Now that John Malone has passed the milestone of his 60th birthday, what lies ahead for the self-styled godfather of the mortgage industry?
It certainly does not look as if a life of leisure is beckoning just yet as he has recently signed up for three more years with new parent company Bankhall and has the option to remain for a further two.
Last month, Bankhall snapped up Prudential's Premier Mortgage Services – which Malone established in 1996 – after prolonged negotiations with Skipton Building Society fell through. Rumour has it that Network Data was also in the running but Bankhall came through at the last, paying an undisclosed sum thought to be between £4m and £8m.
PMS will become part of Bankhall's mortgage arm, Point One. Combined membership is expected to exceed 15,000 advisers and Malone says he can see it increasing to 20,000.
Malone was an integral part of the deal and will continue to head the business, which will remain in the Stirling area. “My staff and I have many years experience understanding the mortgage market and regulation. You could call it a library of expertise.”
PMS has come a long way since Malone started it while at Scottish Amicable. “We have gone from being an idea in 1996 to becoming the biggest mortgage facilitator in the UK and all within six years.”
In 2003, PMS received over £30bn of applications and completed deals worth £27bn, which Malone says represented 10 per cent of the UK mortgage market. “We expect this level of business to be maintained and improved, bearing in mind that we can now open our doors to MCCB-registered mortgage intermediaries who have tried to gain access in the past.”
Malone is very excited about this development, which he expects to bring in another £15bn-£20bn of business. When his mortgage club was part of Prudential, it was not able to work with unregulated mortgage brokers. “I accept and understand that changing this was not a priority while we were at the Pru but this new development is going to be a massive opportunity for us. There are a considerable number of unregulated players out there that will now be able to use our club.”
With regulation on the horizon, Malone says Bankhall's Point One mortgage offering will be a major solution for those intermediaries still trying to make the decision about where their business will go. “Bankhall will provide a first-class offering, with access to the biggest mortgage facilitator club in the market, along with other support services and regulatory support.”
Malone refers cheerily to a T-shirt made for him by long-standing colleague Morag Laird, the slogan on which reads “No Meetings, No Projects, Just Do It.”
This seems fitting for a man who decided to take on Mortgage Express's Louisa Sedgewick in a sprint to raise money for charity last year. He raised £6,000 for a children's charity but damage to his hamstrings hampered his usual jet-setting movements around the country and he was forced to travel by train. “It was too dangerous for me to fly. I did not need a wheelchair, though, I managed to hobble around.”
A well-respected and prolific commentator on the mortgage market, Malone is cautiously optimistic about how regulation will affect the industry, partly because of the great job he says the MCCB has done. “The team at the MCCB have provided the FSA with an excellent working model in the way they created a self-regulating environment, achieving a high percentage of intermediaries who are qualified and a compliant method which will assist the FSA going forward.”
He believes there will be few problems for those intermediaries who are already regulated. But for those who have had no relationship with the FSA in the past, he envisages a need for support and assistance to ensure compliance.
He does not foresee an easy life for newly set-up mortgage clubs and networks, saying: “Lenders will want to work with tried and tested clubs in a new regulatory environment. Our link up with Bankhall, a major service provider, adds an enormous amount of value, not just for intermediaries but also for lenders.”
Malone has been vocal in the past about the benefits that equity release can provide to consumers struggling on insufficient pensions and has been instrumental in raising the profile and the respectability of the product, speaking at conferences and applauding the efforts of providers and brokers entering the market.
He can see the equity-release market developing but underlines the importance of regulation “so that the consumer feels he is being protected”.
“I am looking forward to equity release playing a part in the financial services marketplace, in that millions of consumers will not have sufficient savings or pension provisions for a long and healthy retirement.”
As for his own retirement, many in the industry thought his 60th birthday, coupled with the sale of PMS, heralded the end of a varied and high-profile career but they have been proved wrong. Certainly, if last year's showing on the social scene is anything to go by and Malone's determination to be one of the last to leave every gathering continues unabated, there are no signs of any slow down on the immediate horizon. It is hard to imagine him relaxing for long.
He spends most of his holidays in Spain – the final details of the Bankhall deal were thrashed out while he paced along the seafront in Javier – so could it be that this is where his future lies? “I am not certain what the future holds but I can see myself partially living in Spain when I retire.”
Despite the amount of time he has spent in Spain, Malone reveals that he has not picked up much of the language. “But I can say cerveza, which is obviously very necessary.”
Born: London, 1943
Lives: Glasgow with wife and three daughters
Education: Finchley Catholic Grammar School
Career: 1960, clerk at Barclays Bank (formerly Martins Bank); 1964, worked in father's electrical business; 1965, Citibank foreign exchange department; 1967, Cedar Holdings in London, then took charge of Scottish operation in Glasgow; 1973, Slater Walker; 1975, life inspector at FS Assurance; 1989, director at Slater Hogg and Howison; 1992, managing director of Mortgage Shops and director of TSB Property Services; 1995, joined Scottish Amicable and started up PMS; 1999, Prudential; 2004, Bankhall Career ambition: To remain successful, make a difference in the industry and make Bankhall Point One the biggest and best service provider in the industry Life ambition: “When you get to 60, your life ambition is to enjoy good health.”
Likes: Celtic FC, his horses winning
Dislikes: Meetings, projects