Patrick Bunton tends to avoid interviews focusing on himself but he certainly seems ready to fight the fight for mortgage brokers. It seems strange to think of Bunton being a financial services veteran as he is only in his mid-forties but that is exactly what he is – already in his 28th year in the industry and his 20th at the UK’s largest mortgage brokerage, London & Country.
After leaving school in 1985, Bunton joined Britannia Building Society, holding various branch roles before moving on to UCB Homeloans, the now inactive specialist lending arm of Nationwide, in 1990.
He says: “My father is a banker for Barclays so I had an interest but I did not want to go somewhere where I would be so-and-so’s son. I ended up having an interview at Britannia and I was there from 1985 to 1990 in a variety of branch roles, travelling around a fair bit.
“Then in 1990 I wanted a new challenge and decided to go to work for UCB between 1990 to 1993 when specialist lending was starting to take off.”
In 1993, Bunton received a call from a former colleague at Britannia, Philip Cartwright, the current managing director of London & Country, asking him to join him at the brokerage.
He says: “Phil approached me to see if I would be interested and the two of us ended up at London & Country, setting that up as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chase de Vere Investments. Then when Chase de Vere was sold, London & Country remained as a stand-alone business. It was not planned but, with hindsight, was one of the best decisions we could have made.”
It is not just employment where Bunton displays long service and dedication. Bunton still regularly plays rugby for Oldfield RFC, the club he joined 32 years ago and of which he is now chairman.
In his early days he played as a scrum-half, the quick-thinking back in the team, before moving to fly-half, the general in the field, dictating play and implementing the team’s tactics – skills which will be vital to anyone in the position Bunton now holds.
In 2007, Bunton joined the Ami board as a director before becoming deputy chairman of the trade body in 2008, until November when he was made chairman.
Given that the market now knows what the shape of mortgage regulation will look like from the middle of 2014, Bunton and Ami are keen to ensure the regulator enforces the rules in the manner intended.
He says: “The key thing now is that we have gone through the whole MMR consultation process, we know where we are with the final rules and I think we are quite happy with the end position, which is a lot better than what was on the cards in the first consultation paper. Key now is how that translates into the supervision of the industry against those rules. The big job is to ensure the intent behind the rules is carried through and not reinterpreted.”
One of the more high-profile omissions from the new regulatory landscape is a system of individual registration. Bunton believes strongly that all mortgage sellers, whether brokers or bank advisers, should be individually registered with the FSA. The FSA has said it is willing to work with the industry to put in place an interim system and Bunton is keen to work with the regulator to ensure this happens.
He says: “It is hard when you see case after case going through enforcement and you think ‘give us individual registration and we can make sure any bad eggs cannot come back into the industry’. That needs additional work and I suspect we will end up exploring an interim industry-led solution.
“This is not something that can be driven by Ami in isolation, or the CML or the BSA. Something like this will only work if everyone signs up to it.”
Another aspect of the MMR Bunton feels strongly about is the FSA’s watered- down position on non-advised sales. The final rules allow for execution-only transactions for contract variations like changing the payment method, rate switches and retention deals or porting the mortgage. Bunton hopes the FSA reconsiders its stance when it comes to review the effectiveness of the MMR.
He says: “If you are talking to a customer about retaining a mortgage that involves a variation to that contract, then my view is you have the same duty of care to that customer as you do to a new customer. How is that any different than advising the customer to go to that lender?”
Regulatory issues aside, Bunton is positive about then 2013 mortgage market.
He says: “I think 2013 will be positive, all of the indicators point in that direction. And there is no doubt the Funding for Lending scheme has played a role in that.”
But while he sees some light at the end of the tunnel this year, he is keen to stress that his main aim, and that of Ami, is to fight the cause for brokers.
He says: “The key message I want to get across is that we will continue to fight for a level playing field for intermediaries, to fight for a market where lenders and brokers operate on the same terms.”
Born: Hamburg, 1967
Education: Beechen Cliff School, Bath
Career History: 1993-present: director, London & Country Mortgages Ltd; 1990-93: residential loan executive, UCB Homeloans; 1985-1990: branch management roles, Britannia Building Society
2013-present: chairman, Association of Mortgage Intermediaries; 2008-2012: deputy chairman, AMI: 2007-2008: director, AMI
Likes: All things sport – especially rugby union
Dislikes: Negative and political people, over complications & unnecessary bureaucracy
Film: Blackhawk Down
Drives: Porsche 911
Current Book: FSA policy statement 12/16!
Albums: Under a Blood Red Sky by U2
Career Ambition: To help shape a successful and respected mortgage market with a vibrant and respected intermediary sector that has earned the trust and respect of all stakeholders along the way
Lifetime Ambition: To be healthy, happy and not to waste a day
If I wasn’t doing this I would be… A sports commentator or a barrister