The Interview… Marie Grundy, Managing Director of Residential Mortgages and Second Charges at West One Loans

Marie Grundy, Managing Director of Residential Mortgages and Second Charges at West One Loans talks about the firm’s move into the first charge space, details of its new range and the outlook for the future.

Congratulations on your move into first charge. It comes at a time when lenders have been pulling away from the market, how difficult was it to launch in such challenging times?

It really has been a turbulent couple of weeks in the mortgage market but for us, it made very little difference as we were absolutely committed to bringing this new product range to market.

We have put in a tremendous amount of work developing what we believe is a unique proposition that will fulfil a very real need in the market. The events of the past two weeks haven’t changed that.

While we of course had to make some very minor adjustments just before launch to allow for market conditions, we feel it is more important than ever to widen the choice of products available to borrowers who might struggle to obtain mainstream mortgage finance, and we believe our proposition delivers this.

We are already working on further enhancements and we will continue to evolve the product range over the coming weeks and months.

Where does the West One proposition sit in the market? What makes it different?

The people we are here to help are those who cannot get a mortgage from the High Street, often through no fault of their own.

There are tens of thousands of high-quality borrowers out there who cannot qualify for a mortgage because they are self-employed, older, have more complex income streams or who simply are unable to fit the credit scoring systems of the major lenders.

That doesn’t mean they are a bad credit risk; it simply means they need a lender who takes time to understand their circumstances. That’s where we come in.

We are super focused on service delivery which we know is a real challenge for brokers and borrowers right now.

As an example of this, our research into our product launch identified that there was a real sense of frustration amongst brokers with the post offer legal process with borrowers often subjected to lengthy delays between offer and completion.

To counter this we have introduced a fast-track remortgage service which will be provided by our on-site legal team.

We believe this will really speed up the completion process which is available for eligible borrowers for remortgages up to £750,000.

This is a great example of how we actively seek out feedback from our intermediary partners and feed this directly into the design of our overall proposition whether that is product, process or criteria led.

What are the highlights of the range?

When you launch a new proposition like we have, there are two ways you can do it: you can launch something you think the market will appreciate or you can consult the market and find out what it wants.

That’s exactly what we did; everything you see in our new range has been constructed following close dialogue with brokers, who know the market better than anyone.

As a result of this we have introduced bespoke offerings for first time buyers, homemovers, remortgage customers and borrowers with unencumbered properties as well as options for interest only and higher earning borrowers who need access to LTIs over 4.5 times income.

Our criteria will support borrowers who may not have a perfect credit score and I’ve already mentioned the fast-track remortgage service which also includes AVM options for certain loan sizes.

We have plans to really develop out this product range to make it a very compelling proposition so watch this space.

What challenges do you see in the first charge space at present and how can you help?

Clearly, the last few weeks has been challenging for the market and it will take some for things to settle. But while we’re mindful of market conditions, we want to make it clear that we are open for business and hungry to lend.

Having a meaningful presence in the first-charge market is a key priority for West One and we are keen to work with brokers to ensure we offer more of what they want and none of what they don’t.

What advice would you give to brokers trying to place a case with the new range?

We are working with a small number of selected partners who are supporting us with the launch so mortgage intermediaries can access our products currently through one of these firms.

One of the messages that came through loud and clear from speaking to experienced intermediaries was to get the basics right.

That means having easy accessibility to our team by being able to talk through a case with one of our experts.

We’re lucky at West One in that we have a fantastic team of BDMs, underwriters and broker support staff who are highly trained and know our criteria inside-out – and they are a lovely bunch who are great to deal with. If you’re not quite sure if a case will fit, they will be more than happy to help.

Is this the beginning of a bigger move in to the first charge?

We never do things half-heartedly at West One and ultimately we’re striving to be the leading lender in the specialist end of the first-charge market.

But equally, we realise that won’t happen overnight, which is why we are keen to hear from brokers about how we can improve our range to ensure we achieve that aim.

Like I said before, brokers are the experts and we are keen to tap into their knowledge to ensure we are providing what the market wants.

West One has come a long way over the years. What is the future of the lender?

When you think what West One has achieved since launching in 2005, it really is quite unbelievable.

We are the market-leader, or one of the market-leaders, in all of our target markets and have built up a reputation over the past 17 years as a lender that brokers can trust and do business with easily.

However, we don’t take anything for granted. We realise that in order to stay successful, you need to evolve, and so we will spend the next weeks, months and years finding ways to ensure we earn the right to call ourselves “the home of specialist lending”.

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