Tuesday, 9 January 2007

FSA highlights irresponsibility in mortgage lending

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has called on firms giving mortgage advice to improve their processes after new findings showed that only one third of the firms it sampled had robust processes in place to provide customers with suitable advice.

The FSA reviewed 252 firms of differing sizes through mystery shopping,visits and questionnaires between June and October last year to establish a baseline of the process by which advice is delivered in the mortgage industry. Scope for improvement was found in all aspects of the advice process. Some of the poorer areas identified were the assessment of customer needs, including affordability; training and competence; overall systems and controls; and record keeping.

Clive Briault, Managing Director of Retail Markets at the FSA, said:

"We found significant failings in the advice giving processes in a number of mortgage firms. Poor processes increase the risk of unsuitable advice being given. It is essential that firms have robust processes in place, so that they treat their customers fairly and provide suitable advice. It is crucial that customer needs are assessed properly. Customers should consider what they can afford both now and in the future, taking into account any likely changes to their circumstances."

Examples of bad practices included:

  • Affordability was assessed based on the customers' income and costs of servicing debt only. No account was taken of other regular expenses incurred by the customer.
  • No income and expenditure assessment was carried out prior to recommendation. Reliance was placed on the customer stating they could afford the payments.
  • Industry average figures sourced from internet websites were used to determine the customer's affordability without checking that this represented an accurate figure for the individual customer in question and did not assess whether the client lay significantly outside the average.
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