Banks call for more support on mortgages amid surging rates

Lenders asked Kwasi Kwarteng to consider extending the Government’s mortgage guarantee scheme, the PA news agency understands.

06 October 2022

Britain’s biggest lenders have pressed the Chancellor over a potential extension of the Government’s mortgage guarantee scheme amid surging interest rates.

Senior executives at high-street banks and building societies have discussed how they can better protect mortgage-holders and the most vulnerable customers during a meeting with the Chancellor on Thursday.

Lenders asked Kwasi Kwarteng to consider extending the mortgage guarantee scheme, which protects lenders against losses when lending to first-time buyers, the PA news agency understands.

Conservative Party Conference 2022
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has been asked by lenders to extend the mortgage guarantee scheme, PA understands (Aaron Chown/PA)

The scheme is designed to help creditworthy households who are struggling to save for higher mortgage deposits get on the housing ladder, by compensating lenders for a portion of any losses on defaults.

Several high-street banks have been part of the scheme, but it is due to come to an end in December.

Britain’s biggest building society, Nationwide, had never joined the Government scheme and launched its own support measures for first-time buyers with smaller deposits.

Bank chiefs also spoke to the Chancellor about how mortgage-holders can be better protected at a time when interest rates are being hiked up.

PA understands that Consumer Duty rules of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were raised in the meeting, which require firms to end rip-off charges and fees and give customers information that is easier to understand and support when it is needed.

The financial watchdog had announced the plans in July and given financial services companies 12 months to implement new rules that are designed to better protect vulnerable customers.

However, banks have been battling against market volatility and swap rates – which mortgage pricing is based on – increasing at unprecedented levels in response to the current economic conditions.

The rate on a typical five-year fixed mortgage surged past 6% for the first time in 12 years on Thursday.

And on Wednesday, the two-year fixed-rate mortgage also breached 6% for the first time in 14 years.

HSBC, Santander and Virgin Money are among the lending giants that have withdrawn products from the market for new borrowers since the Government unveiled its mini-budget that prompted turmoil in the financial markets.

The topic MREL was also reportedly raised – referring to the minimum requirement for own funds and eligible liabilities, a post-2008 financial crisis measure that was brought in to protect customers against the collapse of smaller banks.

Some experts have debated the possibility that the MREL requirements stifle growth, particularly among challenger banks, and need to be reformed.

It comes amid growing concerns that lenders could be hit by a wave of homeowners defaulting on their mortgages, leaving them with bigger debts on their balance sheets.

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