One to One: Simon Checkley, managing director, Private Finance


Predictions of activity in the market for sub-£1m properties, broker challenges when handling HNW clients – and a wish to say thank you to UK taxpayers

What plans does Private Finance have in store for 2017?

It is going to be an interesting year. We believe the market for sub-£1m properties, where there is pent-up demand, will be most active, while the £1m-plus market will be subdued due to the perceived high cost of moving.

Recruiting top-flight mortgage advisers is the key to growth and we will continue to pursue our successful strategy of recruiting support staff into our academy in order to develop the next generation of highly skilled brokers.

Private Finance has a high-net-worth client base. What do you think are the most pressing issues facing these borrowers this year?

Refinancing buy-to-let properties in the light of recent Prudential Regulation Authority guidelines to lenders. Also, the perceived cost of moving for the £1m-plus bracket.

We need to support this market because, while the costs are considerable, they need not present an obstacle to moving, especially if demand lower down supports sale prices.

Conversely, if higher rates of stamp duty are depressing the market, the affordability dividend should offset additional stamp duty costs.

What are the challenges for a broker serving this type of customer base as opposed to mainstream borrowers?

These brokers need to have very selective relationships with lenders and to be able to empathise with the issues faced by more sophisticated clients. Negotiation is key.

They also need to be able to set outwell-thought-through and compelling proposals for senior underwriters.

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

I would be writing mortgage business. I have really enjoyed the job; it has brought me into contact with some fantastic people and I miss client contact. Nothing beats the daily satisfaction of tying up a case.

I love the world of business – particularly the creative side. While I believe in evolving and eventually moving on from Private Finance,I cannot imagine not ‘being in business’.

As a child, what was your dream job?

I wanted to be a professional road cyclist. When I realised I lacked the requisite natural attributes, I focused on a job in the City. I was on my way to an interview with a stockbroking firm when I was told of a short-term role as a messenger/office junior at John Charcol. The rest is history.

What are your hobbies?

I have been a fan of road cycling since childhood and I raced until a couple of years ago. Now I ride to keep fit, but also enjoy undertaking challenges. I recently rode 1,000 miles in 10 days from London to Valencia (where my wife is from) to raise money for Mind, Roy Castle Lung Foundation and Macmillan.

Last year I embarked on my lifelong ambition of learning to play the guitar. I am making good progress – but it is as challenging as I’d hoped.

Do you have any secret talents?

None yet, but I hope I’ll soon impress with a rendition of ‘Start Me Up’ on the guitar.

Who is your all-time hero, and why?

Putting aside cycling heroes such as Tom Simpson or musicians like Keith Richards, I would say David Nott, the surgeon, for the bravery he has displayed in his selfless efforts to save the innocent lives of those caught up in war zones.

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

I would like to see recognition of the positive contribution made by taxation. In the UK,
23 million people pay no income tax while the richest 1 per cent (300,000 people) pay 27.5 per cent of the nation’s income tax bill. Why don’t we do more to applaud this?

If these facts were better known there might be less negativity towards the better off.

Charities are very good at demonstrating how a fiver will pay for this or that so, as chancellor, I would say to the taxpayer: “Thank you. Last year the nation paid £X in tax, which has funded the education of X many children, maintained X many hospitals, and so on.”