Banks vs bond originators - Which offers a better deal on your home loan? ( Part 2)

Banks vs bond originators – Which offers a better deal on your home loan? ( Part 2)

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

In my first blog of this 2-part series, I covered the history of the banks and their homeloan businesses culminating in the business model of homeloan consultants who called on estate agents and paid small commissions for their business. In 1999, the landscape changed again.

MortgageSA and PA Homeloans, [now, ooba and BetterLife] began to slog it out in the market and were later joined by the ex-NBS team in the form of Bond Choice. The three originators, made hay while the sun shone and decimated the bank homeloan sales forces. In this context, just a brief note on the so-called “love-hate relationship” between the banks and originators. Bear in mind, I express my personal views and, in doing so, fully accept that I may have people who disagree with me.

In 1999, if the banks wanted to retain their own dedicated sales forces into the market, then what they did was difficult to understand. Any amount the banks paid to the new originators that enabled the originators to pay the estate agents more than the banks’ 0-0.3% was destined to disintermediate the banks from their estate agent relationships. No profit-orientated business person would walk away from a higher homeloan introductory commission – the end of the bank homeloan consultant was in sight from the beginning. To keep it simple, let’s say the originator commission was 2%, then the originator could pay 1% [anything more than 0.3% was good enough] to the estate agent and keep 1% for their consultant, overheads and profit. Throw the dramatic property market upturn of 1999 to 2007 into the mix and the stage was set for massive change. If there is love-hate, the banks can be forgiven for giving away their direct right of access to the residential property market. No wonder they might feel aggrieved. By the way, the banks’ commercial property divisions did not follow their residential counterparts’ leads and to this day, have a small broker component with the majority of business coming directly.

On the other hand, what the originators did to the banks was unacceptable. One thing an originator cannot argue, morally or contractually, is that they do not take the risk of the homeloan. Controlled by onerous Banking legislation which incorporates capital and informational requirements, the banks proceed to approve the homeloan application and then administer it and its risk for the lifespan of the loan. Every event of the customer –  death, joblessness, errant credit behavior, over-indebtedness, interest rate increases – is felt by the bank and worked through for 20 to 30 years.

Let’s never forget that banks are fiduciary institutions and, as channels of the nation’s savings, bear responsibility to depositors to give them their money back with interest, and on time. I always say, a bank’s name is spelt, T-R-U-S-T. Break that and you break everything. In the light of this view, the behaviour of the originators was sometimes arrogant and demeaning to banks. All of us had a role to play in the response eventually taken by the banks to bring the industry into line. Just the practice of “shopping” to every bank willy-nilly was unacceptable. The average conversion rate of 18% was in poor taste and mathematically boiled down to 4 banks divided by four submissions of the same deal less NTU’s; plus-minus 25% – 7% = 18%. What a waste of admin capacity, time and money.

With these strong views as both a banker and an originator, I read the article below and make some pertinent comments in closing.

Banks deserve the utmost respect of the originators. They carry the risk for the lifetime of the homeloan in the face of increasing compliance legislation. Nothing or no one in origination should be allowed to treat this responsibility lightly.

In turn, banks benefit from a variable, once-off commission, or introductory fee if you prefer,  at a rate they have calculated over years and agreed contractually. Some points bear emphasis:

  • As a variable rate, the banks bear no overhead in the ongoing acquisition costs of the originator. They have effectively curtailed the fixed cost, fully absorbed nature of their homeloans’ acquisition. That’s good business.
  • The use of Comcorp and the originators’ own platforms radically reduce homeloan processing costs.
  • I contend that the current commissions paid to originators are not only variable but also less than the fixed cost, let alone the fully absorbed fixed cost, of acquisition for a bank. In this regard, it is no accident that insurance companies have long embraced the broker model and latterly only, the digital platforms, even in the face of their broker strategies.
  • Sensibly, a bank would outsource to a responsible origination force but for the relatively few customers who insist on dealing with bank-branded homeloan consultants in specific higher net worth channels.
  • The banks will never outsource their credit evaluation models. The seduction of lower costs is far outweighed by the risk of manipulation. On this front, banks’ fraud protection units are critical to combating this scourge in financial services. Regretfully, this stance will always mean a higher cost of delivery but no bank can be blamed for holding credit quality as sacrosanct to itself.
  • Origination exists because the banks want a secure, reasonably priced, variably-costed channel. In doing what they did with the average origination commission, the banks effectively stabilised the industry and made it sustainable.

 In turn, the originators have a compelling proposition. It is simply this:

  • The originators provide Choice in a financial services industry awash with options. Choice of product, institutions and interest rates. I am often asked if I “get the best rate” and my answer is No, I get the best credit terms. What I mean by that is, does a customer want Prime-0.5% with a 10% deposit, or Prime+0.5% without? That is Choice in action; the customer’s call. I have the chance as an originator to present such options repeatedly and from different banks.
  • The originators provide Convenience. At the offices of their agents, in the homes of their customers, over the phone with attorneys, linking with bank assessors – origination consultants do an incredible job Conveniently. Their costs are their responsibility and they are paid on success only – like estate agents, true entrepreneurs who start every month from scratch.
  • Originators are Experts. Because they only do homeloans, origination consultants, many of whom came from the banks in the first place, are steeped in homeloans. This expertise, coupled with close networks with principals, developers, conveyancers, assessors, bank representatives and insurance specialists, is brought to bear in the submission of the homeloan application. Such dedicated focus is rare in retail banking today. It’s quite correct, as one of the experts in the article below mentioned, that origination consultants have an excellent idea where to place a particular customer’s homeloan for best results.
  • As regards interest rates, I sense that customers are viewed by the banks for pricing in sophisticated pricing models and that little deviation occurs from it for the sake of an originator’s customer. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that customers get better rates by going direct – the full absorption cost of a bank would probably make sure of that. As a result, an originator’s ability to consistently get better rates for their customers will remain confidential to the banks with much annecdote around it. One thing is for sure though, a hungry, commission-driven originator consultant will fight tooth-and-nail for her customer.
  • Finally, the customer gets all this for Free. That’s the biggest factor in favour of the value proposition of origination. You don’t pay at a bank either if you go direct but the cost of time parking, in queues, the car guard and the paper trail all add up.

Now let me sum up. The history of homeloan acquisition is interesting and its evolution has netted for South Africa one of the most effective homeloan businesses in the world. The banks spawned origination when they bought the origination proposition. The originators have taken hard knocks to reach the point at which their industry is attractive  to the banks as viable and sustainable with acceptable credit and fraud risk in the process. It would seem, like many new industries, the origination industry has matured into a worthwhile business proposition and partnership with the banks.

Love-hate? I guess not. Partnership is more how I like to think it; built on mutual respect, a desire for long-term sustainability and cost effectiveness.

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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