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Broker Alert: first sign of borrower arrears across UK

Pepper Advantage, a global credit intelligence company with over $60 billion in assets under management, has published a gloomy report on its portfolio of over 100,000 UK residential mortgages.

It says there has been an 11 per cent ‘material rise’ in borrower arrears in the year to April 2023 - that’s well before the most recent base rate rises passed on in the form of more expensive mortgages. This is the highest growth rate since the global financial crisis of well over a decade ago. 

The rise in mortgage arrears is consistent with Pepper Advantage’s data on repayment collection failures – or Direct Debit Rejections  – where a direct debit instruction is processed by a creditor, but there are insufficient funds in the borrower’s account.  


These DDRs have historically been a leading indicator of borrower stress, and in the year to April 2023 the company saw a rise of 33 per cent in the percentage of accounts with a DDR across its UK portfolio.  

A borrower who experiences a DDR may fall into early arrears but can often manage for a period of time, which is why there is an assumed lag between rising DDR rates and accelerating arrears.

Pepper Advantage’s data has charted a generally upwards trend in its DDR rate through 2022 and into the first quarter of 2023, with a spike in January, a month that typically sees a seasonal increase following the holiday season. 

The Pepper Advantage data reveals some interesting regional and product variations. 

The arrears rate rose 35.7 per cent for fixed rate mortgages and 25.1 per cent for variable rate mortgages, but the variable rate growth was recorded off a higher base. Moreover, approximately one in five variable rate mortgage borrowers in Pepper Advantage’s portfolio registered at least one delinquent payment in the five months to April 2023.

A clear north-south divide is also emerging, with higher percentages in the North East and North West of the UK – an arrears rate of approximately 10 per cent in each region – than in London, where arrears in April 2023 ran around five per cent.

An age breakdown suggests that cash reserves for all age groups are running dry, with younger age groups seeing the highest growth. The percentage of mortgages in arrears for borrowers aged 21 to 30 and 31 to 40 grew 50 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.

Pepper Advantage uses the data and insights it generates from its portfolio of managed mortgages to identify areas of borrower stress and target solutions on behalf of its clients. These solutions might include concessional arrangements to pay; term extensions; interest rate reductions; short term interest-only periods and payment holidays.

Commenting on the data, Pepper Advantage chief executive officer Gerry McHugh says: "Signs of financial stress are diluted when you look across borrowers generally, but the picture is very different when you concentrate on certain segments. We can see where financial pressures are most acute as well as where leading indicators suggest these pressures could grow. The real-time granularity of our credit data equips us to work with our clients to best help borrowers during difficult times.”


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