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Charcol draws up a new cast for the passion play

The return of John Garfield and Charles Wishart to Charcol 30 years after they helped to set up the firm will bring back the passion that made the company renowned, says the new board.

In an exclusive round-table meeting with Money Marketing, Charcol
executive chairman Garfield says he wants to instil a better sense of
professionalism into the independent mortgage advisory firm and “set
the bar higher”.

The main focus will be on recreating the vigour that Charcol showed
at the time of its sale to Bradford &Bingley in 2000.
Non-executive director Charles Wishart says: “We want to be bringing
back that passion for the brand.”

Charcol was bought by Castlegate 342, a newly formed company which
includes Advantage Capital and John Moulton among its shareholders.
Garfield takes over as chief executive, with Peter Barrett joining as
managing director with responsibility for sales.

The cost of buying back the firm from B&B has not been revealed
but industry figures believe the figure is somewhere around
5.8m. Wishart would not comment on how much capital was
provided by the private investors.

Barrett and product director Walter Avrili both confirm that Charcol
is looking at bringing back some of the sales consultants who have
left the firm.

Garfield says there will be significantly more training in the
company and new systems and processes are being developed. He says,
under the Bradford & Bingley umbrella, the salesforce, which
stands at around 200, did not have the right tools to operate to
their full capacity. He says: “This was lost to a certain extent
within B&B – it was corporatised.”

Marketing director Can-dice Hodgson says despite the market-leading
online proposition at the time of the sale to B&B, the full
potential of Charcol online has not been realised. She says: “Its
efficacy has not been tested or proven and it has lacked development
over the last three years.”

There is an in-house development team working on the website and an
announcement is expected soon on changes.

Charcol is looking at product development and senior technical
manager Ray Boulger says: “We have got some product ideas which are
very different. An obvious area we are looking at is the first-time
buyer market.”

Plans for how the firm will deal with the new challenges and
opportunities of depolarisation are at an early stage. Garfield says:
“Strategically, we still have more thinking to do on this and we
have no intentions yet.”


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