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Clifford vows new relationship will not inhibit independence

Mortgageforce chief executive Rob Clifford says the firm will remain a fiercely independent broker franchise despite its acquisition by West Bromwich Building Society.

In an interview with Money Marketing, Clifford says there will be no grey areas about the firm’s independence.

The management team, board and strategy will all remain and Mortgageforce will continue to operate from its headquarters in Derby.

Clifford says: “It is very important we make it clear that the business was not for sale. The private investors were delighted with the rate of growth and we were not in talks with anyone. In late Nov-ember 2004, three organisations coincidentally expressed an informal interest in getting closer to us and the business.”

He says the new relationship will not inhibit its ability to operate independently.

Clifford says although the business has been doubling every 18 months since inception, a corporate parent will inevitably provide more cap-ital but he did not want to create a partnership with a traditional society.

He says: “West Brom is not just a building society. It is a very successful corporate group which is important to us. It was very keen to invest in Mortgageforce but to allow its distribution to operate autonomously.”

Clifford compares the acquisition with Skipton Building Society which owns Pink Home Loans and Connell Est-ate Agents. He says: “Skipton and West Brom have a lot in common as successful groups of companies, at the centre of which is a successful society.”

West Brom appealed to Clifford as he did not want Mortgageforce to become just another part of a very big operation with several subsidiaries. During negotiations, West Brom asked Mortgageforce to commit to a period of exclusivity while it assessed the business and its commercial acumen. Within five weeks, West Brom agreed to go ahead.

Despite the shrinking market, Clifford is certain that the firm’s growth is attainable. He says the usual Mortgageforce candidate broker comes from a tied background within a society or bank.

He says: “West Brom was our favoured choice. It showed how it wanted to diversify and grow its subsidiary businesses. It happened so quickly.”

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