60 Seconds with.. Andrew Lewis, chief executive of Monmouthshire Building Society

Monmouthshire BS recently announced a 31 per cent increase in gross lending. What do you attribute that to?

Our recent increase in gross lending is attributable to the introduction of a well received range of low deposit mortgages that cater for first-time buyers, complemented by a range of consistently competitive products. In addition, we provide mortgage brokers with a personal underwriting approach and direct telephone access to case officers.

Is it fair to say building societies are providing the bulk of innovation in the mortgage market at the moment? If so, why?

Many building societies are predominantly focused upon their regional audience, with established long-standing ties to the local communities in which they operate. Such a relationship allows a building society to accrue a wealth of knowledge and insight into the local housing market and how best to establish and maintain its competitive position within it.

By having their finger on the pulse of local housing markets, building societies are in an advantageous position to develop and deliver innovative solutions for matching local customer needs with relevant and affordable mortgage products.

Mark Prisk is now our new housing minister. If you could ask him for one thing, what would it be?

I would ask the minister to press for a fairer stamp duty regime. Under the present system, if your property costs between £250,001 and £500,000, you pay 3 per cent of the entire value, not just the portion that exceeds the £250,000 threshold. This is unlike income tax where you pay a different tax rate on different portions of your earnings. For example, under the current system, the tax levied on a home costing £250,000 is £2,500 but if you purchase at £250,001, you jump to the next per cent band and your tax bill trebles to £7,500.03.  This is a significant increase that distorts the market and is stopping some prospective second-time purchasers from moving, which impacts on first-timers as those traditional first-time buyer properties are not being vacated.

What book are you currently reading?

The Welsh Grand Slam 2012: How Wales Won the Six Nations Championship

What superhero would you be and why?

Any of the Welsh rugby stars – they might not be able to fly or climb walls but their super powers on the pitch are exceptional and breathtaking. They are real superheroes made of guts and glory.

If you could invite three people to a party, who would they be and why?

Anthony Hopkins, Rob Brydon and Katherine Jenkins – I envisage an evening of stimulating discussion, rip-roaring wit and unbridled laughter, topped off with some of the finest singing imaginable.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

If you don’t try it, you will never know.