Exclusive: Bolton and Cleary quit HBOS

HBOS head of specialist lending Michael Bolton and Halifax director of Intermediaries Alan Cleary dramatically quit the organisation yesterday to join The Oakwood Group, a London-based private equity firm fronted by Future Mortgages founder Mike Culhane.

John Nixon, currently operations director for The Mortgage Business and BM Solutions, Rob Williams, BM Solutions head of underwriting and BM Solutions head of support Mark Smith also quit the company yesterday.

All five are expected to join Oakwood in 2006.

The departures will be a significant blow for HBOS, already smarting after the senior management team of The Mortgage Business walked out last month to join Deutche Bank.

The Bolton Cleary dream ticket has netted HBOS a small fortune over recent years, revitalising the Birmingham Midshires brand to transform it into the specialist lender that is BM Solutions. The business is thought to have grown from 11bn mortgage assets in 2001 to over 30bn mortgage assets at the end of 2004. Profits have also increased dramatically up from 55m in 2001 to circa 300m at the end of 2004.

Even this morning HBOS were believed to be frantically trying to keep Bolton within the fold, with at least one senior director making a last ditch attempt to persuade Bolton to stay.

Oakwood was set up in 2002 by Mike Culhane and Redstone, an asset management firm based in Houston, US. Mike Culhane previously founded and served as chairman of Future Mortgages, which was sold to Citigroup in 2001 for a figure thought to be close to 45m. He also founded Pepper Homeloans in Australia in 2001.

Oakwood has already successfully launched a number of financial services businesses including One World Leasing Limited and Spanish Mortgage Direct SL in Spain.

Mike Culhane, chief executive of Oakwood, says: I am delighted that these individuals have agreed to join Oakwood. I know Michael well, having worked with him at Future Mortgages and the others all have extremely impressive individual track records. They are valuable additions to the Oakwood team and will make a significant contribution to the companys future growth.

John Malone, managing director of Premier Mortgage Service, says: “Since Michael Bolton joined Birmingham Midshires in 2001 he has completely transformed that mortgage lender from a 2bn per year player to circa 15bn in a few incredible years, making a major impact on the profitability of that company.

“PMS was hardly on BM’s Richter scale three years ago but now we are a 2bn per year player with BM.

“This remarkable increase is down to Michael, and the team that he has assembled, who have an unsurpassed knowledge of the intermediary sector and what makes it tick.

“Replacing these people will not be easy baring in mind they are moving on at a time when the mortgage market has possible peaked and their skills and personalities will be missed by the HBOS group.”

Kevin Duffy, managing director of Hamptons International Mortgages, says: This is good news for brokers. Not only can we continue to enjoy the unrivalled service that we receive from BM Solutions we can also eagerly anticipate Michael Bolton and Alan Clearys new venture which is bound to be attractive to brokers and the marketplace.

Michael Bolton, Alan Cleary, John Nixon, Rob Williams and Mark Smith were all unavailable to comment.