The dawn of a new era for Charcol

Last week saw a curious mix of optimism and disappointment in the mortgage market. The year’s most exciting deal was finally brought to a close with the sale of Charcol by Bradford & Bingley to a team including the brokerage’s charismatic founder John Garfield.

Mortgage Strategy was given the first interview with Garfield just hours after the deal completed (see this week’s Cover Story beginning on page 34), with negotiations running right up to the deadline of 6am on Wednesday.

Garfield’s involvement, which he promises will be completely hands-on, will bring a breath of fresh air to the business – exactly what it needs. Despite paying a vast sum for Charcol in 2000 – 102.5m – B&B has not used the business to its full potential.

Charcol has also lost a lot of staff over the years, many of whom went on to set up rival firms. “There are some good businesses out there that have been built off the back of the Charcol model and experience,” says Charcol managing director Peter Barrett. “But there is a new buzz about the place now and we need to make people see that this is an exciting place to work.”

Both he and Garfield welcome the competition. “It should keep all of us on our toes and I certainly intend to keep them on their toes,” says Garfield.

Charcol is still a powerful brand with a great deal of goodwill attached to it both from within the industry and from consumers. It will be fascinating to see what changes its dynamic new management team will implement.

Rather less goodwill was directed towards Gordon Brown last week. The chancellor was widely criticised for failing to mention Stamp Duty in his pre-Budget statement. Brown’s refusal to tackle the issue flies in the face of industry opinion, with 546 firms already signed up to Mortgage Strategy’s campaign to Step Up Stamp Duty – by raising the threshold to 150,000 – in its first two weeks.