Who laughs last, laughs loudest

What an amazing vitriolic and emotive diatribe from Keith Baldwin of Home of Choice (Mortgage Strategy, November 21). This was in response to an earlier article of mine which questioned the number of AR applications being claimed by Home of Choice.

We have recently seen full-page advertisements for HoC with the tombstone showing London to be 83 miles away (from where?), boasting about its first appointee in July, and claims of having processed its 500th AR application inside three months.

Baldwin talks of shining a light “into the darkness of Griffiths’ confusion”. What is there to be confused about? Numbers speak for themselves and you cannot argue against simple arithmetic. There is no evidence whatsoever to back up the claim of 500 AR applications.

As for shining a light, tell me about it. I spent two years prior to October 31 last year writing 100,000 words in Mortgage Strategy focussing on the impending Financial Services Authority regulation of the UK mortgage market and all it would mean for intermediaries.

My articles generally try to cut through the cant and hypocrisy that regularly rears its ugly head in this industry – no more or less than it does in any other industry.

But looking at the arithmetic, this is in the public domain for all to see on the FSA web register.

As of November 30, HoC had a total of 69 firms registered.

The details on the FSA register show the dates of appointment of the 69 firms. From June to November the number of firms appointed in each month were 1,12,17,16, 11 and 12 respectively (see chart on this page).

Interestingly enough, Baldwin says that the HoC network “opened for business at the end of July when we received our first appointed representative application”.

Not only is HoC claiming a volume of AR applications that astounds everyone I talk to, but it also appears it can go back in time. According to the FSA web register, Gold Mortgage Services was appointed on June 28. Twelve other firms were appointed during July. I will admit I am confused about this paranormal achievement.

You may notice that the numbers as of November 30 are different to the ones that I quoted in my original article, which stated a total of 61 firms at the beginning of November. This implies a gain of eight firms in November yet the bar chart shows a figure of 12. How so?

The fact is that Home of Choice is already beginning to lose AR firms – a worrying sight in these early days.

According to the FSA register HoC lost four firms in November, to leave a net gain of eight over the month. Firms that have left include Peter Jameson Mortgages which was another firm that first appeared on the FSA register with a date of June 29, a month before Baldwin claims HoC started to receive applications.

Baldwin accuses me of “bile and sexism”. By bile, he no doubt means the dictionary definition of angry or ill- tempered comment. The last time I lost my temper was in 1986.

I prefer the medical definition of bile, being a secretion from the liver poured into the duodenum which acts as a weak solvent to remove certain waste products from the body. Cut the crap, as you might say.

As for sexism, someone will have to explain that one to me. I haven’t got a clue what Baldwin is talking about.

And when it comes to innuendo, it’s not my style. I am far more likely to be accused of being undiplomatic, blunt or forthright in my views. To me, a spade is a spade.

And I’ll skip over Baldwin’s supercilious reference about “which court case is that?” He knows perfectly well that my article appeared prior to the announcement of the out-of-court settlement of the court case in question.

I must admit to being impressed by Baldwin’s repertoire of quotations from Disraeli, Lewis Carroll, Andy Capp, Benjamin Franklin, Harold Macmillan, and Winston Churchill. But coming from someone who says that it is generally fools who repeat such quotations, it does seem rather odd.

Baldwin winds down his diatribe by saying that I should apologise. And I do have a small concession to make in this respect.

My article was written (on November 3) and appeared in print before I read that Richard Coulson had just got married and was on honeymoon in South Africa. I would not like him to think I was somehow trying to take advantage of the fact that he was out of the country when the article was published. That would not be true.

Otherwise, apologise for what? Publicising the fact that 1, 12, 17, 16, 11 and 12 add up to 69? Calling a spade a spade?

Baldwin concludes by saying I should admit that I am wiser today than I was yesterday. No problem. One of my strengths is that I am a fast learner. Sometimes not as fast as I should be, but I am certainly not some schmuck who thinks he knows it all.

I conclude with the assumption that neither Baldwin nor myself have anything further to add to this exchange of views at the present time. Let’s make a note in our diaries to see where HoC features in the league table of mortgage networks at the end of June next year. As the saying goes: “Who laughs last, laughs loudest.”

AR membership figures for Home of Choice.