In his usual opinionated manner and drawing on almost 20 years experience of the property market, PR guru John Wriglesworth is adamant that there is no chance of a housing market crash.
In the face of conflicting newspaper headlines and economists such as Roger Bootle, who was an adviser to the last Tory Government, saying “there is a significant chance of a housing market crash”, Wriglesworth says: “There will be no crash – that is nonsense.”
You would expect strong opinions from a man who says he became an analyst because he was “far too honest” to work in corporate finance and was better suited to a job where “being rude and mad was expected” and that is what you get.
Wriglesworth, who runs his own eponymous PR firm, says although there has been an 1980s' style boom, the situation is very different, namely that interest rates are 4 per cent and not 15 per cent.
He says: “People can afford the house prices – 70 per cent of people buying a home already have one, incomes have risen, unemployment is low and we do not have an idiot Chancellor like Lawson.”
But Wriglesworth is ready to criticise the current Government when it comes to “stealth taxes” and is calling for stamp duty to be scrapped because he believes it has a detrimental effect on housebuyers.
He made a name for himself in the City in the boom and bust time of the1980s and 1990s when he was quoted on the housing market on a daily basis but this is a role he fell into by accident, having planned a life of academia.
He gained three degrees in economics, the final one a doctorate from Oxford, but realised that although this was “ethically pleasing” it was not going to make him rich and “self-interest had to come into it”.
“In the mid-80s, all my contemporaries were earning at least £25,000 in the City while I was on £10,000 at Queen Mary College in the University of London.”
In 1986, Wriglesworth decided to sell his soul and join Abbey National to examine why it should be the first building society to convert to a bank. A year later, he says he was wooed to the City to work in corporate finance for UBS but admits: “I was no good at corporate finance – you have to have gone to Eton to learn to lie politely so I became an analyst where being rude and mad was expected.”
If his aim was to make a name for himself, his timing was impeccable as the UK was about to enter recession and he readily took on the mantle of becoming one of the best-known commentators on the collapsing housing market.
Wriglesworth says this is where he realised he had a “natural affinity with journalists” which comes in handy now that he runs a PR agency.
Because of his continued high profile, he has been accused by some of running a “self-promotion” agency although this is unlikely to upset him. He has grown his firm to 10 staff and 25 clients, including societies such as Portman and mortgage lenders including Paragon, but he says he does not want to take over the world and does not want to be another Brunswick or Financial Dynamics.
He says: “I want to keep the firm's integrity and be the best at what we do by adding value. I want the firm to be the Coutts of financial services PR.”
Despite enjoying the typical PR lifestyle of being a well known face in wine bars close to his Southwark office, Wriglesworth says his favourite pastime is walking in the fresh air and he has climbed about 100 of Scotland's Munroes – mountains over 3,000ft high. He seems suited to the fast moving and sometimes stressful world of PR, saying his hobbies are ones that do not require too much patience and he is “more of a backgammon than chess man”.
His introduction to PR came from a brief spell at City PR firm Brunswick which he was lured to join by then managing director Alan Parker after he quit as director of strategy and communications at Bradford & Bingley. “I was a maverick at Brunswick and was not one of the men in black but I have a deep respect for the firm and when I left it was by mutual agreement.”
But Wriglesworth does not speak so highly of B&B which he left only a year after Christopher Rodrigues joined as chief executive.
He says: “I do not feel bitter about leaving B&B but I do feel bitter about what Rodrigues has done to the organisation. I do not give it more than two to three years as an independent concern. His strategy will fail and someone like Northern Rock or Abbey National will move in to take it over.”
Wriglesworth says Charcol is a good brand that works but he says the MarketPlace is not working as an IFA because 90 per cent of people still see B&B as a building society selling its own products.
Unlike many PR people, Wriglesworth is not one to be seen and not heard but his own high profile does not seem to bother his clients and with interest rates and the housing market regularly hitting the headlines, be prepared to hear his opinions for some time to come.
Born: Kingston, Surrey in 1956
Lives: Cobham, Surrey. Has four children from previous marriage. Now a “free-spirit single man”
Career: Graduated from Bristol University in 1978. 1987 – joined Abbey National in London as a strategic planner before moving to Philips & Drew (which became UBS) in a corporate finance role.
1989 – became a credit analyst with UBS to focus on the UK housing market. 1994 – joined Bradford & Bingley as a director of strategy and communications. 1997 – joined City PR consultancy Brunswick before leaving to set up PR consultancy
Career ambition: Continue to build his PR business
Life ambition: To be happy, emotionally fulfilled and financially adequately provided for
Likes: Integrity, honesty, straightforward people
Dislikes: Insincerity, pretentiousness
Car: Mercedes estate and Audi A4 but does not like driving
Peers say: “What you see is what you get with John. He is confident, forthright and intelligent. He rubs some people up the wrong way but I think a lot of people have a sneaking respect for him.”