Leitrim-based consumer finance company Avantcard has announced it will enter the Irish mortgage market with a range of products in the autumn of this year.
Avantcard, which is based in Carrick on Shannon with a second office in Dublin, has been providing consumer finance products to Irish consumers for more than 20 years.
The company was born out of US credit card company MBNA, which had a substantial presence in Carrick-on-Shannon, employing more than 1,000 people, before pulling out of the market in 2012.
Avantcard currently specialises in credit cards and personal loans and is owned by Spanish banking group Bankinter, which already has a substantial mortgage business in both Spain and Portugal.
There was speculation at the time of Bankinter’s acquisition of Avantcard in June 2019 that it might look to link up with An Post to enter the mortgage market with discount rates, as Avantcard already had a consumer finance relationship with the postal distributor.
However, in an interview with The Irish Times two months after the acquisition, Avantcard chief executive Chris Paul said such a move was never on the agenda.
Asked on Tuesday what had changed since then, Mr Paul said the company had seen “how under-served customers are when it comes to mortgages”.
“So, with our knowledge of the Irish market and the backing of our parent company, Bankinter, this was the natural next step in the evolution of Avantcard,” he added.
Asked whether mortgages would be available to people on the temporary wage subsidy scheme, Mr Paul said they “will be available to anyone who wishes to apply, and applications are evaluated on a case by case basis”.
The mortgage products will be offered under a new trading name, Avant Money, to reflect “the company’s ambition to provide a broader range of consumer finance products, starting with mortgages”.
The new Avant Money branding will be extended to the rest of its existing business over the coming months.
Switchers, movers and first-time buyers will be able to avail of the new products through a number of well-established mortgage brokers. However, the company said it would not be disclosing any further information on this for some weeks.
Information about interest rates, repayment terms and brokers will also be made available in the same timeframe.
Trevor Grant, chairman of the Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors, said the move by Avantcard was “fantastic news” for Irish consumers.
“It will invariably lead to increased competition and potentially better interest rates,” he said. “It is of particular importance given the significant financial commitment a consumer enters into when obtaining a mortgage for their home.
“We have worked closely with Avant Money over the past number of months, to support them with knowledge and insight into the Irish mortgage market. We have been hugely impressed with their determination to deliver a suite of excellent mortgage products.”
Mr Grant added the new range of mortgage solutions are “expected to be market-changing” and will primarily be offered through professional and specialist mortgage intermediaries, who offer market choice to their customers.
“As new mortgage lenders such as Dilosk, Finance Ireland, ICS and now Avant Money, come to the Irish market, they have invariably chosen specialist mortgage intermediaries as their primary distribution channel,” he said.
“Currently three out of 10 consumers use the services of a specialist mortgage intermediaries when applying for a mortgage, and we expect this to grow exponentially in the coming years.
“This is mainly due to the fact that these intermediaries can provide greater product choice across the board, as well as often being able to offer better rates that are exclusively available through this channel.”