Sources are acknowledged.
Together loan book reaches £3.25bn
Specialist lender Together has reported a 24.9% rise in average monthly loan originations to £171.7m in its quarterly results to 31st December 2018, compared with the previous year. Together announced a profit before tax of £31.2m, while the group’s loan book reached a new high of £3.25bn.
Surge in new bridging lenders
Brightone Law has found that a surge of short-term lenders have entered the bridging market over the last 12 months, up 50% on 2017. The Association of Short-Term Lenders says bridging lending amongst its members rose by 15% in 2018. Senior partner Jonathan Newman said: "So many of our clients were once those disruptor new boys on the block and now, are established, key players, leading brands and the benchmark for new entrants."
First-time home buyers soar but BTL purchases slump
The latest mortgage trends report from UK Finance reveals the number of first-time home buyers in the UK reached a 12-year high last year, but new buy-to-let (BTL) purchases fell sharply as tax and regulatory changes weighed on the sector. There was an 11.5% drop in BTL home purchases between 2017 and 2018 and the £9bn of new lending seen in the sector last year was 15% lower than the year before. Remortgage figures were much stronger, with a 25.3% year-on-year increase in new BTL remortgages to 12,400 recorded in December. Meanwhile, the first-time buyer market was buoyant, with 370,000 new first-time buyer mortgages completing last year, a 1.9% rise and the highest number since 2006.
Banking hubs can rescue the high street
MPs have suggested that dying high streets could be revitalised by creating “1970s-style banking hubs”. Housing several banks together in the same building would be cost effective, aid customers and help local business communities, the MPs said. They added that drastic action needed to be taken to prevent bank branch closures which are turning Britain’s high streets into “ghost towns”.
Property repossessions ‘lowest since 1980’
New figures have shown that the number of homes repossessed in the UK fell to its lowest level since 1980 last year. There were 4,580 homes repossessed by mortgage lenders from owners who were unable to keep up with repayments on their home loans. Low mortgage rates and a less aggressive attitude from lenders has meant low levels of repossession in recent years. The figures from UK Finance showed that the number of landlords falling behind on mortgage repayments was unchanged in the final quarter of last year compared with the same three months in 2017.
House price rises slowest for five years
Official figures have revealed that house prices grew by 2.5% in the year to December, the lowest annual rise since July 2013 when there was 2.3% growth. The average home now costs under £231,000, according to the Office for National Statistics and the Land Registry. Price changes varied across the regions, falling in London by 0.6% and by 1% in the North East, but rising by more than 5% in the West Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Banks closing thousands of ‘money mule’ accounts
MPs have heard how banks are closing tens of thousands of accounts a year in the UK as fraudsters use social media sites to lure young people into becoming “money mules”. Santander said it has closed about 24,000 accounts a year on suspicion of fraud, with 11,000 of those suspected money mule cases – where fraudsters use genuine accounts to process illegal payments linked to terrorism, money laundering and other economic crimes. Susan Allen, the head of retail business banking at Santander UK, said that people often did not understand the potential consequences of being a money mule, including difficulty in opening bank accounts and obtaining mortgages, other loans and credit cards, and potentially prison sentences. Nationwide added that it had closed about 12,000 accounts a year due to fraud.
Cash machines closing at record rate
Cash points are closing at a rate of 16 per day, the fastest ever recorded, according to a new study. Figures from the consumer group Which? show cash machines disappeared at a rate of 488 per month between June and December last year. Over the six months, 2,962 cash points were taken out of service, representing a 4.6% decline in the overall network of 63,152. The Federation of Small Businesses and Which? are today launching a campaign calling for a dedicated regulator to be put in place to ensure companies and shoppers who rely on cash are not left behind. FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: "The rapid pace of bank branch and cashpoint closures is hurting small businesses all over the UK. Millions of small firms have customers who want to pay using notes and coins. The vast majority of shoppers either use cash frequently or want to see access to it maintained.”
The Daily Telegraph
Whistle-blower raises concerns over Lloyds
The Mail reports that a whistle-blower has claimed that Lloyds Bank conspired with partner companies to destroy small businesses in the wake of the financial crisis so their assets could be sold off to shore up their own balance sheets. According to previously unpublished documents, a turnaround business called Baronsmead allegedly conspired with Lloyds to push firms into administration even when they could be saved. The Financial Conduct Authority has now interviewed the whistle-blower and evidence has been passed on to the National Crime Agency.
UK’s fintech hit record levels last year
Venture capital and private equity investment in British fintech hit an all-time high of $3.3bn (£2.6bn) in 2018, according to data from Innovate Finance, 18% higher than in 2017. Growth capital from private equity players rose 57% to $1.6bn, suggesting that the UK’s startup scene is quickly becoming a scale-up industry. London performed well ahead of its European counterparts - taking in almost five times Germany’s $716m for fintech investment last year. Global venture capital investment in fintech in 2018 reached a record $36.6bn, a jump of 148% from 2017 and up 329% over five years.
Mortgages dominate bank lending
The Standard’s Anthony Hilton says the steady increase in mortgage lending by banks over 30 years has coincided with a decline in business lending. He notes that before deregulation, banks were the capital market for business and accounted for most of the loans. Now they are leaders of housing finance, their balance sheet is some 70% mortgages and only perhaps 15% (and some say 10%) of business loans, he adds.
KPMG closes small business service
KPMG has announced it is withdrawing its small business accounting (SBA) service in the UK.
London and South East lead on productivity
London and several areas in the South East continued to outperform the UK in terms of productivity in 2017. Workers in the capital are the most productive in the UK, creating 50% more output per hour than the UK average, according to figures from the ONS. Those in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire came joint second in the UK, 14% above the national average. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was the least productive region, at 32% below average.
London top for office investment
A study from Knight Frank reveals that London has kept its crown as the world’s top destination for property investment. Buyers spent £16.2bn on offices in the capital in 2018, compared with £14.3bn invested in Manhattan, £12.1bn in Paris and £8.4bn in Hong Kong. Capital from the Far East accounted for nearly half (47%) of all investment in central London offices.
TSB suffers £105m loss
TSB has reported a loss of £105.4m last year, down from a profit of £162.7m the previous year. The loss was pinned on the bank’s disastrous IT upgrade which resulted in £330.2m in costs, which would be partly be offset by £153m that TSB said it expected to recoup from computer provider Sabis. Some 80,000 customers switched their bank account away from TSB in 2018, 30,000 more than in 2017. The bank added that customer deposits fell by 4.7% to £29.1bn last year, which the bank said was due to planned changes in savings products. Customer lending also decreased by 2.7% to £30bn. TSB’s executive chairman Richard Meddings commented: “Last year was TSB’s most challenging year. But we enter 2019 with renewed ambition to re-emerge as the leading challenger bank in the UK - firmly on the side of the customer.”
Are bridging lenders looking at expanding overseas?
Bridging & Commercial gathers opinion on whether lenders are considering expanding internationally. Paul McFadyen, managing director at Glenhawk, said that his firm was focused on growing its offering in the UK, but added: “We have senior members of the team with experience specifically in the US, so this would naturally be an area of interest to us.” Jack Coombs, director at Aspen Bridging, suggests that it may take some time for firms to expand overseas. He explains: “I think that the UK market is sufficient for now. International diversification requires a model of business which can be applied easily. Technology is the only answer and most firms are nowhere near having that capacity.”
Bridging finance will remain strong despite Brexit
MT Finance’s Gareth Lewis has said that demand for bridging finance will remain strong and it will continue to provide support for property investors despite the continued uncertainty generated by Brexit. Mr Lewis said: “With Brexit still uncertain, the first quarter’s data will be interesting reading, but I expect demand for bridging finance will remain strong and the product will provide vital support for property investors.” Phil Jay, director at Complete FS, added that data has shown that the sector is resilient. “Although the bridging market will not be immune to the shockwaves surrounding Brexit, the industry is fortunate to have a broad base of lenders that can currently more than compensate for any likely loss of liquidity, if funding tightens,” he states.
Borrowers turning to longer-term fixed rates
Yorkshire Building Society reports that an increasing number of borrowers are choosing to fix their mortgages for five years or more, 44% up in December 2018 on an annual basis. Janice Barber, mortgage manager at Yorkshire Building Society, said: “While homebuyers’ reluctance to purchase a house during these uncertain times is cooling the housing market, borrowers are rushing to secure new deals that will see them through Brexit and beyond.”
Number of first-time mortgages on the rise
The government’s annual English Housing Survey has showed that the number of people taking out mortgages grew for the first time in a decade last year while the private rental sector stalled. After ten years of decline, the number of mortgages issued to households rose by 5% to 6.9m. Lindsay Judge, of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: “This rise is being driven by factors including improving credit conditions and the growing importance of the bank of mum and dad.”
Metro Bank acknowledges accounting flaw
Metro Bank has admitted that the Prudential Regulation Authority found a flaw in its accounts last week despite previously insisting that it spotted the error. Its shares fell by 40% last week after the bank said it had identified the misclassification of a large number of commercial loans when calculating risk-weighted assets following a year-end review. However, the bank said yesterday that the PRA had “helped to identify potential inconsistencies in certain loans”.
House price growth at near six-year low
UK house prices grew at the slowest annual rate for nearly six years in January, according to the Nationwide, with prices up by just 0.1% from a year earlier, and down from a rate of 0.5% in December. However, month on month prices grew 0.3% at the start of 2019 compared to a 0.7% slip between November and December. The average property price is now £211,966, just £210 more than a year ago.
Corporation tax cuts to cost billions a year
HMRC has calculated that plans to cut corporation tax rates will cost the public finances £6.2bn a year. The current rate of 19% is set to be reduced to 17% in April next year, costing the public purse £5.8bn in foregone revenues in 2020-21 and £6.2bn the following year, according to a “ready reckoner” published by HMRC. The Treasury argues: “Low corporation tax supports the economy by enabling companies to reinvest in their business, create jobs, and increase wages”, but opponents argue that the reduction will not make much difference to investment plans, and only serves to benefit businesses at a time when Whitehall departments and councils are struggling with funding cuts.
The Independent The Guardian Financial Times
Bankruptcies hit six-year high
New figures from the Insolvency Service show that the number of people going bust has jumped to at least a six-year high. Accountancy firm RSM believes the figures will show more than 109,000 insolvency cases took place across the whole of last year.
Libor has uncertain end
The Financial Conduct Authority has warned the endgame for Libor interest rates could be “uncertain” and urged banks and businesses to “rapidly” move to alternatives. Edwin Schooling-Latter, the FCA’s director of markets policy, commented: “One thing I cannot provide to you today is certainty about what the end-game for Libor will look like. That means uncertainty for those who continue to hold or write contracts that reference Libor.”
Santander to close one-fifth of UK branches
Santander is to close 20% of its UK branches, risking the loss of 1,270 jobs, due to "changes in how customers are choosing to carry out their banking". The number of transactions taking place in branches has fallen by 23% over the past three years, it said, while over the same period transactions online and through its app have grown by 99%. Following the closure of 140 branches, which will begin in April, the bank will have 614 in the UK.
Bridging lending remained resilient in 2018
Bridging loan volumes hit £766.9m in 2018, an increase of £232.8m on the previous year, data from Bridging Trends shows. The average monthly interest rate for bridging fell to 0.81%, only marginally down from the 0.83% average recorded in 2017. Unregulated bridging hit an average of 64% of all transactions in 2018, while regulated bridging business decreased to an average of 36% last year, down on the 46% recorded in 2017 and 44% in 2016. Lastly, the average completion time of a bridging finance application averaged 45 days in 2018, up from 43 days in 2017. G areth Lewis, commercial director at MT Finance, said: “Investor sentiment is resilient and investing in property to add value and improve returns was evidently a long-term trend throughout 2018. With Brexit still uncertain, the first quarter’s data will be interesting reading, but I expect demand for bridging finance will remain strong and the product will continue to provide vital support for property investors.”
Secure Trust halts new mortgage lending
Secure Trust Bank says it is looking to stop taking on new residential mortgages in the face of stiff competition and a cooling housing market in Britain. "During the second half of 2018 market pressures and competition intensified as evidenced by increasing loan to value metrics and lower new net lending margins," said the company, which plans to pause new originations until “conditions improve”.
RBS seeks to buy back shares
RBS is considering buying back shares from the government as it looks to deploy more capital and speed up its privatisation. The bank has tabled a special resolution seeking permission to make off-market share purchases from the Treasury through a "directed buy-back". Shareholders in the lender will vote on the proposal next month. At least 75% of shareholders must approve the plan. It would then be up to the Treasury to decide if it wants to sell some of its 62.3% stake to RBS. Chairman Howard Davies said: “The board believes that this is in the best interests of the bank and its shareholders by helping to facilitate the return of the company to full private ownership.”
Credit card borrowing plunges to record low
The Bank of England’s latest credit conditions survey has found that high street banks are forecasting that borrowing on credit cards will decline in the first quarter of 2019 by the most since records began. The BoE said its measure of demand for credit card lending over the three months to the end of March had dropped to -20.7 from -7.2. The survey on credit card lending will help to calm concerns about excessive borrowing, but economists said there was a risk of too sharp a reverse. Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, commented: “While the Bank has been keen to see the rate of consumer borrowing slowing, it will not want to see unsecured lending dry up as it will weigh down on economic activity. The Bank ideally wants to see a more sedate rate of borrowing, which has seemingly been happening up until November.”
Specialist lenders see flat demand as industry faces three big challenges
Business volumes were flat for specialist lenders in the last quarter of 2018, according to the latest CBI/PwC financial services survey, as demand for financial services fell. Profits in the financial services sector as a whole remained flat for a third successive quarter, with investment managers and general insurers reporting declining profitability. Looking to this year, declines are expected to continue at a similar pace over the quarter to March, which is the first time that growth expectations have turned negative since 2009. Overall profitability is also expected to fall for the first time in over three years.
Two-thirds of accountants refer clients to non-bank lenders
Sixty-six per cent of accountants are referring their clients to external lenders, as alternative finance options such as peer-to-peer lending become more mainstream, according to a new survey commissioned by MarketInvoice. Banks are still the most popular lenders among accountants, but 36.3% would first recommend an invoice finance provider to clients seeking loans, while 33.66% would suggest a business loan provider. “This research reveals that accountants are stepping up and advising their clients about funding opportunities,” said Tom Davenport, head of strategic partnerships at MarketInvoice. Additionally, we have observed that forward-looking strategic accountancy practices also have in-house business finance specialists advising clients on funding options.
Demand for financial services falls
The quarterly financial services survey by the CBI and PwC reveals that the sector saw volumes shrink in the last quarter of 2018 for the first time in five years. And for the first time since December 2009 growth expectations have turned negative amid concerns about a no-deal Brexit which could cost financial services firms access to EU markets. The survey of 84 firms indicated that business was "flat or falling" for banks, building societies and specialist lenders, but holding up among insurers.
Surge in start-ups defies economic uncertainty
Figures due to be released this week will show the number of companies being formed in Britain bounced back last year and while London was still by far the most popular place to form a business, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol saw sharp increases in new ventures. The total number of new businesses started in Britain increased by 5.2% to 645,774 last year - an annual record and a return to growth following a decline in 2017. “These figures demonstrate the resilience and confidence of entrepreneurs,” said Matt Smith, the director of the Centre for Entrepreneurs. “The achievement is especially noteworthy as contractor accounting firms . . . seem to have been replaced by genuine local business activity.” However, although the UK was ranked third by the OECD for start-ups, it fell to thirteenth in the world for scale-ups in 2017. An early-stage investor, Malcolm Evans, says: “Scale-ups, which are what matter, requir e changing the shape of the commercial world around you by showing precision and human flair. It’s quality over quantity.”
Challenger banks struggle to smash glass ceiling
The FT says post-financial crisis reform of UK retail banking has been modest, with claims of a "glass ceiling" that challenger banks struggle to grow beyond.
Clampdown on EIS tax breaks felt by investors
A change in the rules for tax-efficient investment schemes – barring low-risk investments in favour of innovative, growth-pursuing businesses – led to a 17% fall in schemes open to investment in November 2018.
Maximum LTV most searched criteria
Maximum LTV featured in Knowledge Bank’s five most searched criteria for both bridging and commercial in December. Regulated bridging topped the most searched criteria in the bridging category, followed by maximum LTV for bridging, and development bridging – max LTV on acquisition, according to the platform’s criteria activity tracker. Nicola Firth, CEO at Knowledge Bank, said that the year ended largely as it had started with a huge number of searches across the different product areas. “During 2018, new lenders entered the market, but it was product innovation that really was the stand-out change,” she added.
Top clubs paid less than £90m in tax
Premier League football clubs have paid just £87m in tax between them over nearly a decade, according to new figures. Football finance expert Swiss Ramble found that in the period between 2008 and 2017, Arsenal paid £30m to HMRC, with Tottenham Hotspur handing over £24m and Manchester United paying £14m. The rest of the top tier sides paid less than £19m between them, with Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea not paying anything.
Google shifts billions with Dutch sandwich
The Times reports that Google moved nearly €19.9bn to a subsidiary in Bermuda in 2017 as part of its “Dutch sandwich” tax avoidance manoeuvre. The amount of cash channelled to the Caribbean haven through a Dutch subsidiary increased by about €4bn that year, according to accounts filed in the Netherlands. This helped Google to pay a corporation tax rate of just over 6% on its foreign earnings, compared with the 35% headline rate in effect in the US at the time.
STB could end new mortgage lending
Secure Trust Bank (STB) has entered into consultation on a proposal to cease origination of new mortgage lending. STB said action is being taken in light of the current economic climate, increased competition and pressures on the housing market. The bank said its mortgage business will continue to operate as normal through the consultation period and there will be no impact on existing mortgage customers or new applications in progress.
Small firms hit by mortgage squeeze
Secure Trust Bank and Fleet Mortgages have said they will halt property lending, as competition has made it harder to turn a profit. A consultation has been launched at Secure Trust on whether to axe its entire range of mortgages for the general public, which is focused on the self-employed, older people and customers who have limited options. Meanwhile, Fleet Mortgages has withdrawn all its products while it seeks extra funding.
Foreign investors at home in London offices
Investors have poured £20bn into central London offices this year - one third above the long-term average. More than 90% of the cash came from overseas investors, as the capital's commercial property market continued to defy fears of a capital exodus in the run-up to Brexit. Meanwhile, foreign buyers have invested £144.3bn in London's commercial property over the past 20 years, according to research by CBRE.
The Daily Telegraph
Watchdog freezes UK provider of mini-bond investments
The Financial Conduct Authority has banned London Capital and Finance from paying out interest pending an investigation into concerns about its marketing practices, which promised hefty returns.
Business lending declines over past year
New research from UK Finance has shown that lending to businesses over the past 12 months dropped by 1.7% and business deposits at banks grew by 1.6%, while the £11.3bn of credit card spending last month was 7.5% higher than November 2017. Separate data from UK Finance showed that that the number of mortgages approved by the major High Street banks has fallen amid fears of a stagnant housing market. A total of 80,127 loans were handed out in November - down 10.6% on a year earlier.
More firms forced off Aim
Insolvency or financial distress forced sixteen companies off the Alternative Investment Market last year, analysis by UHY Hacker Young has revealed. The figure is up from nine in 2017. But despite the year-on-year increase, the number of businesses delisting after insolvency or financial distress was still lower than the average in recent years, with 24 failures recorded in each of 2016 and 2015 and 18 in 2014.
State borrowing dips
Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that state borrowing fell to £7.2bn in November – a drop of £900m on a year earlier and marking the best November for 14 years. The figures also show that £26.5bn flowed out of Britain and into other countries in the third quarter, with the balance of payments deficit up from £20bn in Q2. Meanwhile, business investment has dipped for the third consecutive quarter, separate ONS figures show.
Employees at small firms will opt out of pensions
More employees at small firms are predicted to opt out of saving for their pensions once minimum deductions from their pay packets are increased this April. According to a survey by the Association of Consulting Actuaries, 65% of businesses employing fewer than ten people expect modest or substantial decreases in participation. Roughly 6.1m employees face a cut in their take-home pay when pension deductions under the automatic enrolment rules are increased, the Department for Work and Pensions estimates. Minimum employee contributions are due to be raised from 3% of eligible pay to 5% in April, while employer contributions are due to be raised from 2% to 3% at the same time.
FCA targets Bitcoin dealing
The Financial Conduct Authority is currently investigating 18 companies in connection with cryptocurrency transactions, the Telegraph reports. Figures released to the paper show nearly 70 probes have been launched in total. Christopher Woolard, the executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA said the regulator, the Treasury and the Bank of England would all be addressing the threat in the coming months and encouraging more "beneficial innovation".
The Sunday Telegraph