In Today’s Conveyancer a Mr Pete Dockar, head of mortgages at HSBC, purports to deal with some questions about the new panel arrangements. As might be expected, the response is bland to the point of being useless, making vague and unsupported assertions about fraud. No doubt the answers given were scripted, or at least pre-approved, by HSBC’s PR firm.

One thing he says is: ‘We do not believe separate representation adds any additional complexity to the conveyancing process.’

Sadly, this indicates to me that Mr Dockar has never had any hands-on experience of conveyancing, and therefore simply does not know what he is talking about.

I have 30 years’ experience in conveyancing and I can tell Mr Dockar that it is incredibly frustrating dealing with a separately represented lender. Their solicitor undertakes exactly the same work that I have done for my client, which is an utter waste of time and money as, in the majority of cases, they approve the work.

In the rare cases that they do not, it is usually because the person dealing with it (usually an unqualified conveyancing clerk rather than a solicitor) is unable to understand a legal issue. And it is often the case that they leave dealing with the case or raising an enquiry until the last minute, thereby preventing exchange of contracts and causing immense stress to the unfortunate borrowers.

He says that it is important to HSBC that they know their panel. Indeed it is. In my view what they really want is a totally compliant panel who will never dare criticise HSBC for fear of losing their panel appointment. As it will presumably be fairly lucrative to be one of only 43 panel members, he can be pretty confident that none of them will ever step out of line or give advice to their lay client that might in any way offend their paymasters.

HSBC knows perfectly well that the additional inconvenience and expense will force 90% of their customers to use a panel solicitor rather than their own. Once they have captured the client they can then sell them other financial products. The sheer hypocrisy of HSBC is breathtaking in saying this is all about customer care, when it seems to me it is really about capturing customers as sales prospects.

Michael Loveridge, solicitor, Clitheroe