No happy ending for HoC ARs

Appointed representatives of Home of Choice and no doubt its directors have been left shell shocked by the news today that the network is to go into administration.

As the industry mourns the loss of another network ARs are once again left in limbo waiting to hear if anything can be salvaged.

It was just five years ago that Keith Baldwin, Gerry O’Brien and Richard Coulson set out to create one of the largest mortgage networks in the market.

I remember meeting Richard soon after he had left Zurich and he couldn’t wait to launch Home of Choice. Like many, I was greeted by Richard with a friendly smile and came away from the meeting being genuinely excited for them and hoping  their network plans and proposition would be successful.

On one occasion at one of their roadshows Richard spoke of his Newcastle roots and made the comparison of how his family had worked down a coal mine and how fulfilled he felt to have launched Home of Choice – a true Billy Elliot moment.

This sort of honest and likeable approach was often what made it so popular with new recruits, and worried its competitors. On one visit to its head office I was told how the police had investigated after a suspected espionage attempt, which I could well believe.

At the time Home of Choice was seen as rebelling against the other networks that were in the market at the time and standing up for the common broker.

But as Stan Lee once wrote: “With great power there must also come great responsibility”. If the directors of Home of Choice had any inkling that something was wrong ARs should have been informed immediately.

The ARs that made up Home of Choice were also decent and hardworking and through no fault of their own could now face bankruptcy.

It is not clear if the Financial Services Authority had any involvement in the deals that were being done behind closed doors, but surely the network’s lack of capital should have been highlighted in its regular visits.

ARs will find it hard to sympathise with the directors but I suspect whatever deal was being done they were under the impression it would go through without a hitch, and a happy ending for all would follow.

Understandably, comparisons have been drawn between Home of Choice and Network Data and Mortgage Times. But from some of the comments Mortgage Strategy has received it seems that there is also some sympathy for the network’s directors who have made more friends than enemies in the mortgage market.

But many ARs must be feeling at the moment that the road to hell is paved with the best intentions.

They are now left with questions that need answers and concerns for their livelihoods.

In the wake of today’s announcement unfortunately, there are no winners and no happy ending to this story.