Lenders must build on special relationships

By Matthew Tooth, chief commercial officer

The growth of the specialist has been impossible to ignore over the last couple of years, but recent research by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) has made clear the increasing role of specialism in the mortgage market.

IMLA found that lending by specialists has grown by an average of 19% each year from 2009 to 2016, with a total of almost £17bn lent last year. That’s enormous growth from a sector that was particularly badly dented by the effects of the financial crisis.

The trade body was clear in pointing out that there is still plenty more room for growth though. Even with these enormous yearly increases in lending by specialists, the market share of these lenders remains modest. According to IMLA it has grown from 3.5% in 2009 to 6.8% in 2016, and that still lags significantly below the levels seen before the onset of the financial crisis.

There are plenty of reasons to expect that growth to continue. Every time the market goes through some sort of fundamental change – and the portfolio landlord rules are just the latest in a succession of significant changes we have all had to adjust to – it presents an opportunity for a specialist lender, an opening for a firm who isn’t bound by creaking old tech or the baggage of the credit crunch to do something different and innovative.

Add to that the changing demographics, and the number of borrowers who will need to turn to a specialist rather than a high street bank will only go up.

IMLA was right to note the strong position today’s specialist lenders find themselves in when it comes to weathering future economic turbulence and downturns. It is a much more stable, responsible section of the market than it may have been in decades past, meaning that if and when future troubles present themselves, specialist lenders are far better placed to deal with them than was previously the case.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I believe the growing confidence of the specialist sector is a good thing. There are huge numbers of borrowers who do not fall into the vanilla criteria of mainstream lenders, but they still need access to finance and if we are to keep the market fluid then those borrowers need to have somewhere to turn.

But that growth also presents a challenge for brokers, and it’s a challenge that lenders need to be aware of. Keeping on top of the different product details and criteria of mainstream lenders is difficult enough, let alone the varying terms employed by lenders operating in more specialised areas. There is far more to providing quality mortgage advice than simply firing up a sourcing system and performing a quick search.

So as the specialist market grows, it is up to lenders to do more to help brokers keep up to speed on ever evolving product ranges, and how those products can help, with specific examples of exactly what we will – and won’t – be able to lend on.