Lender interviews

Meet Craig. He’s the New Business Director at Kensington

Kensington is the UK’s biggest specialist lender for Residential Mortgages.

Q1. A lot of people haven’t heard of Kensington. Can you give us an introduction and background to who you are and what you’re doing? 

We are the UK’s biggest specialist lender for Residential Mortgages and will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year. We’re focused on helping customers with complex circumstances such as self-employed customers and those who’ve had credit issues in the past. That’s why we’re affiliated with Haysto!

Q2. Why are you able to help, when the high-street banks won’t? 

Every mortgage application that Kensington receives is reviewed by a human underwriter (like Haysto says there’s no computer says no here!). This allows us to understand a customer's unique circumstances and take a common sense approach and try to find a way to say YES. This flexibility means that if you have a low credit score or rely on variable income such as commission or even zero hours contracts we will still look to help you.

Q4. Why do customers have to use a specialist broker to access your mortgages? Why can’t they come to you directly? 

We believe it’s in the customers best interests to get professional advice from a specialist mortgage broker which can be accessed through Haysto. A mortgage is a big financial commitment and there are huge amounts of options and choices in terms of lenders and products. An adviser is best placed to use their knowledge and expertise to help customers navigate their way through.

Q5. There's a misconception that people with complex self-employed situations can’t get a mortgage - how is Kensington helping address this? 

We are primarily known as a self-employed lender because this accounts for around half of the business that we write, whereas most lenders only do a very small amount. Our underwriters are experts in understanding self-employed applications and we have a very flexible policy such as requiring only one year of accounts for customers who are newly self-employed. We’re also able to lend up to 90% Loan to Value.

Q6. What three pieces of advice would you give to self-employed people looking to get a mortgage this year? 

1. Don’t give up! There are plenty of solutions that a mortgage broker can help you find that are beyond the obvious big lenders.

2. Get your paperwork together – personal and business bank statements, tax returns, company accounts etc. The more evidence you have the better. 

3. Check your credit file – there are lots of free credit check companies online that can show you if your credit data is correct so you can fix any issues before you apply.

Q7. What types of cases are you seeing more of at the moment? 

Lots of self-employed customers that have been refused a mortgage by the big high-street banks - even though they have a very strong application. A big increase in customers who have low deposits and are struggling to find a lender. 

Q8. What impact has Covid had / do you foresee having on the specialist mortgage market? 

We have seen the big banks become more risk averse throughout the pandemic and tighten the criteria for who they’ll lend to. Specialist lenders like Kensington have human underwriters rather than computers to assess mortgage applications and can deal with the big increase in complexity of people's circumstances that the pandemic has caused. Things like understanding the impact of payment holidays, furlough income, government business loans and grants are areas that the industry has not had to deal with before. These need a common sense approach.

Q9. What do you think the biggest opportunities are for the specialist mortgage market to innovate? 

We have always been at the forefront of innovation – over the last 18 months we have launched a ‘Green Eko Mortgage’ and a ‘Hero Mortgage’ to help key workers who have been so exceptional throughout the pandemic. We have a busy roadmap of product launches this year and have lots of exciting plans. Watch this space!

Q10. What is your personal goal for the next 12-18 months?

To help as many people as possible achieve their home buying dreams, especially those left out in the cold by the big banks.

Q11. What changes do you hope to implement in the industry? 

I would like to see a far bigger focus on customers' needs rather than what size of deposit they have. We have addressed this through things like our ‘Mortgages for Key Workers’, ‘Young Professionals’ and ‘Eko Mortgages’. The pandemic has affected a huge number of people, so it's really important that we help them find a way to get on the property ladder by showing some understanding and flexibility.

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