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but the subject of branding splits brokers down the middle. Without exception the entry of a new and hungry contender into the mortgage market has been met with optimism, however some brokers report their clients couldn’t give a monkeys about Northern Rock being Northern Rock if they get their

mortgage. Others say they’re met with a “face” and a “sharp intake of breathe”. Nigel Stockton, Countrywide Financial Services Director, says it’s about trust in today’s market and the brand will help that. “For intermediaries whilst Northern Rock had great products and

competitive rates, the image inherent with consumers was unfortunately of the queues outside branches – making it much more difficult to advise customers on Northern Rock products.

“There had to be clear blue water on pricing and a clear benefit otherwise consumers would be reticent in accepting one of their deals. This is almost reversed with the rebrand.” But he goes on to suggest that the brand takes a back seat to a firm’s demonstrable willingness to lend. “It is lenders’ appetite to lend that

continues to impact the overall decision of the broker and end customer,” he

says. “There has never been a time in the intermediary sector when advertising is as unimportant as it is now – far more that policies and credit risk and lending volume appetites are known by the broking community than the brand integrity and values.”

Dominik Lipnicki, director of Your Mortgage Decisions, agrees. “Virgin Money is an already trusted name which means that it can hit the ground running,” he says. “New products, innovative criteria with great service would help the market, the consumer as well as the broker. The name is secondary in this instance.” But Rachel Lummis, mortgage advisor at Surrey-based xpressmortgages, says for her clients the brand can make the difference when choosing their deal.

“Customers will often come to you with an idea in their mind of the type of lender they want to be with,” she explains. “They want the best deal for their circumstances of course but if you had two matching products and put them to the customer and one was a high street name with a big advertising campaign and the other was an unknown building society they had

never heard of they would always go for the brand name it gives them a sense of familiarity and security.”

LEARNING FROM VIRGIN Aside from the value another serious lender will bring to an ailing mortgage sector, there are potentially things brokers can learn from the Virgin Rock rebranding exercise.

While it often costs money and time, shifting the focus of your own business as an intermediary firm could help focus the mind on what your future objectives are. With the Mortgage Market Review pushing for more holistic financial advice and the trickle of mortgage transactions still hampering many brokers, the rise of protection sales to generate income has moved many advisers’ focus. But is a major overhaul of your brand worth it? Rob Clifford, managing director of Scottish broker If I Were You, says all the clichés apply.

“A line in the sand, a fresh start, a new beginning,” he reels off. “For the thousands of hardworking and loyal people who work for Northern Rock, it’s a hugely important renaissance which gives them a future to look forward to, instead of fearing what might happen.

“Rebranding has the potential to be successful but only if the ethos and values of the business is also revamped.”

Nigel Stockton, financial services director, Countrywide

“Consumers trust a brand that offers value and isn’t linked to scandals of the past - they are wary about financial stability.”

Ben Thompson, managing director, Legal & General mortgage club


“Changing a brand for the sake of it won’t help and service and stability will always outweigh rebranding.”

Mike Fitzgerald, sales director, Emba Group

“My 20 year old daughter spotted the advert and asked me whether Virgin were doing mortgages. That says it all!”

Sally Laker,

managing director, Mortgage Intelligence

“If a rebrand isn’t backed up with service and product it won’t count for much with brokers and consumers alike.”

David Hollingworth, head of

communications, London & Country

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