Mortgage Lending in the UK – Key Trends and Opportunities to 2019

Date: 2015-09

“Interest rates are at their lowest levels since individual savings accounts (ISAs) began, which significantly reduces consumers’ commitment to saving. As a result, consumers – those who can afford to save – are starting to opt either for stocks and shares accounts or deciding to pay off long-standing debts with higher interest rates. The average rate offered on cash ISAs fell from 2.55% at the start of 2012 to 1.74% in February 2013, and to just 1.64% at the start of 2014. The average rates for savings accounts fell from 5.09% in 2008 and 1.48% in 2014, which highlights the impact of the recession and the availability of cheap funds for the banks.

Eight out of every 10 ISAs opened in FY2013–2014 were still cash ISAs however, as savers remained risk-averse, despite banks offering the worst interest rates on record. Stocks and shares ISAs are starting to recover however, following a substantial decline in the number for accounts from FY2010–2011 to FY2011–2012. The amount subscribed to stocks and shares ISAs has increased considerably since FY2009 – from GBP12.5 million to GBP18.4 million – which suggests that a smaller percentage of wealthier people, who can afford the increased risk, are filling these ISAs to the limit.

The BoE’s central bank rate has remained at 0.5% since 2009, providing banks with an unparalleled level of cheap funds, meaning that the banks have significantly less need to compete for funds from consumers. The introduction of the government’s Funding for Lending scheme – providing up to GBP80.0 billion to major banks to subsidize mortgage lending – has further reduced the banks’ need for funds, which has had a considerable impact on the savings market. There have been an estimated 2,560 savings products cut since the introduction of the Funding for Lending scheme in August 2012, as of November 2014.

Real wages endured negative growth for most of the 2008–2014 period, despite positive growth for the last three months of 2014. This, combined with soaring house prices and energy bills, means that consumers were squeezed during the recession, and are subsequently less able to set aside amounts every month for savings accounts. House prices in the UK increased by 18.6% between 2009 and 2014 – rising by 9.9% in 2014 alone, according to Nationwide’s house price index. Research by consumer body Which? found that the price of gas and electricity grew by 127% from 2003–2004 to 2013–2014, and that the average household is paying GBP410.0 more per year for energy, despite using less.

Several changes have been made to ISA regulation to try to stimulate the industry in the face of low interest rates, since the Funding for Lending scheme. New ISAs (NISAs) were introduced in the April 2014 budget, which increased the upper annual limit for an individual to GBP15,000.0. Tax advantages were also introduced in Chancellor George Osborne’s 2014 Autumn Statement, allowing ISAs to pass tax-free to a spouse after death. Osborne also announced that there will no longer be capital gains tax for profits of under GBP11,000.0 on stocks and shares ISAs.”

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