With more than 32 years in the financial services industry, Barry Meeks is well placed to know what makes a business tick. Meeks has recently been appointed managing director of Pink Home Loans, taking over the reins from Tony Jones.
Having worked for Abbey and a string of successful lenders, Meeks has the benefit of knowing how the industry works on a number of levels.
Meeks’ first job as a trainee insurance underwriter at London Life Association laid the foundation for a future in the financial services industry.
His next move was working for Abbey as a management trainee where he was employed from 1979 to 1986 as a branch manager, leaving the company as area manager.
He joined at a time when the society was at the beginning of a massive branch expansion programme, undertaking work in the mortgage research development department in Milton Keynes.
Next he joined insurance firm Crusader Insurance which was wholly owned by US-based Cigna.
Meeks says Cigna wanted to enter the UK mortgage market – as a lot of insurers did at the time – but in 1986 the Financial Services Act changed sentiment in the marketplace and Crusader along with others began to get cold feet. It was at this time that Meeks decided to leave.
He says working for Crusader bought him into contact with third party mortgage administrators such as Homeloan Management Limited, Mortgage Systems and The Mortgage Corporation for the first time.
He was then head-hunted by TMC to head its new third party service system called TMC Portfolio Services.
Meeks says TMC was an oldfashioned centralised lender owned by Salomon Brothers, which was an investment bank and is now a subsidiary of Citigroup.
With one or two other centralised lenders such as National Home Loans, Meeks says the company turned the mortgage market on its head. Working at TMC during the boom time for centralised lenders in the late 1980s was an exciting period to be in the mortgage market, with fast growth and innovation driving the industry forward, says Meeks.
“TMC was involved in pioneering innovations such as deferred interest first-time buyer products and 100% mortgages which were unusual for that time,” he says. “These were interesting times, especially when societies were still offering variable rate mortgages on a take it or leave it basis.”
Meeks completed his time at the company as commercial director looking after third party servicing business, marketing, sales and commercial relationships.
In 1993 Meeks was approached by Skipton to run its subsidiary Homeloan Management, where he stayed for eight years.
At that time Skipton had just ac-quired Mortgage Systems and wanted to integrate HML and MS. Meeks’ role was to assist in the merging of the two businesses.
This was a difficult time for the mortgage market as the recession of the early 1990s cast a shadow over the financial services industry. HML suffered greatly during tough economic times which saw a lot of its core customers pack up and go home.
But Meeks played a part in helping the lender win new customers and make third party outsourcing more acceptable.
“Nowadays everyone is involved in third party outsourcing because it is quick and effective in terms of cost management, but in the 1990s it was unheard of and HML had to persuade the market that it was the right thing to do,” he says.
During his time at HML the company quadrupled in size, making it one of the biggest companies of its type in Europe.
HML has since gone on to become an even bigger outfit and over the past six years has quadrupled in size again.
“HML has become the pre-eminent third party servicer in Europe,” says Meeks. “It is involved in every portfolio sale in the marketplace as an administrator standing in the door oiling the wheels of the market.”
In 2000 Meeks was approached to become managing director of Interactive Finance Online, the company that is now known as Trigold. But he had no sooner started in the role than he realised this had been the wrong move for him and left the company after six months.
Once again, Meeks was approached by Skipton, this time to run Amber Credit, an unsecured lending and premium finance business. He joined as managing director of the company where he stayed for six years.
Skipton was founded in 1853 and is now the seventh largest UK building society with assets of over £10bn. It has over 20 subsidiaries, of which Pink is one.
Having worked at Skipton for 14 years, Meeks has remained loyal to the society.
“Skipton merges the fine traditions of an established financial institution that has been around for 150 years with vibrant entrepreneurial spirit,” he says.
Pink, founded in 1990 and acquired by Skipton in 2000, is the fourth company that Meeks has run for the society, which he jokes makes him a serial managing director for Skipton.
“When I was approached to take over Pink I was pleased because I knew the people involved – people who were there when Pink was acquired by Skipton such as David Copland (presently deputy managing director) and Elliot Stoneham (presently chief operating officer),” he says.
“I like the feel of the business and was keen to get back into the mortgage market because I had been out of it for the previous six years.”
Meeks has a lot to offer Pink from the perspectives of both lenders and brokers, having worked with traditional mortgage companies such as Abbey as well as more unusual players in the marketplace.
“I have seen the market from lots of angles. I have been involved in the mortgage market in virtually every way,” he says.
“I have worked for two mainstream lenders – Abbey and TMC – and I have seen the market from a retail perspective by looking after branches of Abbey.
“I was also heavily involved with intermediaries during my time at Crusader and TMC where 100% of business was coming into those companies through brokers,” he adds.
As reported in Mortgage Strategy last week, Meeks says acquisitions are on the cards for Pink.
“We are interested in franchising opportunities and we are talking to people about this at the moment,” he says. “We are also interested in investment opportunities and the outright acquisition of networks or big packagers because we have a great brand and this could help in what will be an increasingly competitive sector.
“We would like to get bigger and a bit more diverse without losing sight of what we do,” he adds.
Meeks also discloses his views on the future of networks, saying consolidation is inevitable.” I think consolidation is inevitable but I also think this is a shame,” he says. “Some lenders give more support and better deals to bigger networks and you can’t blame them for that. They are chasing scale in a competitive market.
“But if this continues, smaller networks will find it increasing difficult and that will be unfortunate because I’d rather see 20 or 30 thriving networks in the market than five or six.”
London-born Meeks now lives in a converted barn on windswept moorland near Skipton. He describes himself as living in the middle of nowhere with no neighbours, situated between Skipton and Harrogate in a place called Timble.
Meeks says one of his main interests is travelling.
“I love travel and take lots of exotic foreign holidays,” he says.
The Maldives is his favourite destination and he recalls spending last Christmas there on a beach next to a blue lagoon with nobody else in sight.
He is also a bit of a rocker and with all his four sons being guitarists and in bands, Meeks is surrounded by rock music.
He says he has been dragged along to plenty of concerts, seeing the likes of Richard Ashcroft and Coldplay recently.
“I’m an old rocker from the 1970s. I used to go and see lots of great bands such as Led Zeppelin so it’s great to see my kids play the sort of stuff I used to hear back then.”