Last week I found myself on stage as part of a panel addressing 50 of Australia’s top mortgage brokers who were interested in how their own impending regulation will impact them. What they soon realised, a year after Lehman’s went, (a year tomorrow 15th actually), was just how lucky they have been and how hard things have been here.
As I am sure you can imagine, the Aussies were not shy in coming forward and the questions were fast, furious, incisive and intelligent. I was very grateful to have met such a great bunch of people and whilst I left with visions of answering the phone Coreco Sydney in my beach wear and thongs it was a sharp reminder how a year ago we all seemed to fall off a cliff with no parachute.
As the recent documentaries on TV to mark Lehman’s anniversary show, many still do not realise just how close we came to the abyss of the decline of Western Civilisation as we know it.
It is always good to have sharp reminders, especially as we start to see the welcome sights of the FTSE breaking through the 5000 barrier again, mortgage approvals rise further and house prices strengthen.
While these latest statistics are welcome news, we still have a long way to go before we are truly out of the woods. Mortgage lending is still a fraction of what it could be, as lenders remain very cautious and are only making small amounts of funds available to applicants that are deemed an acceptable risk.
It’s the mortgage lenders that hold the key to recovery, and while prices are rising, as demand for property currently outstrips supply, this will not continue forever without an easing up of mortgage lending, especially to first-time buyers.
It was interesting to compare the Aussie experience whose banks seem to have missed out on the worst of the credit crunch; they are still lending 90% and have a thriving and tight-knit broking community.
Whilst behind us in many ways, they also seem so far ahead of us in others. Perhaps it is their more laid back nature, or a “tell it like it is” attitude or just the fact that the sun shines more, but I came away positive.
Positive because in making my last point, it rammed something home to me. I told them to embrace regulation as an opportunity, in reality the issues that surround it will be a doddle when compared to the last year, and those of us who come through the incredible circumstances we have experienced, in every industry, not just our own, will be better equipped, more worldly wise, and more adaptable to face the future.
Although we are not naive enough to suggest all is wonderful again, you have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any.