"The housing market dynamics have not changed much – there is still a structural deficit in housing supply and a growing population."
FR: What does your role at Masthaven involve and what does a typical day look like?
Chief operating officer roles tend to be eclectic and mine is no different. My job continually evolves and encompasses a variety of functions including sales and distribution, product development, marketing and supplier management, among others.
My typical day working remotely starts with a walk or a run at 6am and I’ll be at my desk by 7am. Usually I’m in meetings most of the day, meaning there isn’t a lot of time left to respond to emails and calls or to plan. You quickly become adept at multi-tasking.
FR: What are Masthaven’s main aims or focuses for 2021?
In the current climate, remaining flexible in the fast-changing environment of the pandemic is vital and we’ll continue to prioritise adapting to changes in the market in 2021.
There are a few major things on Masthaven’s agenda for 2021. First and foremost, we’ll be investing in our people. The future of work is changing so it’s important that we listen to our staff and adapt our working policies accordingly. Again, the ability to be flexible here will be crucial as we begin to come out of lockdown and understand better how our employees want to work in the future.
We are also focused on supporting our customers as best we can. The past 12 months have been challenging for many, so we are committed to supporting those in financial difficulty or those who might be deemed vulnerable. We’re also taking every opportunity to improve service to brokers and customers.
Finally, as a specialist bank seeking out opportunities to lend which meet our risk appetite and return threshold will be very important to ensure we continue to develop a sustainable and high-quality bank.
FR: Do you think the housing market has proven adaptable during the pandemic?
On the whole, I would say the housing market has proved adaptable. House prices have been surging and demand is high but there’s a lot of fog which I think prevents the real picture being seen.
UK Finance report that there are still 85,000 customers taking advantage of payment holidays and many thousands more in arrears because they used payment holidays earlier in the pandemic. In addition, the legal moratorium on house possessions as well government initiatives such as the furlough scheme and support for businesses has prevented the house price falls and tightened credit that normally go hand in hand with recession. On the other hand, the stamp duty payment holiday has done lot to fuel increased activity in the sector. So, with all that noise it’s hard to see the how the market will shape up in the future.
However, the housing market dynamics have not changed much – there is still a structural deficit in housing supply and a growing population. So while houses remain affordable it’s likely we’ll continue to see a growing property market.
FR: What are the biggest challenges facing customers right now?
I expect most people will be facing the universal challenges of staying healthy, seeing family and friends and balancing life with ongoing restrictions. However, beyond the human issues there are the practical ones dictated by circumstances.
For parents with young children, it’s about balancing family, life and work, while for older generations, it’s about getting to see and support children, grandchildren and parents. For employers, responding to the changing needs and expectations of employees will be vital. And for borrowers, the biggest challenges will be around ensuring they get the right long-term rate as well as making sure they get suitable advice and help to make an informed decision.
FR: What trends do you expect to see within the specialist lending market this year?
Many people will have been disadvantaged by the events of the last year and I expect the demand for advice from brokers about specialist lending will be stronger than ever. Applicants that have been on payment holidays, furloughed, unemployed or work in a hard-hit industry will need support and help to recover.
The mortgage market is at its highest in history at £286bn and 79% of mortgages are distributed via intermediaries, underlining the importance of the broker channel and the demand for advice.
FR: If you could see one headline about the mortgage sector in 2021, what would it be?
‘Specialist lenders sweep up’. Customer groups who no longer fit the traditional borrower profile, particularly in the post-Covid era, will need the support of specialist lenders to help them secure the home they want.