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B&B rescue deal – first industry reaction

The mortgage industry has reacted to the Bradford & Bingley part-nationalisation, blaming the move on mistakes made a over decade ago.

Wriglesworth consultancy managing director John Wriglesworth, who worked at Bradford & Bingley in the 1990s, says mistakes were made in strategy in 1995 and 1996. He believes that it was too late for chief executive Steven Crawshaw, who stepped down earlier this year, to make a difference. He argues that in the 1990s the then building society chief executive Christopher Rodrigues made a grave error when he shifted away from prime mortgage lending to focus on specialist lending and financial advice.

Those years saw B&B develop its self cert and buy-to-let businesses under the MortgageExpress brand. But deals were also struck with GMAC to further build up the mortgage book. Wriglesworth says it is now clear that that those mortgages both those originated by B&B and GMAC were not of sufficient quality.

The group also bought John Charcol and IFA businesses which where then sold when Crawshaw took over.

Wriglesworth says: “They brought in the Marketplace at Bradford & Bingley to give independent advice on mortgages when most of its customers didn’t know it was a bank let alone a broker.”

“Steven Crawshaw was right to sell the advice businesses because they weren’t making any money. But he was far too late to change other things. The writing was already on the wall when it abandoned prime traditional mortgages for self cert and buy to let.”

Mortgageforce chief executive Rob Clifford says he is sentimental about the B&B brand both in terms of what it means for brokers and for consumers.

He says: “MortgageExpress was the broker’s friend. We have worked closely with Bradford & Bingley over the last few years and B&B had a positive consumer brand. It is very disappointing to see it go. However you can’t criticise the Government. It has been far more decisive than over Northern Rock and has to be the right thing for consumer confidence. But from a mortgage market point of view it is very disappointing.”

Stroud & Swindon sales and marketing director Linda Will says: “The key thing in this is that the FSA pre-empted the action. This is going to improve confidence in the regulator.”

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