Winning the MS Outstanding Contribution to the Industry award, changing the regulatory process and having a political hero
Congratulations on your recent Outstanding Contribution to the Industry award from Mortgage Strategy. What are you most proud of in your career?
When I joined John Charcol as a consultant in 1989 I gained huge satisfaction from being able to solve clients’ mortgage problems. Finding the best deal for someone with plenty of options was, of course, important but I gained more satisfaction from finding a solution for clients who thought they had a difficult, or even impossible, mortgage requirement. A critical factor in achieving this was the fact that John Charcol was independent, had good relationships with lenders and in-house technical help was always available when needed.
More recently the significant number of new clients who contact John Charcol, sometimes me personally, as a result of hearing me on the radio or TV, and/or reading my comments in the press tells me I am doing something right.
What part of your role do you enjoy the most?
Something new which impacts the mortgage market happens on an almost daily basis, from issues specifically related to mortgages or property to various economic events. The fact that I have a reasonable understanding of the economy but am not an economist makes it easier in broadcast interviews for me to talk about financial matters in English rather than economic speak. The interlinked variety of my role, from discussing relevant issues with lenders, both existing and some planning to launch, and policymakers, to providing comment and insight for journalists, and in particular being asked to do interviews on a wide range of programmes on property and mortgage-related matters, gives me an opportunity to make a difference.
What one thing would you change about the mortgage industry?
The regulatory process. It is clear the current policy of multi regulators is deficient. Back in 2009–11 many lenders were on their knees and so mortgage lending and risk appetite was severely restricted. However, as funding started improving, lenders increasingly felt inhibited from re-entering sectors of the market they had withdrawn from, either because of existing regulation or fear of new regulation. The FCA has displayed some pragmatism recently, in particular in the flexible way it has interpreted the nonsense imposed on us by the EU in the Mortgage Credit Directive. However, although lenders are reluctant to go public with criticism of any of their regulators, privately, some highlight conflict between what the FCA and the PRA demands, which can make it very difficult, if not impossible, to meet both regulators’ demands.
The only first or second charge mortgage lender not regulated by the FCA after 21 March will be the Government as it has exempted its Help to Buy Equity Share 2nd charge mortgages from all regulation. With over £1bn a year of second charge lending, the Government is by far the largest player in this market and it should be setting a good example on the regulatory front, not depriving borrowers who use its excellent product the consumer protection borrowers have with other residential mortgages.
What is the best advice you have received?
John Charcol has always jealously guarded its brand name and reputation and so it is hard to beat the old advice that it takes a long time to build a reputation but only a second to lose it. With the ability of social media to reach millions of people in minutes that advice is more relevant today than when it was first proffered.
Who is your all-time hero and why?
Margaret Thatcher. Although she is a marmite figure she had the courage to drive through the difficult political decisions needed in the early 1980s. Furthermore, the liberalisation of the financial markets she initiated transformed mortgage finance and the products available.
If you were not in your current role, what would you be doing?
Retired from the mortgage world but I would be at Steps Rehabilitation Ltd, which I recently set up with my two daughters and which started construction last month on our 23-bed neuro and complex trauma rehabilitation unit in Sheffield. I would have the opportunity to spend more time on that.
Year established: 1974
Number of advisers: circa 130
Address: 5, Cutlers Exchange,
123 Houndsditch, London EC3A 7BU
Phone: 0344 346 3672
John Charcol, launched in 1974, is a broker providing whole-of-market advice by telephone and face-to-face. For a brief period, between 2000 and 2004, the company was owned by Bradford & Bingley Building Society, but John Charcol is now back in independent hands. It currently offers mortgage, protection and second charge loan advice nationally.