Lender service levels worst seen in 'really long time', say brokers

Lender service levels worst seen in 'really long time', say brokers
Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Brokers claim high street mortgage lenders’ current service levels are the “worst” they have known them to be in years, with rate changes partly to blame.

Banks such as Nationwide and NatWest cite “high volumes of calls” on their intermediary websites, while Virgin Money currently takes up to 16 working days to process documents and over an hour to connect with brokers over the phone.

In some instances, brokers have had to ask to be transferred back to a UK contact after being passed to intermediary support abroad.

Some advisers are unconvinced by lenders’ claims that their longer-than-normal hold and processing times are down to “high demand” in the market.

They have argued a lack of stock and no impetus to buy means it should not be as busy as lenders are claiming, making these wait times unacceptable.

In addition, others have argued lenders are causing the long wait times themselves because of how regularly they are cutting rates with just hours of notice for brokers.

“We are spending more and more of our valuable time on hold over the phone,” said Lincolnshire-based broker Bob Riach.

“I could understand this during lockdown when it was 10 working days and you had stamp duty which put a rush on things, but things started to improve. But there’s nothing major now to push the market. There’s a lack of stock in our area.

“Earlier this month, I was on hold to Clydesdale Bank [part of Virgin Money] for an hour and a half before giving up.”

UK property transactions fell by 10.5 per cent in April, according to HM Revenue and Customs data.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics have also shown house growth already starting to revert back to single digits, prompting some in the industry to foresee a lack of new home buyers and a “sharp knockout blow” to property transactions in the coming months.

Timothy, James & Partners residential finance head, Danielle Panteli, said since lenders switched support teams to work from home models, service levels have gone down.

“Phone wait times can be anything up to an hour and a half, and they’re often recommending email over phone calls,” she explained.

“It’s the worst I’ve known it in a really long time. Turnaround times can be 15 working days to look at a piece of paper.”

Panteli said the influx of business is being caused by rapid rate rises, referencing Virgin Money’s “significant” 0.4 per cent fixed-rate hike last week

“Lenders are almost doing it to themselves. Unless they cool down on rates, more business will come in with people trying to lock in old rates and put a strain on service levels. Lenders need to learn when to turn the cap off.”