Loans for ‘mortgage misfits’, the need for the market to reflect changing lifestyles – and newly acquired appreciation of a post-war prime minister
Ipswich has made a move to focus on providing loans to ‘mortgage misfits’. What influenced this decision?
Lending to those who do not easily fit the automated underwriting approach has been a key part of the society’s strategy for many years.
The introduction of new rules under the MMR brought into sharper focus how some very good borrowers were having difficulty obtaining a mortgage from mainstream lenders. We felt it was important to very publicly assure that type of borrower that there was an answer.
On top of that, it was clear that working patterns were changing with more people, for example, working as contractors or into later life. The level of expertise in our underwriting team meant we were well placed to answer their needs. We were disappointed that the MCD made it impossible to use the MMR transitional arrangements for borrowers from other lenders.
Is anything new coming from Ipswich this year that brokers should keep an eye out for?
We will continue to innovate in terms of product by listening to brokers and reflecting on the needs of their clients. At the same time, we have spent a lot of time ensuring our service standards are where brokers and applicants need them to be and we will shortly be publishing them on our website.
We also aim to relaunch our online broker portal in the autumn.
What would you like to see from the mortgage market in the next few years?
The market needs to develop to reflect changing lifestyles but perhaps most importantly needs to find ways of helping the Government to solve the riddle of insufficient housebuilding. Greater acceptance of innovative construction methods, etcetera, would be helpful.
How long have you been at Ipswich and what makes it stand out from the crowd?
I joined in the early 1980s but took over as CEO in 2007. I have always said no one should lead an organisation for more than 10 years, so I will be retiring early in 2017.
I hope a number of factors make us stand out. Service and putting the needs of members first are clearly key but we have a very human face that members can relate to, so we are not another formal, boring financial services firm.
Who is your all-time hero, and why?
I used to say Brian Clough as he turned two relatively small town football clubs into champions, but recently I have been reflecting on the achievements of Clement Atlee. He took over as prime minister from a national hero after the Second World War and, in difficult circumstances, drove through massive changes, such as the NHS. He proved that you need more than a big personality to be a successful leader.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Family is important and I have three grandchildren I look forward to spending more time with once I step down from the Ipswich.
Much of my spare time is spent running. In November I will run my tenth marathon, in Valencia, and I am running six days a week to get to my target of a sub-four hour race.
The buzz I get from completing a marathon or having a good training run makes all the effort worthwhile. There is no doubt in my mind that if you push yourself physically your brain becomes more alert too.
What is the best advice you have received?
When I was starting my career after university, my father said it was important to remember there are usually two sides to every story. This has made me open minded and prepared to listen to all points of view.
If you were not in your current role, what would you like to be doing?
Despite the pressures, I would have loved to enter politics. I believe most politicians genuinely want to improve people’s lives.
What is the toughest decision you have made?
Shortly after I became CEO we went into the deepest recession since the 1920s. Costs had to be cut and I had to make redundant many people I had worked with for a long time and who were friends as well as colleagues.
If you were Chancellor for a day, what would you do?
We need better rail and roads to ensure the Eastern region of the UK carries on being a net contributor to the Exchequer. Decent broadband and mobile technology would be good too.
I would also build a long-term, non-political housing strategy that recognised that the private sector alone could not build sufficient houses and that public-sector housing needed to be part of the mix.
Year established: 1849
Address: PO Box 547, Ipswich IP3 9WZ
Tel: 0330 123 0723
The Ipswich started as a Freehold Land Society. We built houses and members could enter a ballot to buy one and get a mortgage.