There are quite a few good news stories around this week and personally speaking I can’t quite remember a busier, in enquiry terms, first week of January at all. Some of the brokers I have spoken to have echoed this so let’s hope it keeps up and translates into business for us all.

Swaps have actually meandered down since last week with LIBOR holding firm.

Three-month LIBOR is unchanged at 1.09%.

1-year money is down 0.075% at 1.075%
2-year money is down 0.06% at 1.31%
3-year money is down 0.06% at 1.35%
5-year money is down 0.03% at 1.585%

I was fortunate enough to attend a gathering held by Virgin Money this week and listen to both Sir Richard Branson, Jayne-Anne Gadhia and their team talk about their plans for 2012 and beyond. Without being sycophantic, it was great to see a company genuinely enthused and committed to the intermediary space and keen to treat brokers as “their clients”.

Holding on to the excellent Northern Rock team of people will make it much easier for them to gain a good foothold in our industry and we should all welcome them and look forward to their offerings to come in the near future. I got the impression that they really understood the benefits of communication, PR and social media and I am sure a few other lenders can learn a great deal from them – watch this space.

Elsewhere a raft a pleasing products have appeared to warm the cockles of our hearts. The always innovative Aldermore led the way with its Buy-to-let products now available to 80% LTV, closely followed by Leeds. I expect others to follow suit in due course.

Newcastle launched a very welcome 95% LTV product fixed for 2 years at 5.95% for those brokers who are members of “Nouveau”, (really, who came up with that name?), whilst Accord have released some 90% LTV products. Well done to all of you.

I received a few tweets around the Bridging Market and it is interesting to see that at least three more lenders are poised to enter into this market. I do worry slightly about the actual size of this market and where all the supposed bridging business will come from, so to me sticking to the established professional name lenders is the way to go. Speaking of which, Precise have launched a range of regulated bridging products which is most welcome.

I read a worrying comment the other day that now the PPI claims have run out, Claims Management companies think they can “fill their boots” by targeting post 2004 mortgage sales for various things like self-cert, repossessions, excessive broker fees and all mortgages in arrears.

Whilst I do not believe this will be as lucrative for these leeches as they suspect, it was very good to therefore see that The Financial Ombudsman Service said that it wanted to boost the number of free cases businesses are allowed from three to 25.

Hero

The company that have caused the biggest splash this week, Virgin Money. For Sir Richard Branson to stand up and say categorically that they are 100% committed to intermediaries is a great shot in the arm. We look forward to working with a fresh, exciting brand who understand communication and client service.

Villain

Claims Management Firms who think they can bully our industry and earn money for nothing chasing hard-working brokers with made-up claims. The cowboys have left our industry now and the decent brokers and networks have better things to do than waste time and energy fighting trouble-makers.

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