Consumer finance new business grew by 7% in March 2021

New figures released today by the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) show that consumer finance new business grew in March 2021 by 7% compared with the same month in 2020. In Q1 2021, new business was 17% lower than in Q1 2020.

The retail store and online credit sector reported growth in new business of 11% in March compared with same month in 2020, and an increase of 2% in Q1 2021. The credit card and personal loan sectors together reported a fall in new business of 2% in March compared with the same month in 2020, and a contraction of 25% in Q1 2021 as a whole.

Commenting on the figures, Geraldine Kilkelly, Director of Research and Chief Economist at the FLA, said: “The consumer finance sectors represented by FLA members showed improvement across the board in March, with several reporting new business growth. A year on since the introduction of the first restrictions to deal with the pandemic, the market and wider economy continue to be impacted by ongoing restrictions. However, the latest set of figures show that the industry has adapted to meet the challenges posed by the crisis.

“FLA’s most recent research suggests that consumer finance providers are increasingly optimistic about the outlook for the rest of 2021. While mindful of the possibility of higher unemployment and a dip in confidence once the Government support schemes come to an end, 84% of respondents to our latest industry outlook survey expect new business growth over the next twelve months.”

Leeds Building Society added to Active Savings platform taking total partner providers to the highest ever number

Leeds Building Society joins the Active Savings platform offering a 12-month fixed-term account paying 0.40% – applications are open until 16 May 2021.

Leeds Building Society is the fifth largest building society in the UK.

Active Savings currently offers savers access to 14 partner banks and building societies – the service is often used to spread money within FSCS limits and now allows savers to spread £1.19m with 100% FSCS protection.

Active Savings, the innovative savings marketplace from Hargreaves Lansdown, has added one of the biggest building societies in the UK, Leeds Building Society, to its savings platform, taking the total number of partner banks and building societies to 14, the largest ever number.

Danny Cox, Head of External Relations, Hargreaves Lansdown: “Even with interest rates not far off rock-bottom, savers can still make their money work harder for them. Through just one simple application, cash savings platforms can help savers grow their pot, with an easy way to move money between different accounts with different providers, saving the hassle of the traditional way of shopping around.

“We’re delighted to add Leeds Building Society to Active Savings and broaden our range of partner banks and building societies to reach the highest number we’ve had. Over 80,000 savers hold over £2.9bn on our cash savings platform in a mix of easy-access and fixed-term savings products available from a range of UK banks and building societies, and all through just one easy-to-use online account. Most savings products can be opened with only £1,000 and some are available from just £1.”

Andy Moody, Chief Commercial Officer, Leeds Building Society: “This is an exciting new opportunity for the Society and a new way for savers to access our products in addition to our well-established and popular branch network.

“Hargreaves Lansdown shares our view that a culture of savings is really important, both for individuals and wider society, and we’ll continue to explore ways we can help more people save.”

Conveyancing Association appoints new Non-Executive Chair

The Conveyancing Association (CA), the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry, has today announced the appointment of a new Non-Executive Chair.

Nicky Heathcote, who has over 30 years’ experience in the public sector, takes over as Non-Executive Chair from Paul Smee with immediate effect.

As with Paul, Nicky will be an independent influence at senior management and Board level, help drive the CA’s various workstreams around the improvement of the home buying and selling process, and ensure the Association is fully represented with all stakeholders and interested parties.

Nicky will lead the Executive, which is responsible for the day-to-day management of the CA and Chair the Association’s Policy & Strategy Board (PSB), which is responsible for: setting policy and strategy; dealing with consultation papers; the admittance of new members across the various categories; producing plans for its future; and providing a clearly defined remit for the Executive.

Nicky has a portfolio of non-executive positions including Chair of Propertymark, Chair of the PCCB Compliance Committee within the Code of Property Search Organisations (COPSO) and Ambassador for NedonBoard.

Her previous roles have included Chief of Staff at HM Land Registry (HMLR) and Executive Director of Regulatory Policy and Governance at the Gambling Commission. Nicky has led several complex strategic reviews, working on cross-Government agendas including housing, data transparency, counter fraud, anti-corruption, devolution, asset sales, international development and safer gambling.

Nicky has held positions in various domestic and international boards and committees, including Chairing HMLR’s Advisory Council, Board member of the European Land Information Service and was the UK Government’s representative on the UNECE Bureau and the Committee for Housing and Land Management.

Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association, commented: “We are very pleased to announce Nicky as our new Non-Executive Chair, taking over from Paul Smee who has steered the CA ship fantastically over the past three years and undoubtedly leaves the Association in a far better place. I’m sure everyone on the Executive, the PSB and all our member firms would like to put on record how grateful we are to Paul for all his work and the wise counsel he has provided.

“The CA has scored some notable successes in the last three years and we are welcoming Nicky on board to take us onto the next level, particularly with regard to the solutions we are proposing to improve the home buying and selling process. There is still some way to go but Nicky has the expertise and the experience not just to ensure the CA is fit-for-purpose and providing real value to our members, but to ensure we get the best process possible for all stakeholders. This is an exciting – yet busy – time for the CA and our profession, and we believe we have an excellent advocate and addition to the team in Nicky.”

Nicky Heathcote, Non-Executive Chair of The Conveyancing Association, said: “I am very pleased to be joining the CA at what is obviously a challenging time for the conveyancing profession, after the most unprecedented year. It is clear the Association has continued to lead the way throughout the pandemic in terms of protecting members’ interests and, in particular, in working towards improving the home buying and selling process. Paul has steered the ship remarkably well during his tenure and I know his hard work has been appreciated by the Executive and members alike. It’s my aim to carry on in the same manner, to help the CA support its members, to reassert our goals and ambitions, and to work with all stakeholders to help create the very best environment for the profession to excel.”

Just Mortgages gives brokers the option to work from home

Leading national broker firm, Just Mortgages is launching a new work from home option for experienced brokers.

The option is available for those who have at least two-years mortgage advising experience, and will increase flexibility for those who normally work in a Spicerhaart estate agency branch.

Following the successful implementation of video calls during the pandemic, this move will give brokers the option to continue the remote work they have been doing.

Brokers will still be provided with leads from the estate agency, and they will operate as they would in branch, connecting with the estate agency team via video calls and email. Those normally based in a branch will still have the option to work from the office if they want to, but this new directive will give them the freedom to choose how they can best deliver for clients.

John Phillips, national operations director, Just Mortgages and Spicerhaart commented: “For brokers who would like more flexibility to manage their own schedules, this decision will be music to their ears. The pandemic has opened up a lot of eyes to the potential of working from home, and we’re really confident this will help our brokers to continue to deliver exceptional service.

“Work life balance is crucial in these trying times, and adding the option for brokers to work where they want gives them the flexibility to interact with clients in the most effective manner. Clients have also given really positive feedback about working with our brokers remotely, and ultimately, that is the most important thing for us.

“There are those who will still want to return to the office, and some will want to conduct meetings in person, and we support the flexibility to decide. The key for us is to empower our brokers to choose the right option for them and the client.”

Breathing Space can’t hold back the tide of post-pandemic debt – comments

Today’s introduction of the Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) is welcome, but sees an increasingly complex debt landscape ahead needing further support and new solutions, according to Dave Heathcote, Insolvency Director at TDX Group: “Today’s long-awaiting introduction of the Debt Respite Scheme1 is a welcome and extremely timely move in the ongoing fight against debt. Providing a lifeline for indebted consumers via a temporary pause from most creditor enforcement action, Breathing Space offers a 60-day window for people to engage with formal debt advice, and consider repayment options best suited to their needs.

“Breathing Space is an important step in how society manages problem debt, however, its impact will be limited in cushioning against the potential wall of debt many will face down the line. Against the backdrop of increasingly positive news on the UK’s vaccination roll out and a potential return to normality, a more sombre and fuller picture of the pandemic’s financial impact will emerge as government support schemes and forbearance winds down.

“In the darkest days of the winter lockdowns, research2 showed concerning growth in the number of people facing financial difficulties, with almost half (47%) worrying about money every day and 24% feeling incapable of managing their finances. Lockdown lifted the lid on this underlying financial divide, but government support, as necessary as it was, masked the reality for those on lower incomes or facing unemployment. Now, as the tide goes out on financial support, the force of the wave of debt building since the pandemic began may be felt.

“Both people and businesses will need greater support, new solutions and innovative thinking to navigate future problem debt. The pandemic’s impact should accelerate improvements in how financial difficulty is supported, and the government’s mental health recovery plan3 already highlights the crucial role the debt management industry has to play. In the meantime, it’s vital for those in financial difficulty to fully capitalise on Breathing Space, and for creditors to use it as an intervention trigger to craft a sustainable, long-term customer journey out of debt.”

CHL Mortgages announces their return to lending

CHL Mortgages has announced their return to lending as an intermediary-only specialist buy-to-let lender.

CHL Mortgages has appointed Matt Kimber as Managing Director for its lending business. Kimber has been with the business for 5 years, most recently as Chief Operating Officer. Kimber will be joined by Ross Turrell as Commercial Director, who will head up the sales and distribution channels. Having previously been at KSEYE Bridging, Turrell has a wealth of experience within the specialist buy-to-let market having led commercial teams for a number of specialist lenders.

Matt Kimber, Managing Director, CHL Mortgages for Intermediaries said: The expertise we have built in servicing more than £6.5bn of legacy assets, the onboarding of experienced sales and lending teams and significant investment in our Technology platform provides us with a very strong base on which to build our new lending proposition. The growth of the specialist buy-to-let sector in recent years gives us tremendous confidence regarding the market opportunities available for lenders, brokers and landlords.”

As one of the largest specialist buy-to-let lenders in the early 2000’s, CHL Mortgages has a reputation for delivering competitive products alongside common-sense criteria and underwriting. The specialist lender subsequently pulled back from new lending in 2008 and established itself as a market-leading servicing company, managing its own and third-party loan books.

Ross Turrell, Commercial Director, CHL Mortgages for Intermediaries commented: “It’s a really exciting opportunity to relaunch a lender with the reputation of CHL Mortgages. The Company is focused on building a strong proposition with competitive pricing, broad criteria and modern digital infrastructure to create a positive intermediary experience.

“The business has ambitious growth plans and I’m very excited to assist in the execution of the future lending strategy. We are in the process of building the team to help deliver against these plans and I am delighted to have appointed high calibre individuals with more to follow.

“2021 will be an interesting year for the buy-to-let sector and we look forward to working closely with our intermediary and distribution partners to establish the CHL brand to meet the needs of landlords and property investors.”

Just Mortgages’ lending surges by 59% to £3.5bn

Leading broker firm Just Mortgages has recorded incredible annual growth in 2020, with lending figures increasing by 59% to £3.5bn and profits up by 20%.

Despite an enforced break due to the pandemic, the combined turnover of the self-employed and employed broker divisions increased by 52% to £41m, up from £27m in 2019.

Just Mortgages also recruited over 130 new brokers. This took the broker firm from 320 to 455 brokers, with support staff also increasing from 45 to 55. The self-employed team grew rapidly in 2020, expanding by 30% to 300 brokers from 230 at the start of 2020. This expansion has continued in the first quarter of 2021, with Just Mortgages recruiting a further 60 self-employed brokers.

These record-breaking figures are due to a combination of the huge interest in moving from buyers, and Just Mortgages’ proactive approach and unrivalled customer service.

After the housing market reopened and the stamp duty holiday was brought in, an avalanche of buyers flooded the housing market, and this momentum continued for the rest of the year which resulted in Just Mortgages’ spectacular growth figures.

John Phillips, national operations director Just Mortgages and Spicerhaart commented on the record figures, saying: “Once the dam burst open in May, a flood of clients came rushing through in the second half of 2020. While it is certainly not a year that anyone wants to repeat, what shone through is the resilience of both the housing market and our brokers.

“While the stamp duty holiday certainly kickstarted action for some, the desire to move home isn’t solely down to the tax savings. The pandemic forced a lot of people to spend more time at home through lockdown. This extended period drove many people to look for properties with more outside space or an extra bedroom to use as a home office.

“Our exceptional team of brokers did a fantastic job adapting to the changing circumstances last year, and our results are a real testament to their resilience and expertise.

“Looking ahead, the early signs from 2021 suggest it will be another strong year in the mortgage market, with the first quarter continuing to be extremely busy for our brokers. With the return of 95% LTV products, and demand from buyers incredibly high, we expect this to continue throughout the year.”

We welcome the launch of Breathing Space

From 4 May 2021 people in England and Wales seeking debt advice may be entitled to a 60-day pause on interest, fees and new enforcement action under the Government’s new Breathing Space scheme.

We have been at the forefront of campaigning for Breathing Space since 2014. Our previous research has shown that six in ten clients who weren’t protected from interest, charges and new enforcement action went on to take out even more credit to cope.

The scheme will for the first time grant statutory protection to people from these actions, giving them time to work through their debt options with an advisor, reducing both their worry and their costs, and allowing them to focus on planning a realistic route out of debt.

Last year, the Treasury estimated the new scheme could benefit up to 700,000 people in its first year, rising to more than a million people within a decade.

Given the number of people in problem debt has risen from 1.7 to 2.4 million over the course of the pandemic, it’s possible even more people could take advantage of Breathing Space.

The Breathing Space Scheme is the first piece in the jigsaw of protections for people in problem debt that we have campaigned for. It will be followed in the coming years by the introduction of Statutory Debt Repayment Plans, which will give people coming out of Breathing Space the chance to affordably pay off their debts while remaining exempt from further interest, charges and enforcement action.

We will continue to work with the Treasury as it progresses plans for this additional guarantee of protection, which will give people further space to recover from serious debt problems.

StepChange CEO Phil Andrew, said: “This landmark piece of legislation has real potential help put people seeking debt advice on the road to recovery.

“It’s hugely welcome that people taking action to deal with their debts will finally get the statutory protection that, to date, has only been voluntary and offered by some, but not all, of people’s creditors.

“StepChange has led the campaign for the implementation of Breathing Space since 2014. During this time, we’ve listened to our clients, researched, campaigned, and consulted with the government and now we can finally see some of our recommendations made into law and available to those who really need it.

“As ever, our advice to anyone struggling with debt is to seek help as soon as possible. Breathing Space will help to reduce the pressure of a stressful debt situation, allowing people to focus on engaging fully with advice. This is the first step towards regaining control of your finances and plotting a sustainable route out of debt.”

Financial Wellness Group launches the Financial Wellness Group Foundation

Financial Wellness Group has set up the Financial Wellness Group Foundation – which has the mission of improving financial wellbeing in the UK through donations, advocacy, research and campaigning. In particular the Foundation will support the financial education of young people and adults to help equip them with the skills they need to budget better; save effectively, borrow sustainably and responsibly and, ultimately, be able to worry less about money, so they can enjoy life more.

Partnership with Young Money

The Financial Wellness Group Foundation is supporting Young Money’s ‘Route To Success’ programme. The programme explores ways to budget and students will also start to think about what to do when a budget doesn’t balance – either finding ways to make cost savings if the budget is overspent, or considering what to do with any leftover funds if the budget is underspent.

Initially the Foundation will be funding the programme in three schools close to the Group’s offices in Manchester: Sale High School, Wellacre with one more to be confirmed. The programme, which has five modules, is delivered digitally, usually in year 9 or 10. Colleagues from Financial Wellness Group will support the programme by joining the sessions to discuss their own ‘Route to Success’ and their approach to budgeting and money management.

Russell Winnard, Director of Programmes from Young Money commented: “We are thrilled to be working in partnership with Financial Wellness Group, providing young people in the Manchester area with the opportunity to develop crucial financial knowledge, skills and confidence. The Route to Success course has been designed so that young people are more able to make informed future choices, learning to create a personal balance between financial reward and the value of job satisfaction.”

The Financial Wellness Group Foundation will also:

  • Make grants to pay the £90 Insolvency Service fee for customers in severe hardship who would benefit from a Debt Relief Order but who can’t afford to access it (subject to final agreement from the Insolvency Service).
  • Support colleague fundraising for charity with a matched giving programme.

Deborah Ware, Chief Operating Officer of Financial Wellness Group said: “Our Foundation is a crucial part of our development. We are passionate about the role of financial education to help people live ‘healthy financial lifestyles’ and avoid problem debt – and the Foundation will promote and fund this. However, we also see a larger role for the Foundation in research and advocacy. We believe that there are many ways that debt advice and debt solutions should change to better serve people in financial difficulties and the Foundation will seek to build understanding and champion better ways to help people made vulnerable by their financial difficulties.”

MCI adds Newbury Building Society to panel

MCI Mortgage Club continues to expand its panel of lenders with the welcome addition of Newbury Building Society.

Newbury offers a wide mortgage range from standard residential and buy-to-let to self-build, semi commercial and unusual properties.

The Society always looks at each case individually as it does not credit score so can be flexible with criteria.

It will lend on new build and shared ownership properties, including flats, throughout England, Wales and Central London, up to a maximum of six stories.

The mutual offers retirement interest only and joint borrower sole proprietor mortgages while catering for ex-pats and will accept mortgage payments in ten different foreign currencies.

It also lends for capital raising, for example, a deposit for a purchase abroad or for business purposes.

Newbury’s BTL offering includes lending to limited companies and it will consider both SPV and trading companies as well as holiday-lets.

Melanie Spencer, Head of MCI Mortgage Club, commented: “Newbury Building Society is a very versatile lender and really gets to understand the borrower’s needs with its manual underwriting approach.

“Our members will be able to benefit from Newbury’s wide range of mortgage products and we look forward to working with the team.”

Karen Smith, sales manager at Newbury Building Society, said: “We have a dedicated intermediary helpdesk and are always happy to discuss cases as we have a flexible approach to lending and take a common-sense view on underwriting.

“Brokers are assigned their own case handler from application through to mortgage offer and are on hand to assist in any way they can.”