How often do you read about bridging finance in the personal finance press, or hear people talk about short-term mortgage lending on the television or radio? It doesn’t happen frequently, and when it does it rarely provides a fair reflection of the sector.
I was reminded of this when I recently read a piece on the This Is Money website about six options for home movers to consider if their chain breaks. Bridging finance wasn’t listed as one of the options, even though we all know that this has been an increasingly popular option for clients who have been keen to beat the stamp duty window. Bridging did receive a small reference at the bottom of one of the points, but it wasn’t altogether positive, saying only:
“Another option, though one to be wary of, is to use bridging finance – a short-term, high-interest loan which you can use to buy the home and then pay back when your own property is sold.”
One of the ASTL’s core objectives is to protect and promote the interests of the short-term mortgage lending sector and of our members. This includes many different aspects of course. We educate intermediaries about how they can use short-term finance to provide solutions for their clients, and why they should choose to work with an ASTL member. We engage with policy makers and seek to keep our members informed of upcoming changes to regulation that may impact them. We run regular events that share knowledge and best practice.
One area where we haven’t been as proactive in the past, but in which we will do more in the future, is to protect and promote the interests of the short-term mortgage lending sector and our members by investing in helping to raise understanding, awareness and consideration amongst customers.
It’s been increasingly clear that while the bridging market has grown considerably in recent years and continued to prove a vital and flexible source of finance for many customers, we could open up even greater potential for the market if we are able to raise levels of consumer education.
Through the good work of the ASTL and other trade associations, as well as that of the vast majority of lenders and brokers in the market, we have successfully managed to raise the profile and the reputation of the bridging sector within the lending industry. Now it’s time for us to look at how we can now do this with our existing and potential customers.
This is a subject I have spoken about with my executive committee at the ASTL and we have committed to a progressive programme of consumer research and education. Over the coming months and beyond, we will be taking a more proactive approach to working with mainstream consumer journalists to encourage them to understanding more about bridging and its uses, so that they may in turn help to raise understanding amongst their readers.
We will start by undertaking research amongst the general public and property investors to gain insights into their attitudes towards bridging, how likely they are to consider it for a variety of uses, what obstacles would prevent them from considering using bridging and what would encourage them to give it greater consideration.
This will give us the information we need to challenge misconceptions and we will use the results of the research to issue a white paper later in the year. Then, over time, if we repeat the research, we will have a benchmark against which we can measure the progress we have made. The objective of course is to achieve a significant uplift in awareness and understanding. We hope to see bridging finance given more positive coverage in the press and we hope to be able to identify an increase in the number of people who would choose to use short-term finance to meet their funding requirements.
We are currently in the process of writing the brief for the first wave of research and, in this regard, we invite your input. For this initiative to be as successful as possible it should represent the input of all parties with an interest in our sector. So, at this stage, if there is any element of customer knowledge or behaviour that you would like to better understand when it comes to bridging, please do contact us, using the email address: email@example.com
We cannot guarantee that we will be able to include every question that is requested, but we will ensure that our research brief, and therefore the subsequent research, reflects what the market wants to know.
Increasing the profile of bridging finance with customers will not happen overnight. It will be a process. But it’s a process that we are committed to and one in which we are about to take the first step.