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Gerald Gregory

Lives: On the edge of the Peak District in Derbyshire.

Born: Buckinghamshire.

Career: Graduated from Nottingham University in 1976 with a degree in economics and joined Lloyds and Scottish Financial to go on the road selling financial products. Took on a sales role at General Guarantee before moving to Girobank, later joining its Treasury department.

Joined Britannia Building Society in April 1989 as treasurer, then became head of lending in 1993, director of mutuality and marketing in 1997, sales and marketing director in 1999 and managing director of non-member business in February 2002.

Career ambition: To continue to make a contribution to the society but “no ambition to take on the world”.

Life ambition: His personal priority is his family as he has an eight-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.

Likes: The Archers on Radio Four.

Dislikes: Lager and brown sauce on bacon sandwiches.

Car: S-type Jaguar and an old Subaru for when it snows in the Peak District.

Peers say: “He is a thoroughly professional businessman but still has a nice way of dealing with people. He has a detailed knowledge of the residential mortgage market and has launched new products and concepts that have been widely copied.”

Naming croquet and bridge as hobbies gives some idea of the measured outlook of Britannia Building Society&#39s new managing director of non-core activities, Gerald Gregory.

The 46-year-old&#39s appointment to this role created by Britannia to grow non-member businesses, including mortgage subsidiaries Verso and Platform Home Loans, follows his steady progression in the group over the past 13 years.

Gregory joined Britannia as treasurer in 1989 after he became “sick of commuting on British Rail” from Kent to the treasury department of Girobank in the City of London.

He says: “I decided to write to a number of building societies at a time when they were beefing up their treasury departments and got offered the position at Britannia.”

Pondering his future role, he claims in his reserved manner to have “no ambitions to take on the world” although he has enjoyed his “progress to close to the top of the Britannia pyramid”.

This does not mean that those at the peak of the pyramid should not watch their backs as he admits he would like to be in charge. Gregory says: “I am on the main board of the society and starting to run out of ambitions other than continuing to make a contribution to the business. Although I would obviously like the top job, the chief executive is only the same age as me. Who knows what the future holds?”

But being married with two young children aged four and eight means his family is a key priority in his life and he is determined not to let work take over. It seems he is relishing family life, having taught both children to ski, and he is looking forward to an imminent holiday in the Alps.

He is also happy living well away from the hustle and bustle of London in the Peak District. But despite having studied in Nottingham, he describes himself as a “Southerner based in the Midlands” as he has Buckinghamshire roots.

Turning back to Britannia, Gregory says the creation of his new position reflects the unusual structure of the society. “Other societies do not think about membership and non-membership business in the way we do. Our aim is to maximise profit of the non-core companies and generate profits for members.”

Britannia set up Verso in 1997 to sell self-certification and buy-to-let mortgages through intermediaries and it bought impaired-credit lender Platform for £55m last February. Gregory will not say how much will be invested in non-core business or reveal growth targets but says he is confident he can increase its current 35 per cent share of group profits. “We are looking to grow and increase the profit of both these well respected companies which generate a nice return.”

But some industry sources think it is inevitable that Verso and Platform will have to be merged at some point, claiming it is uneconomical to run two similar companies as separate entities.

Gregory takes the credit for the society&#39s treatment of members, saying he masterminded its loyalty bonus scheme launched in 1996. This was devised at a time when other societies were converting to banks and press coverage was persuading customers that demutualisation was the best approach because they could make thousands of pounds from windfall payments.

He says he wanted to convince customers that it was better in the long term to remain part of a mutual by setting up the bonus scheme which distributes about a third of the group&#39s profits to members annually.

The next bonus payment is due to be paid to members later this month and is expected to total more than £50m compared with £40m distributed last year.

“This works well for customer acquisition and cross -selling but we still use mortgage pricing as an acquisition tool and we have appeared in the best-buy tables every week for the last three years,” he says.

According to Gregory, maximising income for members in this way is consistent with the society&#39s commitment to mutuality but this commitment is about to be tested at the annual general meeting on April 26. He says: “This year, Richard Yendle is standing for the board. He claims not to be a carpetbagger but has a website called carpetbagger.com. We have no real problem with Yendle as he is exercising his democratic right. We hope the membership will see through him.”

Looking at the other hot topic of regulation, Gregory, like most lenders, welcomes the decision that the FSA will regulate mortgage advice. “N3 in August would have caused a real problem as it was a very aggressive timescale. I think we will now end up with superior regulation.”

Another area of expansion planned by Britannia is the branch-sharing scheme it launched with Yorkshire Building Society last year. He says the group is in discussions with other societies to try to interest them in getting involved.

Gregory seems quietly confident to be taking charge of Britannia&#39s non-core business. Having been with the group since 1989, he is undoubtedly well placed to know what is expected of him and realistic about what he can achieve.

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