"Building societies have been around for over 160 years and are here to stay."
FR: You joined Dudley Building Society as distribution director just over a year ago. What does your role entail, plus how has the role and the Society changed and evolved in that time?
My role is leading the distribution team and managing the end-to-end intermediary journey looking for ways to improve processes. I am responsible for originating, underwriting, processing and completing all intermediary mortgages for the Society. In the past 12 months, we have undergone a complete restructuring of both our external and internal teams, expanding our workforce and implementing changes to policies and processes. We want to have £1bn in assets in the next 5 years and are building foundations to achieve this.
FR: What would you say are your sweet spots in terms of lending and customer types. Can you give a couple of examples of how you’ve helped brokers and their customers in these scenarios?
We are real experts in three areas; expat lending, complex cases including self-employed, and self-build.
We successfully concluded a case for an expat based in Dubai. They sought to purchase a holiday let with no EPC and wanted to pay in Dirhams. Collaborating closely with the broker, we thoroughly examined both the client's profile and the property — an ex-fisherman's cottage dating back to 1890. The property had boasted an impressive 90% occupancy rate over the previous 12 months and had bookings secured for the following 18 months. Leveraging that income generated from the holiday let, we engaged in discussions with valuers and the case was successfully completed.
FR: You also offer self-build and allow brokers to access you directly, so what are your views on this part of the market and how does your proposition differ from others?
Self-build is one of our main areas of expertise. We understand this complex market and how clients will progress on these projects. The key here is working with the brokers to understand the build, timescales and what the client will do when built. It's a real specialist section of the market and we allow brokers who have experience to engage directly with us. Brokers tell us that they prefer to deal directly with the lender as it helps with communication and keeps costs down.
Moreover, we are a flexible lender capable of accommodating diverse circumstances. Whether clients have multiple income sources, possess 12 months' worth of accounts, intend to work beyond the age of 65, or are exploring joint borrower sole proprietor options, we have tailored solutions for every scenario. When we say yes, we mean yes!
FR: What role do building societies like Dudley have in the intermediary mortgage market and how do they complement the traditional capital market funded specialist lenders?
I have worked for high street banks, specialist non-bank lenders and specialist banks. What the building societies offer is a blend of all the best bits from those banks.
We may not have the capacity of a high street bank, but we are more flexible. Simple things like speaking directly to a decision maker, building proper relationships and offering a common-sense approach to lending is what makes us different.
The way we are funded allows flexibility with products - most societies of Dudley's size are funded from savings and don’t rely on the money markets. Mutuality has proven to be a significant winner over the past 12 months, particularly amidst market volatility. We are comfortable with the savings model and because of that we are looking to open more branches at a time when other financial institutions are closing their high street branches. Building societies have been around for over 160 years and are here to stay.
FR: Finally, as we enter 2024, is there anything you can tell us about the Society’s plans for the year?
We have increased our headcount across the Society, with two new underwriters in December and two new key account managers starting in January. We are also in the process of recruiting additional colleagues to support brokers. 2023 was about building foundations, launching retention proc fees, changing lending policy and building a new origination platform to name a few things. In 2024 we will focus on our core markets whilst exploring other lending areas. UK Finance have quoted that the 2024 gross lending will reduce from £226bn in 2023 to £215bn in 2024. I am 100% confident we will buck that trend and lend more in 2024 than we did in 2023, so we will be a good news story.