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Australian Financial Review Apr 3 2017 4:54 PM
The "invisible hand of APRA" is trying to rein in mortgage lending by non-banks to property investors, according to the country's biggest non-bank lender, Firstmac.
Speaking to The Australian Financial Review after the prudential regulator announced new bank lending limits on interest-only loans last week, Firstmac CEO Kim Cannon and CFO James Austin highlighted APRA's comments on "warehouse facilities" provided by banks to other lenders.
These warehouse facilities provide the upfront wholesale funding that allows non-banks like Firstmac, Liberty Financial, Pepper and some of the smaller banks to write home loans, which they then securitise and sell to overseas investors.
Alongside a suite of new macro-prudential measures aimed at reinforcing sound lending practices, APRA said it was "monitoring the growth in warehouse facilities provided by ADIs to other lenders".
"APRA would be concerned if these warehouse facilities were growing at a materially faster rate than an ADI's own housing loan portfolio, or if lending standards for loans held within warehouses are of a materially lower quality than would be consistent with industry-wide sound practices," said APRA chairman Wayne Byres.
Mr Cannon and Mr Austin said these remarks were APRA's attempt to cool down parts of the lending market it does not regulate.
But Mr Cannon, a 35-year non-bank lending veteran, argued Firstmac was more conservative in its lending then the major banks.
"We have to be. Every dollar we lose comes out of my back pocket," he said.
Firstmac, which is reportedly seeking a banking licence, does not lend above loan-to-value ratios of 80 per cent and quit lending to high-rise apartment investors two years before the major banks pulled back.
It writes a similar proportion of interest-only loans as the major banks – about 40 per cent according to APRA – but Mr Cannon said it had a smaller proportion of borrowers in arrears with more than 80 per cent of borrowers more than two payments ahead on their mortgage repayments.
"It's crazy times, but we're not doing five or 10 per cent deposits," said Mr Cannon.
He characterised the housing market as "extended" particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, where Firstmac has restricted its lending, but played down concerns about a housing crash.
"There's very little speculation in the Australian housing market. People buy property here for their kids or as [long-term] investments. Also, Australians are among the highest quality borrowers in the world," he said.
Last year, Australian lenders issued about $18 billion of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), compared with over $30 billion prior to the global financial crisis.
Firstmac manages an $8 billion home loan portfolio and has issued more than $16 billion in RMBS bonds since 2003Last modified on