As a regular reviewer, I have already written a number of detailed reviews of financial websites; as a result, I was asked by 1MorgagesUK to offer a review of their website; and I’m glad to provide an overview of this website.
I’ll look at the products they serve, then the website itself before writing my conclusion.
Getting Independent Advice
1MorgagesUK provides access to a range of financial products tailored to the UK Loans (both personal and secured loans) as well as the mortgage markets.
The proposition is that the 1MorgagesUK offers to help match you with an Independent Financial Adviser, who will be able to offer a much wider range of loan and mortgage related products – from high street lenders to specialists. The IFA should help pick the right products for your situation, rather than ‘push’ or ‘sell’ products from an organisation’s standpoint. 1MorgagesUK assures its visitors on the website that all their partner companies are “Independent” and that they are all registered with the Financial Services Authority.
I’ve always believed that you need to be well-informed about the kinds of products available on the market, and that shrewd clients really should shop around as much as they can. Having an IFA to do this for you, in theory, should provide you with a similar one-stop approach as the banks or big organisations have, but at the same time save you money and time by eliminating the hassle of dealing with numerous organisations, each with their own ‘financial’ axe to grind!
3 Types of Loans
1MorgagesUK provides access to three types of loans, so if you are considering any of these, it would be a great idea to check out the information provided by this website.
So, when you are in the market for Secured Loans, it’s wise to check around. Many policies can have shorter or longer terms than you’d otherwise expect, however you decide to play it. The interest rate will likely be higher than your regular mortage, but in some situations, a secured loan could be a much better source of financing, and at lower rates than, say, a credit card or other form of revolving credit. Of course, secured loans would be secured against your house, thus creating an additional risk on your ownership.
For Personal Loans, which may be secured or unsecured, you will need to weigh up your situation carefully before you take out a loan, otherwise you could find yourself facing expensive penalties or rates. First of all, do you really need to take one out or not? If you are taking out a loan to purchase an item that is disposable or a service that may be soon forgotten, for example a jet-ski or a foreign holiday, you have to weigh up the cost factors, regardless of whatever deal you get, otherwise your dream purchase or trip could easily turn into a nightmare.
Similarly, Mortgages also need high degrees of caution, as you could be committed to the purchase or upto 30 years, you will need to consider your interest rate, your credit ranking, loan terms (how many years, interest rate, penalties, early repayment clauses, etc.) Do your homework, calculate your spreadsheets, talk to your advisers (formal, and informal) and read! All of this will keep you well informed!
Lenders, Borrowers, Leverage, and the PPI
An old adage says: banks are only willing to lend to those who can afford not to take out a loan! Why? Because such loans possess little or no risk, it’s easy for the bank to recall the loan, should things go sour. These days, banks lend to a variety of borrowers, many of whom would find it impossible to repay a called loan, should things go south. Principally because banks’ are leveraging their loans at higher and higher rates. Consumers are taking on the risk, without really thinking through the ‘what-ifs’ properly. So, naturally, banks and lenders ask for customers to take out Payment Protection Insurance which will cover repayments due to accident, sickness or unemployment! Of course, the cynical among investors realize that the banks are really sticking all the risks on the borrowers, and making them pay for it!
So how does 1MorgagesUK stack up as a website? Well, in some ways, it’s quite interesting how the website is taking advantage of many of the Web2.0 technologies that regular bloggers use: including Technorati, Bloglines, RSS Feeds, as marketing tools. As I’ve already said, the blog is becoming the website, not an additional tool for websites!
It’s a responsive website, that comes through quickly. However, the design is somewhat me-also, and lacks the flair of a larger website. What it does, though, it does well. It provides just enough information to keep viewers clicking through. There are however a number of significant concerns that the owners of the website would be wise to heed:
2. No TOS – at least not clearly linked in the footer. I did stumble upon a TOS somewhere, but it was by hit or miss. Again, this is a basic requirement nowadays for any ‘business’ or e-commerce website. I’m surprised that it is not easily visible. It is not in the sitemap page, either.
3. Search box – the website again has a search box, but it is intermittent, difficult to find and not very functional. I’d suggest that it is clearly located on EVERY page, and that it is configurable at least minimally. A Google Search box could also make use of Adsense as an alternative source of income. In fact, when I actually found the search box, and ran a search, it took me right off the website, there was no way back; and worse still, I saw ads for other products! Woops! Searching your website should: 1. provide search results at YOUR website, not drive traffic away; 2. provide relevant links to items on your website; and 3. potentially help generate revenue through Adsense from traffic that is leaving anyway.
4. Examples – visitors would respond to much more practical examples, and testimonials (in fact, when I clicked on the testimonials page, all I got was the calculator!) of people who’d use IFA or this website and tell them how it changed their lives! Numbers, facts, and reports are helpful, but most decisions are made on emotional factors! So these ’emotive’ factors need to be built into the design, to elicit sympathy, inspire and help clients dream about such things!
I loved the information that targeted different groups of consumers, including self-builders, and other motivated groups of individuals! Again, this is something that could really help visitors to grasp the vision, and understand just how an IFA could help them get a much better deal! I get the impression that the website isn’t so interested in converting non-IFA customers into IFA customers. But that could be a big potential market right there!
Summary: Great Concept – Needs Better Execution.
It’s a great idea that a website comes around to provide an easy way to access all the IFAs out there. Many websites have provided this service for banks, and larger organisations, but I’ve never seen one that does this for IFAs. So naturally, I’m intrigued by the possibilities that this site highlights! But the limitations that this site imposes, from a user’s point of view, make no sense at all.
That you can select an Independent Adviser by going through the phone book and calling one or as many as you like, but when using this website, your information is routed to only one or a few advisers as such. It removes a lot of the choice from the consumer and places the onus directly on the website to match the consumer with the most suitable agents. How much control do the clients really have at this point?
The consumer really gives up a lot of control, and places a lot of trust in the website to find a suitable agent that can provide products he or she is looking for.