Contrary Mary lenders

A “Contrary Mary” lender in my book is someone who will offer to meet all your needs, requirements and desires and will then deliver none of the above, whilst insulting your intelligence into the bargain.

I am of course targeting my comments at the banking and finance industry. On this occasion I will not be naming or shaming particular institutions, but in future articles I may be. This is because I, and probably you, am well and truly tired of the “Contrary Mary” attitude of lenders generally, and hopefully, with this article, some will sit up and take notice of the effect that this is having on the broker industry.

I was always taught that in this industry customers should be treated with utmost good faith and should not have to have recourse to “buyer beware” – “caveat emptor”. The fact of the matter is that telling stories and building castles in the air is not what I consider to be the least bit helpful to anyone. This is without even considering the FSA’s standards on “treating customers fairly”.

What lenders have to realise, if they are to maintain a presence in the broker market, is that brokers are their customers and that their prime responsibility is to provide us with factual, straightforward information in plain English, which won’t suddenly change without warning as completion approaches.

I understand that lenders have their own problems with capital adequacy, asset ratios, sector lending and the additional impact of further regulation from the FSA. However, lenders need to learn a new language of engagement, which covers the reasons why they may or may not be able to lend in a given sector for a period of time, possibly due to sector weightings and other issues.

By contrast, in an attempt to manage their reputation and to hold on to potential future business, they make encouraging noises to the broker when they know that essentially they are wasting everyone’s time and that the final answer is likely to be no.

This attitude serves to further destabilise the marketplace because, rather than the lender’s position being a constant, there are too many variables.

Two recent examples from the development sector will serve to illustrate my point:

A lender advertises nationally, while stating over the phone that you can forget it if your enquiry does not come from the south-east.

Another lender in the same sector has development funding listed on their website. On speaking to them, they inform me that they are not actually doing this kind of business. When I mention the very low loan to value of my enquiry they say that they would like to take a look at it, only to turn it down 24 hours later.

I am sure that many of you out there can come up with numerous instances far worse than this. For example, lenders go to offer and withdraw at completion for technical reasons, which they may not be prepared to disclose.

This is what I call “Contrary Mary-ism” and it is blighting the trusted relationship between lender, broker and client. The client, on occasion, does not know who to believe and feels that he is being spun a yarn by the broker for some nefarious purposes, when it is in fact the lender who is moving the goalposts wider and wider. The effect is to further unsettle an already unstable marketplace.

Those in authority, both lenders and regulators, bang on about how brokers could improve their service, while in reality the boot seems to be firmly on the other foot, with “Contrary Marys” asking endlessly for this and that, before finally pulling the plug.

I am sure that these words are resonating in the ears of both the “Contrary Marys” themselves and those who suffer their contrariness...