Zephyr’s terms, paired with the breadth of its range, mean that its addition to the panel is likely to be of great interest to our membership.”

Paul Fryers, Managing Director of Zephyr Homeloans, added:
“We’re delighted to join the SimplyBiz Mortgages’ lender panel and look forward to working with its members.

“Zephyr offers flexible fixed-rate, buy-to-let mortgage choices to landlords seeking to expand their portfolio or restructure their existing holdings with a range of two or five-year options, covering limited companies, individuals, houses in multiple occupation or a multi-unit freehold blocks.”

The Opportunity of Embracing FCA Mandated Pricing Changes

The FCA Policy Statement means that the industry must prepare for significant change to finance commission models. Already, MotoNovo Finance has demonstrated that one of the two potential options referenced by the FCA, risk-based pricing, which is at the heart of the business’ MotoRate model, can deliver significant positives for many dealers and these are not only revenue benefits.

  • All discretionary commission models for finance will be banned from January 28th;
  • New commission models must avoid anything that looks like a discretionary commission arrangement, a definition that the regulator notes; ‘should be interpreted broadly.’

While the FCA does not specify what is acceptable as a commission model, they have noted; ‘It could include firms moving to risk-based pricing, provided the broker is not incentivised to set or adjust the rate charged. It could include flat fee models.’

Reflecting upon the FCA changes ahead, MotoNovo Finance Deputy CEO Karl Werner is clear that lenders and dealers have a duty of care to honour the spirit and letter of the FCA Policy Statement to protect car buyers and the broader dealer finance industry noting;

“The dealer finance model needs to be reinvented to meet the FCA’s requirements in full. There is no place for body-swerves or gamification that might replicate any part of the soon-to-be banned dealer discretion. Such a move would only serve to damage the reputation of dealer finance and encourage damaging claims management company activity.

“The changes required are an opportunity to demonstrate to the broad public the industry’s commitment to business cultures centred upon doing the right thing for customers. This principle is also an integral part of the FCA’s SM&CR responsibilities for senior leaders in dealerships and lenders. How we react to the test of embracing, not just the letter, but spirit of the FCA’s Policy Statement stands to have a big part in the future of dealer finance.”

Karl is clear that embracing the FCA’s mandate for change has the potential to be positive. It is something that has been reflected in very encouraging dealer feedback to MotoRate as he concludes:

“We see the required FCA changes as a significant opportunity to increase customer trust, finance penetration and income for many dealers. Going further, MotoRate and its headline APR rates and customer specific pricing approach are ideally suited to support the move to online sales accelerated by COVID-19. The experience over the last three months is that not only has MotoRate taken the traditional friction out of dealer finance, but it has also encouraged dealers to talk openly and positively about another FCA priority, commission disclosure.

“De-mystifying finance and trust-building have to be positives for the future of dealer finance. I am open to debate on alternative models, but every alternative must put every customers’ best interests at the forefront of the discussion.”

FLA comment on the FCA’s latest mortgage guidance

Commenting on the FCA’s guidance published today which confirms that mortgage lenders will be able to prioritise support for those customers who most need help, Fiona Hoyle, Head of Consumer and Mortgage Finance at the FLA said: “With most parts of the economy now open for business and more consumers able to resume their usual mortgage payments, the flexibility set out for lenders today is welcome indeed.

“There will certainly be people who will require ongoing support, but lenders can now prioritise these customers and offer solutions specific to their circumstances.”

StepChange Responds to FCA Mortgage Advice update

StepChange Debt Charity has today responded to today’s announcement by the Financial Conduct Authority of the next stage of support for mortgage borrowers during the Coronavirus crisis.

Richard Lane, Director of External Affairs at StepChange, said: “We agree entirely with the FCA’s assessment that many customers will continue to need ongoing support and forbearance beyond the previously agreed payment holidays. We are not out of the woods in terms of people’s vulnerability to financial difficulty arising from the pandemic – such as job losses that haven’t even happened yet. Public support needs to complement regulatory support; now would be a good time to consider restoring support for mortgage interest back to its previous status as a benefit rather than a loan.

“It’s never been more important for firms to remember that repossession should only ever be a last resort. At StepChange, home-owners who need debt advice are able to access not just our normal debt advice service, but also our specialist mortgage debt advice team. This means that all possible options to resolve their debt situation can be explored, including whether remortgaging or equity release may be an appropriate strategy for certain households.”

StepChange comments on Which? report showing how the debt advice scammers are still at it

Today’s Which? report showing the widespread nature of online financial scams draws attention to the problem that StepChange Debt Charity has previously worked hard to highlight of adverts impersonating debt charities, to try to hoodwink people into revealing personal information that is then sold on to commercial firms who may try to sell a debt solution to the individual which may be expensive or inappropriate for their needs.

Last year, StepChange ran its “Make Sure It’s Us” campaign to raise awareness among members of the public, and lobbied Google to improve its processes for vetting advertisers. Despite Google taking action in this area, there are still far too many impersonator advertisers slipping through the net, and appearing not just on Google but increasingly on social media platforms too. One of the root causes of the problem stems from the patchy regulatory oversight structure in the IVA market, where fees are high and selling incentives poorly aligned to consumers’ best interests. Advertising regulation is also not currently powerful enough to address these root issues.

Richard Lane, Director of External Affairs at StepChange, says: “People are shocked when they realise that predators are out there impersonating legitimate debt charities, determined to make money by cynically exploiting people in vulnerable financial circumstances. Yet, to date, regulators and search engines have failed to put in place robust mechanisms to stop this from happening. Last year, we reported around 100 offending adverts, and despite the changes this year we have already reported 56. It takes time, effort and money to pursue each of these impersonator incidents, and has become a frustrating game of cat and mouse which is ultimately harmful and damaging to people who are already facing enough difficulty without this additional element.

“We continue to urge the regulators and those responsible for accepting online advertising, including Google, to go further and do more to clamp down on these offenders more effectively. This is more important than ever at this time, when more people will be looking online for debt help in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, be careful – if the website address isn’t stepchange.org, then the organisation you’re dealing with isn’t StepChange.”