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One to One: Kris Brewster, head of products, Skipton Building Society


Reacting to new regulation, more collaboration in the mortgage process, the UK’s ‘overly complex’ savings and tax systems  – and a devotion to Jimi Hendrix

In your role as head of products at Skipton, what has been your biggest challenge?

The great thing about my role is being at the centre of new challenges as they emerge.

A few that spring to mind include the launch of a new SVR, which is always a huge pricing challenge. We’ve also needed to react quickly to new regulation and changes announced in the budgets, to promptly inform our customers how they will be affected.

What is the building society’s USP?

We are a business based on building strong relationships. Our culture has a natural focus on our people and customers; it isn’t just what we do but how and why we do it that are important to us.

We help those in the business to connect to our founding mutual purpose of enabling homeownership and saving for the future.

Skipton recently announced that a retention procuration fee would be brought in for brokers. What was the motivation for this?

We cannot stress how much we value the great dialogue we have with our broker partners.

We are committed to delivering on real-life lending needs and, as a result, we are constantly listening, understanding how we can make things quicker, simpler and better. This was just another thing that felt like the right thing to do.

What is your hope for the market this year?

To truly see greater collaboration between all parties involved in getting people the keys to their new homes – planners, builders, brokers and lenders.

We have a big supply-and-demand issue that urgently needs addressing. We all need to work together to give the UK a housing stock to be proud of in all areas of the market, from rental through to high-net-worth lending and downsizing in retirement. The recent government white paper simply doesn’t do enough.

If you had not chosen this career path, what else would you have liked to do?

I initially wanted to work as a retail store manager but I did a week’s work placement in a local bank branch when I was in school and hated it! In the end I started my career in Dixons’ retail head office with some fantastic people, and really developed my commercial acumen before moving into banking with HSBC.

Who is your all-time hero, and why?

I like to play the guitar and was inspired as a teenager by Jimi Hendrix. Today I appreciate anyone with a real talent for music.

Do you have any secret talents?

I’m not bad on the guitar and have started getting back into it.

How do you spend your spare time?

Two young daughters and spare time are not natural partners! When I get a chance I enjoy cooking, guitar and playing music on Sonos.

What is the best advice you have received?

Simply to do a job that you enjoy.

If you were chancellor for a day, what would be your priorities?

I’d get rid of savings tax completely to help abolish the need for Isas. Saving has become too complicated and bureaucratic.

I’d keep the Lifetime Isa but split it into two separate products: one for buying a home and one for retirement. Its poor and overly complex product design has not helped the industry get behind it. I’d have rejected it if I’d been present at our pricing committee.

In general, I would massively simplify our overly complex tax system. Government should be aiming to simplify things for people – so they can get on with their lives and be productive – not making things more complex.

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