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Music to my ears

My first foray into the world of work was at the tender age of 16 when I paid my way through college and university with a part-time job in the meat department at my local Waitrose in Godalming.

It was there that I first felt the thrill of the pay rise 5p an hour, which left me with an extra 44p a week. Despite this excess of riches, I left there after university having learnt two vital life lessons – one, retail is a lot of hard work with very limited reward and, two, there are few things finer in this world than a really good steak.

Thus began the search for a career that put this acquired knowledge into practice. My best friend at the time had just embarked on a career in financial services and was busy making and spending a mint while the rest of us hung round in our West German Army surplus jackets dreaming of forming the next Nirvana.

Unfortunately, dreams of being the next Kurt Cobain nourish the soul but do not fill the belly and spurred on by a typical young lad’s “anything he can do I can do better” attitude, I opted to put aside my proletariat pretensions and try my hand at the financial world. After all, as the legend goes, money is the root of all evil but also the cure for all sadness.

It was NatWest that was the first recipient of my new ambition, where I joined as financial planning manager, selling pensions, investments, life insurance, mortgages and associated products in a number of local branches. It proved to be something I was rather good at and I managed to move up the ranks to become a personal mortgage adviser, building client relationships to become one of the top 10 salesmen in the region.

I was then promoted to area sales manager for the South-east. Despite being the top area sales manager in 1999, shortly afterwards, NatWest made most of us redundant. I cannot say it was too terrible a loss. By my last year, I was starting to feel more like a taxi driver than a sales manager, driving hundreds of miles around the country for various meetings. It was time for a break.

I made the most of the enforced rest with a couple of months cooling my heels in South East Asia before coming back ready for a new challenge. I joined Hamptons Mortgages as one of its first employees and the second mortgage consultant and have, cliched as it might sound, never looked back.

I began to take on new areas of responsibility such as writing and distributing our best buys, developing and implementing various projects as the business grew while somehow still managing to be the number one salesperson in our first full year of trading.

I was lucky enough to join at an exciting period of development at Hamptons and to benefit from the wise counsel and experience of directors Steve Smith, now at Square Mile, and James Rodea, now at Savills.

Today, my role involves some sales, service issues and product development with lenders, IT and infrastructure and relationships with our estate agency parent group. In addition, I have the dubious honour of being the “face of Hamptons” with the press, writing regularly for trade titles, offering comment to nationals and helping to build our profile with lenders and the public. I work closely with our managing director, Kevin Duffy, who despite his love of Arsenal (I am a Spurs fan) is a much respected figure in the mortgage industry.

I got married in 2003 and luckily my wife is understanding about the long working hours and the terrible strain of being a social butterfly. She is busy studying for ACCA so in truth probably prefers me to be out and about rather than making a racket at home.

I may not have had a hit album or stolen the show at Glastonbury but my job is fantastic fun and I reckon the hospitality could give any backstage party a run for its money.

Business dinners and press lunches may have conspired to add four stone to my bulk since I first joined but at least I get to enjoy a great steak on a regular basis.

Jonathan Cornell is technical director at Hamptons Mortgages

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