Robert Owen, Managing Director – Mortgages & Bridging, United Trust Bank
Most of us working in the property finance sector will have been happy to learn that at the start of this year consumer confidence was running at a 10-year high. The research, carried out by IHS Markit, appeared to show that Boris Johnson’s decisive election win, and promise to deliver Brexit, brought greater certainty and that appeared to have translated into a sense that the nation could now get on with business as usual, even if leaving the EU wasn’t everyone’s ideal outcome.
However, that poll was carried out before Coronavirus started hitting the headlines and the stock market and it remains to be seen if the outbreak will have a significant and sustained impact on consumer spending this year.
2020 certainly got off to a very busy start at UTB with high volumes of business being introduced across our property lending divisions. I believe this is partly down to more going on in the market but it also reflects some of the changes and improvements we’ve made to our processes and service and, more recently, the way in which we engage with property finance brokers.
Already this year we have extended our Bridging offering to properties in Scotland and we’ve added UTB Nivo App ID verification as an option for certain bridging customers and will shortly be introducing it for development finance customers. We’ve been offering the UTB Nivo App to our mortgage customers since last autumn and it has been very well received, saving customers and brokers significant time and inconvenience.
We’ve engaged with many brokers across all disciplines over the last year to discuss ways in which we could continue to improve the service and support we provided on our key specialist property finance products. One thing which came up frequently was the overlap of contact from UTB when the brokerage routinely dealt with bridging, development finance and structured finance proposals. Many of us felt we could be more efficient and consequently, we have restructured our property finance broker sales function to streamline the operation and make it easier for brokers to access UTB’s bridging, development and structured finance products and services. By providing a simpler broker support service, we aim to cut through any confusion and add value to our broker relationships.
The new ‘One UTB’ approach provides brokers with a single point of sales support for all specialist property finance products. Key Account Managers Paul Delmonte and Owen Bentley and Business Development Managers Nick Warren and Paul Mansell form the new Property Finance Sales Team, headed up by Mike Walters in his role as Sales Director – Property Intermediaries.
The team covers Great Britain with Owen Bentley supporting brokers in South Wales, the South West and London, Paul Delmonte across the Midlands and the North West, Nick Warren supporting brokers in London and the South East and Paul Mansell working with brokers in the North of England and Scotland.
Having adopted this approach at the start of the year, we’ve already seen a significant increase in enquiries from Intermediaries. Bridging in particular has got off to a very busy start in 2020 off the back of a record final quarter of 2019, a clear signal that this, alongside the raft of improvements we made to our Bridging process in the last six months have gone down very well with our broker partners.
Martin Sims and Kerry Bradley have also been hard at work developing and promoting our first charge mortgage offering and I’m sure this will have a positive impact on our lending volumes this year. Another recent change has been to increase the maximum term across all our first charge mortgage products to 40 years. This reflects the demand from consumers to spread the cost of house purchase over a longer period both into later life and to improve affordability for those just getting onto the property ladder.
As a pragmatic ‘through the cycle’ lender, we will continue to evolve our products and service alongside the market to ensure we offer the most suitable solutions for brokers and customers.