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One to One: Keith Barber, National Counties Building Society


An expat mortgage prompted by broker feedback, an individual approach to underwriting, and beekeeping

National Counties recently released an expat mortgage. What prompted this?

We listen to feedback from the intermediaries we work with.

Post-MCD, there was clearly a gap in the market for an owner-occupier mortgage for people working outside the UK but whose home is here, and for people in the UK who receive some or all of their income in a currency other than sterling.

In particular, some London-based intermediaries have told us that more people in the financial sector are asking their employers for payment in US dollars or euros.We have acted on that feedback to provide a solution.

Why is now the time to get into this area?

It is nothing to do with Brexit; that is coincidental. We have successfully offered expat mortgages for buy-to-let for some time and wanted to offer a solution to the needs of owner-occupiers in this area.

This particular initiative follows our recent extension of buy-to-let facilities to include limited company lending.

What else can brokers and borrowers expect from National Counties this year?

The continued application of our common sense and an individual approach to underwriting for all borrowers: first time, last time and in between. We are also looking at product innovation around older borrowers, but it is too early to talk about it.

As a child, what was your dream job?

For most of my teenage years I planned to join the British Army – specifically the Staffordshire Regiment, which was based near to where I grew up in Shropshire. But after university I took a different path.

I also hankered to be a nuclear physicist in the Cold War era.

Do you have any secret talents?

As an army cadet at school I could shoot to ‘marksman’ standard with .22 and .303 rifles, although I am sure the army had much higher standards for regular recruits. We had a rifle range on the school premises and could shoot at lunchtime with live ammunition without supervision, which I bet one could not do now.

What are your hobbies?

Keeping bees and helping my wife look after our garden take up most of my spare time. We have a couple of hives in the back garden and will get about 25kg of honey this year.

What is the best advice you have received?

Measure people by what they do, not by what they promise.

Who is your all-time hero, and why?

First, my uncle, John Smith, who as a young man in the D-Day landings was driving the second tank to come ashore on one of the beaches in Normandy. He was just 18 and, because the tank commander in front of him had been killed, he was put in charge of that attack. After the war he turned to farming and I have very fond memories of holidays on his farm with my cousins.

Also, I am reading Antony Beevor’s history of the Second World War and Winston Churchill stands out, despite his faults, for not taking no for an answer and never giving up, no matter how many times he was told he was wrong – a lesson for us all.

If you were not in your current role, what would you like to be doing?

I would probably be living on a Scottish island, trying to produce commercial quantities of heather honey.

What is the toughest decision you have ever had to make?

To move my mum into a care home at age 84 when that was the last thing she wanted. Dementia is a terrible disease.

If you were the chancellor for a day, what would you do?

Put more money into the charities that help people deal with dementia.

I would also take a fresh look at the stamp duty on residential property, to reduce the significant cost of moving home and boost housing transactions and the associated economic activity that goes with them.

As a temporary immediate measure, I would introduce a stamp duty holiday for first- and second-time buyers.


Year established: 1896
Number of staff: 150
Address: Ebbisham House, 30 Church Street, Epsom KT17 4NLX
Tel: 01372 744155

National Counties Building Society is a mutual run for the benefit of its members.

It is the twelfth-biggest building society in the UK and has more than 50,000 customers.

In July 2014, National Counties launched Family Building Society to help all generations of families.


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