Mortgage Brain chief executive Mark Lofthouse is losing no time over the arrival of M-Day. The highly motivated 43-year-old is driving the mortgage-sourcing system to an FSA regulation end-date of “now” rather than the official October 31 date and he is confident that his company is meeting most of the challenges posed by the onset of regulation.
He says the current challenges are distribution of the compliance-ready solution in the third quarter and training and educating customers so they can use the system efficiently, with Mortgage Brain increasing its customer service staff by 30 per cent.
Lofthouse, who has held senior management positions at CMG Computer Management Group and Assureweb, has a foot in all camps in the mortgage sector, with regular contact with IFAs, brokers and lenders as well as dialogue with trade bodies such as the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries and the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
“I have no reason to believe that lenders will not be ready for regulation. I think the majority will be ready for October. I hope and suspect it will be like the Y2K crisis – a lot of work beforehand and then everything works. Regulation is a bit like learning to drive, it is not the day that is the issue but when you have passed your test, then you really learn how to drive.”
To prepare for M-Day, Mortgage Brain has been working on its point-of-sale process and is also boosting product information and key facts illustrations. It previewed its compliance proposition in March, showing how advisers can generate their own KFIs to check against the lenders.
“We have got to support the introducers and the compliance route they chose, whether it is or via a network. We believe that we have done everything we can to get our information as accurate and reliable as possible.”
It is three years since the UK's biggest lenders took the then unprecedented step to work together to form the core of the lending market's electronic trading proposition in the form of the Mortgage Trading Exchange. Lofthouse was drafted in as chief executive to transform the platform from vision to reality.
He is keen to work with other companies for mutual benefit. Historically, this meant working with more lenders to enhance the product range available on the sourcing system but the software supplier has also established an agreement to integrate its sourcing system with The Exchange's life and pension point-of-sale and trading platform, 1st Software's back-office systems and many more.
Lofthouse admits he likes “Americanisms” and has coined the word co-optition as an amalgamation of co-operation and competition. He prides himself on being at the forefront of co-optition and connectivity in the mortgage market, working with Mortgage 2000 and The Mortgage Operation System as well as with The Exchange. “We work with lenders, introducers and regulatory bodies such as the AMI or CML to make sure that we deliver the best solution possible. We call it delivering the promises.”
He says he needs strong team players on board to realise his aim of increasing by tenfold the amount of mortgage business conducted electronically across Mortgage Brain's platforms. His own positive attitude is apparent in his ambitious aim to increase transactions carried out via TME from the current £5bn to £50bn in the next 12 months.
What will the environment look like after M-Day? Drawing on 17 years' experience in the application of technology across the financial services industry, he comes up with “some consolidation in sourcing companies” but he will not be drawn on who might disappear.
He adds that for bigger companies, such as Sesame, Legal & General and Zurich, electronic trading will be a component of their solution. For the regional introducers, he believes Mortgage Brain will provide the total solution. He suggests that there will be some people providing mortgage sourcing now who will choose not to continue in a regulatory environment as they will not have the customer base to support. Companies which have worked in the life and pension environment will “live and breath” compliance while others who are new to regulation will have to decide if they are in it for the long term.
“We have now got lenders who account for 50 per cent of their trading electronically through TME and another 15 to 20 lenders in the pilot phase. We are working towards sourcing accounting for 80 per cent of market coverage. There are benefits of a single trading platform where you can trade with many lenders in one place.”
Lofthouse is committed to family life at the weekends, heading home to Worcestershire to spend time with his wife and two children. He is an avid Coronation Street fan and also plays tennis and watches motorsports.
With just seven years to go before hitting his self-imposed deadline when he hopes to stop working at 50, Lofthouse feels that he is on track with Mortgage Brain to help the industry deal with the trials and tribulations of regulation.
Born: Skipton, Yorkshire, 1961
Education: BSc in chemical engineering,University of Manchester, Institute of Science and Technology Career: 1990-95: ACT Financial Systems associate director; 1995-96: CMG Computer Management Group divisional managing director;1996-98: Mitsubishi Electric director; 1998-2001: DBS Management Group sales and marketing for Assureweb, then managing director for Assureweb;2002-present: Mortgage Brain chief executive Career ambition:To succeed in everything that Mortgage Brain does and to make a real difference Life ambition: Not to have to work after the age of 50
Heroes: People who always give the best in everything they do Likes: Family life, travel and holidays, music,classic cars
Dislikes: People who have a can't do attitude or are negative Drives: BMW325 convertible