Banks vs bond originators - Which offers a better deal on your home loan? ( Part 1)

Banks vs bond originators – Which offers a better deal on your home loan? ( Part 1)

The Press has recently had another look at Originators vs Banks and the articles have become well-publicised. The MONEYWEB Today article is copied below for your convenience.

Looking at it and the articles received courtesy of ooba Marketing, I am excited again to write about the phenomenon called Origination. I will spill over into two articles.

I have an uncle who quotes: “Life without history is no life at all,” so let’s go back a little…

In 1999, origination began with an offer by Standard Bank to MortgageSA to pay a commission for completed bond applications. This event spurred the Property Association to become involved in the industry. In those days it was called Bond Broking but the word, Origination, was eventually adopted from the American term.

The Americans had a different means of origination which has never taken hold here and probably never will. In their case, Fanny Mae and Fanny Mac, their great executors of The American Dream, were established as the conduits of the Nation’s savings into home ownership.

We have much to thank the Americans for when it came to South Africans being brought up to believe that home ownership was an important step in “growing up”. “You need to buy a house”, your mother would tell you. In order to garner home loan applications that could be discounted into the companies, both Mae and Mac set up Originators and Servicers [two terms still used in the Securitization industry today].

The originators did what we do – called on the estate agents, completed the application and submitted it to the Servicer sometimes via the credit score of the company, or the Servicer did the credit approval. The Servicers captured the application and administered it for statements, arrears, upgrades and all payment calculations.  The point is that Mae and Mac both had similar models and outsourced their homeloan acquisition and servicing to Originators and Servicers. In this model lay the seeds of the disgusting practice of black-box finance that eventually lead to the Sub-prime crisis that brought much of the World’s economy to its knees in 2008-2010.

What the originators and servicers did was reason that it was silly to administer home loans one at a time when you could package them as a portfolio of risk and then just sell them in billions of Dollars at a time to banks, and Mae and Mac. The premise was simple, “you can’t lose on property” so who cares about affordability, you just repossess the house and get your money back.

Problem is that when lots of houses come back at the same time, property prices collapse. Then the financiers, wooed [greed was alive and well] by market share and interest earnings, took away deposits and over-lent on properties. 30 year fixed rates at less than 3% were marketed so you were crazy not to borrow against your house. What mayhem followed! Our banks over-reacted though as the tsunami of negative sub-prime sentiment swept across the finance world and, in many ways, changed the landscape of mortgage finance completely. By the way, “sub-prime” does not mean “less than Prime interest rate”, but rather it is the term given to assets in a portfolio which are “less than their best” ie “below being “prime” assets in value”.

So why do I sayhas never taken hold here and probably never will”? Our banks are multi-product institutions which are fully integrated from an administrative point of view. They do not need Servicers as their Operations departments are effective and efficient in multi-product administration and, legally, it would be very difficult and unacceptable, for our banks to sub-contract affordability which has now become law through the National Credit Act.

I remember once talking on World Report, a global BBC phone-in programmer, and being slated by an American guy who described SA as a nanny state because we have affordability guidelines and laws that govern how credit can be lent. Shame for him, as two things saved us in Sub-prime, one was that we have always been strict on affordability and the second, that we never conducted black-box securitisation in SA and were somewhat restricted from investing in such homeloan portfolios by our foreign exchange regulations. Thank Goodness!

Back to local history. In the 1960’s bank capital was scarce and the South African Reserve Bank held tight reigns on the banks and building societies. At that time, estate agents brought their completed bond applications to the Building Societies’ branch managers and then vied for the available capital of the day. I can even recall my Dad selling a house in Amanzimtoti and giving his buyer a “collateral” bond. This meant that the seller forfeited some of his sale price, 5 or 10%, to help the building society with capital to finance the bond for the buyer. This process revolutionised with the demise of the Building Societies Act and the modern Banks Act in 1973.

Banks could then more freely access capital and began to do their own homeloans – ABSA and Nedcor were born out of this huge change in legislation. It took Dr Theo Wasserman, CEO Trust Bank, to change the bond acquisition landscape for keeps. He decided to deploy smart looking “home loan consultants” to call on estate agents and canvas business. Their claim to fame was simple: “We come to you and take all the paperwork away.” No self-respecting estate agent would say no to that  and so the other banks followed suit and home loan sales forces were born. It truly was a brilliant move by Trust Bank which was, as you know, eventually absorbed into ABSA. The consultant salesforce model prospered right up to 2000 and were eventually paying between 0-0.3% for bonds for their respective banks.

Now that I have completed dated myself, let me conclude this first blog post saying that the love-hate relationship purported between the banks and the originators has been fantastic for the home loan industry in South Africa. More on that next week……….

Here is the link to the article on Moneyweb – Banks vs bond originators – Which offers a better deal on your home loan?

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Jack Trevena
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