Sometimes I turn off my mobile phone for a couple of hours and find I have 20 messages on my voicemail when I switch it back on.”
There are not many people in the mortgage industry whose opinion is sought after quite as much as Scottish Amicable's national mortgage manager John Malone.
With a career spanning over 35 years in financial services, the 57-year-old industry veteran has taken on the mantle of elder statesman of the mortgage market.
Malone even refers to himself as the “Godfather” of mortgages, perhaps fitting for a man who is said to have the inside track on industry gossip over the past 20 years.
He says: “I have been heavily involved in the mortgage market since the 1960s and have done a wider variety of jobs than anyone else I can think of. So yes, I think it is fair to say I have picked up a few things of interest over the years.”
Malone is responsible for ScotAm's Premier Mortgage Service, a mortgage club on course to originate over £1bn worth of mortgage business for the third consecutive month.
It is some achievement, considering he has almost single-handedly built up the service from scratch in only five years. Even now, Premier employs just five people. It helps that Malone is a workaholic who averages 15 hours a day, much of it spent travelling around the UK to meet with the 32 providers on ScotAm's lending panel.
His work ethic is something that has characterised his career, harking back to the early 1960s when he landed his first job as a clerk at Martins Bank – now Barclays – in London.
From there he went to the foreign department of Citi-bank before moving to Cedar Holdings in 1967 where he took charge of the lender's Scottish operation. His next move, to Forman & Staff – now Britannia Life – was where he met John Cowan, now ScotAm group sales and marketing director.
He says: “We were the young kids on the block, the new breed of life inspectors and managers. I was fiercely competitive with guys like John but I enjoyed it.”
He left in 1989 to become a director at Glasgow mortgage broker Slater, Hogg and How-ison, where he expanded the operation south of the border, eventually opening 14 “mortgage shops”around England.
From 1992 to 1995, Malone reckons the broker was the biggest mortgage IFA on the high street but after it tied to TSB in 1995 he left the com- pany disappointed. “When the company tied, I found the decision hard to accept and it became the primary reason for my subsequent involvement with Scottish Amicable.”
Since then, Malone has become one of the most res-pected figures in the industry, sitting on the advisory panel for the Mortgage Code Com-pliance Board and speaking regularly at forums for the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
He believes one of the most significant changes to the mortgage market in years to come will be the planned introduction in 2003 of home seller's packs. He says lenders are already developing ways to help sellers cope with the extra expense of the packs.
“Although it is a few years away, lenders are already considering how the first-time seller will be able to fund the packs. Remember, today's first-time buyer is potentially a first-time seller in 2003. Are they likely to have £700 spare to assemble a pack?”
He is dismissive of forthcoming FSA regulations relating to the pre-sale disclosure of mortgage brokers and speaks for many when he says the regulator should listen to industry opinion and consider alternative options.
“Everybody in the industry knows it is exceedingly imp-ractical to expect lenders to be responsible for regulating brokers. What may be a better solution is for the MCCB to be responsible for overseeing the mortgage sales process and for lenders to ensure their documentation is transparent and delivered on time.”
The FSA's requirements will be published in May, by which time Malone may well be relaxing at the family villa in Spain. He flies over there two or three times a year with his wife of 30 years and three daughters but groans at the thought of the inevitable fights for the bathroom.
But there is a battle he is confident of winning for Malone is determined to push the mortgage club to greater heights. ScotAm is set to enter the unregulated broker market, a move Malone believes will result in Premier processing between £15bn and £20bn of mortgage applications next year.
“The opportunities in the unregulated market could well put us close to being the biggest single originator of mortgage business in the UK.”
Although things seem to be ticking over nicely for Malone, not everything has gone smoothly of late. He has just been turned down by Edinburgh University to take part in a medical experiment testing the effects of exercise and a good diet on people over 55.
The entry requirements stipulated that volunteers had to be unfit, preferably suffering from high blood pressure and to have high levels of cholesterol.
Despite his hectic lifestyle, Malone failed to qualify on the grounds that there was nothing wrong with him.
“For the first time in my life I was glad to be rejected. It just goes to show there is a lot of good in a pint of Guinness.”