You had me at…. Best Advice

Lesson number one in customer service school – “The customer is always right”.

That’s not a bad place to start if you’re working on the returns desk in M&S, but when that customer is trying to raise tens of thousands of pounds to renovate their kitchen, buy a car, extend their property or even just to consolidate their outgoings, the customer often doesn’t have the knowledge to know right from wrong in the first place. But that’s ok. That’s what the Advice process is for. With the limited availability of ‘execution only’ more people are being helped to make good choices and with mortgage advisers better qualified and more knowledgeable than ever before, it’s not difficult for consumers with even the most challenging of circumstances to find a solution best suited to their needs.

At UTB we work hard to provide great products to some of those consumers. Yes, you read that correctly; we will be an excellent lender for some, but NOT for all. And what’s more, we’re very happy for even our closest broker partners to take cases to our competitors if they believe that the customer would be better suited to a product with lender X than they would be with us or even no product at all.

When we launched into mortgages our ‘Mission Statement’ was to design products with a set of definable customer needs in mind, and we continue to review our customer outcomes and business performance. We’re not an everyman lender. We haven’t got the biggest product range and there are customers we just won’t be able to help. The products we offer cater for those who need certainty of payments associated with fixed rates, or the flexibility of a BoE tracker. Both come without early repayment charges allowing flexibility for overpayments and penalty free redemptions should they choose to sell or re-mortgage in future years. We have sensible credit criteria. We don’t use credit score shortcut’s, we review the full credit search and payment profile and place a high level of importance upon evidenced affordability through the loan term. For ‘traditional’ prime customers, UTB offers an excellent choice of products, but we don’t have every option covered.

For example, we don’t currently offer 2 and 3 year fixed rates or provide loans over £250k. And no matter how clean the credit history might be, or how strong affordability is, we don’t lend to customers within a probationary period. However, there are other prime lenders that will lend in these circumstances.

Our products provide brokers with choice and options to help meet many of their customers’ requirements but every consumer has different needs. A healthy marketplace has many providers and a variety of offerings. We’re happy to set out our stall knowing that brokers will sometimes walk right past us to get to a lender more suited to their client.

So, what’s my point? Perhaps you’re wondering if this is my ‘Jerry McGuire’ moment? No, it’s not. I genuinely love working at UTB and aside from an offer to revisit my boyhood dream and play for the Chicago Bulls, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing right now. My point is that I want introducers to send us their cases where UTB is the best option, given that introducer’s individual lender panel, best advice requirements and ‘reasons why’ advice process. I want brokers to actively recommend UTB because it’s the right choice for their client. Plus, and here’s something you won’t hear every day, we actually want our introducers to send their applications to other lenders where they believe they will give the customer a better outcome. That’s the definition of regulated best advice.

Wow! That might sound odd coming from a lender in a hugely competitive market, but it makes perfect sense to us. An introducer who always gives best advice, who strives to do the right job for their client whilst keeping their own and lenders’ interests further down the pecking order is the sort of introducer we want as a long-term partner. And, in cases where the broker identifies that the products they offer really isn’t the right way forward for that customer, we have unbridled respect for those advisers who’d rather turn a client away than sign them up to something that isn’t right for them.

Thankfully the days of lenders offering marketing allowances or higher override commission structures depending on ‘guaranteed’ volumes from brokers are long over. UTB don’t have a preferred broker list and we value every relationship. We’ve developed a national team of BDMs who engage and assist all introducers and ensure brokers understand the products we offer and what a typical UTB customer looks like. We also provide the support appropriate for each brokerage. For larger firms, with whom we complete a high volume of loans, we offer dedicated on-site underwriting and regular training. However, a smaller broker doesn’t want an underwriter on-site for a day every week (unless it’s to make the coffee!) but they do want to know who they can call with a question and get a sensible answer.

So, let’s revisit that initial ‘Mission Statement’ – mortgage products designed for specific customer needs. Brokers should send us business following a best advice process with their clients and reflecting the products, service and criteria we provide. If it fits, and we represent the right outcome for the customer, use us. If it isn’t, don’t! At UTB we understand that the customer may not always be right, but we absolutely insist that the customer will always be King.