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Kevin Duffy on mortgages

England&#39s epic achievements in Sydney triggered a morass of media features all striving to expose newsworthy sub-plots. My own keepsake was the revelation that England coach Clive Woodward had twice remortgaged his home along the path to personal financial security.

Woodward is a man of convictions. So much so that his services are now courted by the FA. However, it is not the Football Association that are in greatest need of remedy – it is another much maligned body which needs Clive to resuscitate its fortunes … financial advisers.

So here&#39s your blueprint Clive. Four easy steps to becoming the financial adviser&#39s world champion.

Firstly, scrum down with Government. Tackle its ineffectiveness which includes the Sandler report, a flawed seller&#39s pack bill, planning department quagmires, brownfield development site shortfalls, unsuccessful affordable housing initiatives and a profligate attempt to steer the market down the long-term fixed-rate highway.

Secondly, sin-bin any further scaremongering from mortgage networks on the supposed urgency with which brokers should sign up to them. Yes – the costs of principal status may be more than some can initially bear but independence comes at a price and in the long run is always worth it. Professional indemnity insurance costs will surely regularise post-N4 and the regulatory gravy train will also find the sidings await once the new regime is established.

Thirdly, let&#39s give private enterprise the ball. References to the US mortgage model should be less about the alleged merits of a fixed-rate culture. How ironic is it in the week in which Professor Miles&#39 report is due that the US Treasury Department&#39s vehicles for subsidised funding are now under a regulatory microscope?

More relevant is that the overwhelming factors underpinning the US&#39s world-class economy reside in its long cherished values of local and self-market regulation and clearer transparency on taxation. Protect the consumer – absolutely. But don&#39t suffocate him and his product providers in a centralised encyclopedia of red tape.

Lastly, our industry has got to start lobbying with the Chancellor as hard as other industries do. The UK&#39s 60,000 mortgage practitioners comprise many micro-businesses that can flourish and create wealth and jobs. But they will only do so in a constructive taxation environment – not one characterised by stealth so blatantly epitomised by present stamp duty and inheritance tax bandings, to say nothing of the inevitable 2004 “wealth” tax adjustments to these which may undermine the market&#39s well-being next year.

Practitioners should be incentivised to embrace independence. Why would any broker with more than five years experience not then want to become a stakeholder in what they have built up? In the US this entrepreneurial spirit invokes the phrase “way to go”. In “don&#39t have a go” Britain, too few have shared Woodward&#39s vision and boldness in backing his own beliefs.

Having risked my own capital twice now, I can tell you that our unsupportive tax climate and the “sledgers” who haven&#39t got the necessary guts to chase the dream themselves only strengthen your resolve. The Aussie press was actually one of Woodward&#39s best motivational devices.

I have no doubt that Sir Clive, as he no doubt will soon be known, could invigorate the financial services sector. A few doses of self belief and a willingness to front-up to some discriminating external agencies are what&#39s prescribed. Next year must not be a repeat of the annus horribilis 2003 has been for many of our fraternity.

Kevin Duffy is managing director at Hamptons International Mortgages

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