Part 2: Whiskey, wine, and weakness in Ottawa

Part 2: Whiskey, wine, and weakness in Ottawa

Part 2: Whiskey, wine, and weakness in Ottawa

Dustan Woodhouse examines just how preposterous the recent mortgage rule changes were by comparing lending practices of big banks and monolines.

Our Government has concerns about their role with CMHC -- essentially a mortgage insurance company -- a role in which taxpayers are technically liable for their clients’ actions and behaviour (despite current CMHC premium reserves on hand to withstand up to a 40% market devaluation).

These concerns were apparently part of justification used regarding recent significant changes to not only the amount of debt Canadians can access (~20% less mortgage money) but also just which companies Canadians can access mortgage debt through. Limiting exposure to potentially bad behaviour seems a common refrain in Ottawa these days.

But what about bad behaviour with regard to unsecured debt?

Not our problem’ they state. Citing their lack of guaranteeing unsecured debt as they do mortgage debt.

Let’s view this through the lens of an analogy using cars, booze, and sales tactics.

Instead of mortgage insurance let’s call it car insurance, and consider the sales process of two different types of car dealers.

Company #1 strives to maximize profits by giving away a six pack of wine coolers (a new credit card) and a 40oz bottle of whisky (an unsecured line of credit) with every car (mortgage) sold. They place these ‘extras’ right there on the passenger seat at the time of delivery. Easy access.

Now hey, you don’t have to open these products up, and they cost you nothing if left unused. After all you only pay for what you consume. The sales agent is directly compensated for upselling you on the use of said wine & whisky; in fact their annual bonus depends upon it.

Company #2 has no Whisky (unsecured debt) to offer you. Their business model is simply to place you the right car (mortgage) for you and that is it. Often at a sharper price, with a few more bells and whistles, and a vastly superior trade in value (prepayment penalties). They send you on your way with a smile and a wave. No follow-up to cross-sell you on multiple other tempting products, like the wine & whisky for example.

Admittedly not everyone is going to crack that bottle open and consume the entire thing during their first drive home. But it seems reasonable, at least it should be to the insurance company (The Federal Government) witnessing this sales process, that there ought to be some greater concerns about the increased claims from company #1 and perhaps some stiffer regulations and legislation may be in order – especially when the government’s own research shows that twice as many clients of company #1 (0.28%) get into trouble and make a claim is do clients of company #2 (0.14%).
 

Table 1-A: Characteristics of median mortgage borrowers 2013Q1–2016Q3

 

   

Traditional lenders (*1)

Mortgage Finance companies (*2)

 

Credit score

739

742

 

90-day arrears rate (%)

0.28

0.14

 

Household income (annual)

$80,912

$84,404

 

Loan-to-income ratio (%)

304

357

 

Total debt-service ratio (%)

35.3

37.2

 

*1. Banks and credit unions

*2. Based on mortgages in pools of National Housing Act Mortgage-Backed Securities as of 2015Q4

Sources: Department of Finance Canada, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Bank of Canada calculations



 

Instead our government appears to see things differently.

When the government decided to enact stiffer regulations and restrictive legislation they called only on Company #1 for consultation, and interestingly the net result of said consultation and deliberation is a set of new regulations which threaten the very existence of Company #2.

Despite the research clearly indicating a more prudent approach to the business by Company #2 than that of their competition (Company #1).

Taking into account the relative youth of Company #2 (about a decade) vs the age of Company #1 (~150yrs) the variation of the equity (loan-to-income) held by each of its clients is more than reasonable and understandable. The narrow difference in total debt-to-service reflects the generally conservative nature of Canadians and further supports the prudent processes in place at Company #2.

Why is our government effectively trying to legislate Company #2 out of business?

Why is our government consulting only with Company #1 when the government’s own research demonstrates the people at Company #2 are doing twice as good a job when it comes to avoiding problem clients?

Food for thought.


Related stories:
Guest post: Consumer debt vs mortgage debt

24 Comments
  • Mike Celuch, Windsor, ON 2017-03-22 9:13:44 AM
    Great analogy Dustan, but in reality was the government behind this or was it the big banks lobbying politicians for these changes.
    Post a reply
  • Tomas 2017-03-22 9:17:42 AM
    What are the stats on who has more incidences of mortgage fraud, banks or non-banks?

    Hypotheticals are pointless, whoever incurs more fraud deserves to be penalized. Simple as that.
    Post a reply
  • Stevie T. 2017-03-22 9:21:50 AM
    Excellent article, thank you!
    Post a reply