It is a sad day as another well known brand, C&G, takes a quick bow and scuttles off into the shadows, at least where intermediaries are concerned. As someone who started using C&G in the days before they paid a proc fee and who has their mortgage with them it is a double shame.
However, before we all get carried away on a sentimental journey let’s be honest, it was always going to happen, probably before the ink was even dry on the Lloyds / HBOS deal.
Of course my thoughts are with those who have lost their jobs after a tortuous period of uncertainty and I hope they all find something soon, but let’s not get too carried away with casting LBG as the pariah many of those leaving comments on websites seem to be doing.
If any of us were in charge of LBG from a pure business perspective the first decision to look at is the brand one. How many brands does one institution actually need? Where are the crossovers and where can we increase efficiency and make further savings?
Of course another brand missing effects consumer choice, but where all these brands are ultimately owned by one institution this is not as marked as it may once have been. Much depends on whether some of the underwriting “quirks” are merged into the remaining brands, more likely Halifax.
Actually there may be a business upside for brokers as more business with Halifax means potentially more opportunity to be paid on product transfers in a couple of year’s time!
Then there is the whole LBG hate brokers’ debate and the question of dual pricing. Whilst we should, as good brokers, continue to support excellent lenders such as Woolwich, Coventry and Nationwide who have in effect put their money where their mouths were as far as intermediaries are concerned, we all know the issues that LBG had and the problems of trying to keep those in branch from twiddling their fingers and, in any case, that was the last regime.
Since Antonio Horta-Osorio took over there has been a marked change in the intermediary sales staff both in terms of their optimistic outlook and engagement. This is not, or does not seem to be, a Chief Executive who is anti-intermediaries, in fact far from it. It is early days, but I believe the right man is now in charge and for brokers this will be a positive, which in turn will benefit the general public as they will be able to obtain the advice they need rather than being forced into a potentially non-advised branch network.
Choice and competition will increase again, as it slowly seems to be doing and we all want Halifax, BM etc back to their fighting weight.
In fact, there is actually one comment I read that really stands out and should give us all a little bit of sensitivity before we go around bemoaning the state of the world – “As a Lloyds Banking group employee who is affected by the announcement, it is really disappointing that all the intermediaries think of is themselves. I really don’t know why I’m shocked by this!!!”
As intermediaries we need to work hard to change our perception in both the eyes of the lenders and the public. We do not have a divine right to have all the best products and get paid inflated fees as we did pre-credit crunch. What we do demand, however, is that everyone who takes out a mortgage has access to proper advice and that lenders treat us with respect.
Respect, however, is a two way thing. Whilst we may not like or agree with decisions made, a little empathy and engagement is always preferable to throwing a strop and claiming “it’s my ball and I’m going home”.
In any case, today we should not be sorry for ourselves, but the hundreds who will lose their jobs and the passing of a great brand.