Last week's Mortgage Business Expo was universally acclaimed a success. The atmosphere was vibrant with the happy buzz of several thousand people catching up with old acquaintances over a glass or two of free, if slightly warm, white wine.
And round every corner was a group of scantily clad girls advertising a lender, a packager or a network. It seems the subtle approach has been abandoned as regulation draws closer and the competition for broker business hots up.
The prize for busiest stand goes to Majestic Mortgages which boasted its very own pole dancer. Majestic's popularity seemed assured until Expo organiser Clarion Events put a stop to the dancing on “health and safety” grounds. “The young lady might have fallen and hit her head,” explained show director Andy White. There was perhaps also concern for the blood pressure of some male delegates. Majestic was unavailable for comment. A crackdown on alcohol and semi-nudity is promised for next year's event, but the pole dancer was back at the end of the second day for a swansong performance.
The event also sported The Finance Centre's bunny girls, County Mortgages' orange hotpants, and slightlytamer offerings from Opus Mortgages and Bank of Scotland.
Despite Majestic's apparent marketing coup most delegates took a dim view of the acres of flesh on view.
Mike Fitzgerald, sales director at Brentchase Financial Services, says: “The last time I saw something that tacky was at Barking Football Club in 1985, which is quite damning. Perhaps bunny girls will be abolished under the FSA regime.”
Brian Pitt, director of Beacon Capital Holdings, adds: “It's unprofessional, especially with the industry under such close scrutiny from regulators and the media.”
And indeed, Michael Robinson, producer of the BBC's recent self-cert exposé on The Money Programme, was spotted roaming the stands.
Despite the whiff of mild scandal the Expo was an undoubted success. Over 4,000 delegates attended and most left laden with carrier bags bulging with enough free pens and stress balls to halve next year's stationery budgets.
As Michael Coogan, directorgeneral of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, says: “Expo demonstrates why the innovation and diversity of our industry is the envy of the European mortgage market.
“Brokers still undecided on which route to take after regulation could judge which potential principals are up to scratch and which would suit them. Clarity of message is vital.”