"Brokers, and their clients, benefit from a vibrant and competitive lender marketplace and so by supporting our members we are also supporting brokers."
We spoke to Vic Jannels, CEO of the Association of Short Term Lenders (ASTL), about the latest state of the bridging market, his advice for brokers who are new to short-term lending, and the upcoming ASTL Annual Conference, which is taking place online for the first time later this month.
FR: What’s the latest state of the bridging market?
From available information, the sector is really very busy and we’re aware that many intermediaries are receiving near record levels of enquiries and applications from clients for short term finance. Lenders are naturally being more scrupulous around their underwriting in the current environment and so cases are taking a little longer to progress to completion. In turn, this may lead to lower conversion rates as applications fall over, or the original purpose for the bridging finance is no longer there.
I appreciate that this can be very frustrating for brokers, and at the ASTL, we encourage our members to progress cases with speed wherever possible, whilst maintaining their usual high levels of diligence.
It’s important to remember that everything we do, as lenders and intermediaries, has the client at its centre and lenders have a duty of care to ensure that underwriting remains responsible, particularly in the current environment which continues to remain uncertain. So, it is understandable that lenders are taking a little longer over their decisioning, to ensure they are making those decisions based on all available and relevant information.
FR: What’s your advice for brokers who are new to short-term lending?
Short-term lending is a fantastic tool for any broker, and it enables you to work with a wonderfully varied set of clients and circumstances. It is a market that is split through regulated and non-regulated business, and there are numerous lenders active in the market, some of which may be less well-known which for some brokers can be a concern. So, my advice, naturally, would be to work with lenders that are members of an accredited association, such as the ASTL.
Of course, I would say that wouldn’t I, but one of the great strengths of the ASTL is the detailed assessment process we go through before accepting new members, aligned with our encouragement to all members’ to demonstrate continued commitment and adherence to our Code of Conduct. This means that membership of our association remains very much a kitemark of quality and this can provide real reassurance for both brokers and their clients.
FR: What has the ASTL been doing to support brokers this year?
We have endeavoured to provide a collective voice for the industry across a number of issues, with proactive engagement with both the Treasury and the FCA on how their policies impact short-term lending, and those customers who rely heavily in this sector. Our primary purpose is to support our lender members and this activity has represented their interests, but in doing this it is also seeking to support the health and wellbeing of our marketplace. Brokers, and their clients, benefit from a vibrant and competitive lender marketplace and so by supporting our members we are also supporting brokers.
FR: You are opening up this year’s ASTL Annual Conference to a larger audience, why should people attend?
The first thing to say is that the conference will be held virtually for the first time in the Association’s history. This means that on 22nd September, people can join the event from wherever they have an internet connection. So, it’s very accessible and we wanted to make the ASTL more visible to a wider than normal audience. Short term lending is not a stand-alone product in that it will very often lead to a longer term borrowing requirement and this therefore encapsulates business opportunities for other professional in the wider mortgage sector.
Secondly, and to support this, we have sought to create a meaningful programme of content that is packed into two short hours, with top class speakers who will provide the most up-to-date insights into the economic environment, the property market and the challenges facing the sector during this turbulent time. There will also be a panel debate, which we expect to be both lively and thought-provoking. The talks and debate will be wide reaching and therefore demand a wider audience as a result.
I won’t give too much away here, but people can find out more about the content programme and register to attend by visiting astlconference.co.uk.
FR: If you could see one headline about financial services in 2020, what would it be?
'Financial services shows the way to economic recovery post Covid-19'.