"View from the Top", Tracy Simpson

8 March 2019 • Our Insights

Tracy Simpson, Head of Lending at The Cambridge Building Society has worked in the financial sector for over 30 years. Originally working for Barclays supporting local business in relationship roles, Tracy now works at The Cambridge overseeing Direct Mortgage Business, Intermediary relationships, Mortgage Processing and Service. Her work at The Cambridge has seen the Society expand from offering regional only lending options to providing Buy to Let lending across England and Wales whilst growing to being the 13th largest Building Society in the UK.

Tracy recently shared her views with LGSS on The Cambridge’s aspirations as a mutual lender, along with the risks and opportunities within the housing market and how The Cambridge can support these.

What are the society’s aspirations for the next couple of years?

Here at The Cambridge we are always looking for the best way to support borrowers and savers in an ever changing environment. In the next couple of years we want to maintain our focus on achieving managed growth for The Cambridge alongside building a business that makes the most of our great people and technology and is well placed to thrive into the long term.

For us it’s absolutely vital we continue to remain an expert voice that supports real people with making robust financial decisions. This means we continually listen to what our customers are saying and closely follow the changing mortgage landscape. By staying true to our values, we believe we’ll remain best placed to help deliver our objectives which include helping people buy a home.

How are The Cambridge helping the various parts of the home buying market (FTB to Last time Buyer)?

We make an effort to understand the challenges first time buyers and current home owners have. Through frequently reviewing and revising propositions and initiatives we want to ensure that we are in the best possible position to support intergenerational housing aspirations.

Through our support of First Time Buyer initiatives such as Help to Buy, Shared Ownership and relaunching our 95% LTV mortgage range, we aim to ensure we can provide options to First Time Buyers who are unable to rely on the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’. We have also gone one step further and introduced a 98% LTV mortgage, currently unique in the market, which allows us to fulfil our purpose to make a difference and actively find ways to help people have a home.

A lack of housing supply calls for innovation from all stakeholders and in March 2018 we contributed by hosting industry colleagues at an event to increase knowledge and awareness of modern methods of construction. We’ll continue to look for opportunities like this to facilitate discussion and debate.

We’ve recently invested in research which has allowed us to gain a deeper insight into the savings habits of the nation.  With headlines such as, “34% of Brits prioritise saving for a holiday over paying off a mortgage or buying their dream home”, research such as this continues to help us understand what people’s priorities are.

We recognise the later life borrower segment continues to grow and like all other parts of the mortgage market, it is vital that we continue to consider product innovation and lending criteria to support.   There are many reasons for the need to continuing to borrow well into later life such divorce/separation, more appropriate housing, adapting current property and gifting. We made the decision to remove our upper age in 2016 and are currently exploring introducing a RIO product to widen our proposition. 

What are the markets that really interest the Society going forward?

New build developments are of great interest to us. In 2017/2018 we worked on multiple initiatives and improvements to our proposition to enable us to support more buyers purchase newly built homes. Our lending area, like a lot of other parts of the country, has numerous development projects such as Northstowe to the north of Cambridge. We believe it’s important that we are able to support buyers and, quite frankly we’re excited to be a part of it!

What challenges do we foresee in the future for the sector?  

There is a constant challenge to keep up to date with technology advancements in the industry. With  larger banks now offering DIP to offer in 80 seconds, there is a greater expectation for instant decisions and action from lenders.

That said, we’re continually reviewing, prioritising and investing in new technology to improve the customer and intermediary experience. These include mobile apps, assisted AVMs to speed up re-mortgage process and an intermediary portal. However, for us, technology should be a way of complementing the service we offer not at the expense of it.

I think it would be difficult to talk about challenges without addressing BREXIT and the noticeable impact it is having on the public’s decisions when it comes to their finances. People are unsure of where the housing market will land post-BREXIT and this does pose a challenge for the industry. No one can predict how 2019 will evolve, but we aim to remain true to the guiding principles that have served The Cambridge’s members well over the last 168 years.