ResidentialAug 4 2020

Brokers join FCA mortgage call but concerns persist

Search supported by
Brokers join FCA mortgage call but concerns persist

Mortgage networks and directly authorised firms have backed the Financial Conduct Authority’s call for intermediaries willing to help mortgage prisoners, but concerns remain about the measures put in place to help trapped borrowers.

Shortly after the regulator announced its advice initiative, Quilter answered the call and said it “[stood] ready” to help mortgage prisoners access more affordable options.

However, it warned while the FCA’s new rules allowed lenders to assess affordability based on a borrower’s track record of making mortgage payments, lenders had “struggled to make the necessary changes”.

Quilter warned these challenges could be increasingly difficult, as lenders now had to “deal with the fallout” from the coronavirus.

It said: “This makes it even more important to have a financial adviser who has knowledge of the market and options available”.

On July 9 the FCA issued a call for intermediaries willing to work with mortgage prisoners to help them identify and move to an active lender where possible, or signpost them to additional support, such as debt advice.

Mortgage prisoners who may be able to switch to a better deal will be able to access an alphabetical list of mortgage intermediaries, which will appear on the Money and Pensions Service website.

The regulator asked intermediaries, who are interested in appearing on the list, to submit an expression of interest by August 6 to the Money and Pensions Service.

Charlotte Nixon, proposition director at Quilter Financial Planning, said: “Expert financial advice can be a fantastic tool for mortgage prisoners but will not necessarily be a silver bullet.

“Without lender support and a proliferation of mortgage products aimed at these customers, it is going to be difficult to move these people into more suitable products even with financial advice. As intermediaries we are committed to helping this type of customer, but it requires solutions from the whole industry rather than just one segment of it.”

Ms Nixon added that the response from the adviser community could result in the list of intermediaries running into the hundreds, which could lead to mortgage prisoners finding it difficult to know who to contact.

Gail Smyth, principal mortgage consultant at Charles Mac, said she believed the eventual list should be compiled based on location rather than alphabetically, “so that clients are working with brokers that really know their area in terms of property values and other criteria”.

Similarly Alex Hill, head of business standards and risk at mortgage network Stonebridge, added whether the list would be effective in helping mortgage prisoners depended on whether it is a “simple alphabetical list or has some search functionality to assist consumers in making a choice”.

Regardless, Mr Hill said Stonebridge would be submitting an expression of interest to appear on the list.

He said: “This is an opportunity for consumers to receive expert advice when they possibly haven’t done so for a period of time, and we’d like to be a part of that”.

A spokesperson at the Money and Pensions Service said: “Work is ongoing with the Financial Conduct Authority to develop a list of mortgage intermediaries that will be easy and clear for mortgage prisoners to use to help them find the right support. Further details will be available in due course”.

Maps is accepting expressions of interest from the authorised principal firm of appointed representative networks, as well as directly authorised firms.

Dominik Lipnicki, director at Your Mortgage Decisions, said his firm had also submitted an expression of interest to appear on the list of intermediaries.

Mr Lipnicki said: “We have seen much distress from homeowners struggling to see the end of their mortgage prisoner problems and we see it as our duty to help”.

Additionally, Jane King, director and mortgage adviser at Ash Ridge, which will be submitting an expression of interest, said: “I have been offering to help mortgage prisoners for the past year or so. I think they are in an impossible situation which is both unfair and unreasonable through no fault of their own”.

Piers Mepsted, managing director at Financial Advice Centre, whose firm will also be applying to appear on the list, said his business was “in favour of initiatives [that] proactively seek to put right the problems in our industry”.

However, Mr Mepsted added: “Our concern is that [the list of intermediaries] is a narrow process which may not be read by the most vulnerable… This can be helped by ensuring advisers are proactive and engaged in asking for new business and referrals, active on social media and business networking groups with a desire to help people”.

He continued: “We believe that taking proactive steps to do the right thing and help people is good for our community and good for business as well. We would encourage all firms who meet the criteria to register”.