Lives: Belper, Derbyshire.
Born: March 9, 1968 in Nottingham.
Education: South East Derbyshire College,A Level Maths, Psych-ology,
Theatre Studies and Art. FPC1,2,3, Cemap.
Career: Marketing manager Advance Mortgage Systems 1989, director of
mortgage services at Whitechurch Securities 1991, partner then managing
director of MP between 1992 to 1997, group managing director for
Bishopscourt Financial Holdings between 1997 and 2000 and managing director
Career ambition:I would like to be recognised as an innovator and pioneer
in mortgage broking.
Life ambition: I would like to be content in every important aspect of my
life and satisfied with what I have done with my career.
Likes: Theatre,travel, food and wine.
Dislikes: Arrogance and rude people.
Car: Mercedes ML3 4×4.
Peers say: “He's perceptive” – John Malone, national mortgage manager,
W ho says there's no place for luvvies in mortgage broking?
Things could have been very different for Mortgage Force managing director
Robert Clifford. A reality check early on in his “semi-professional” stage
career saw him leave the world of air-kissing in favour of broking. “I
could have followed it as a vocation but it is difficult to sustain a
living in theatre. Thankfully, reality took over and I got a job that paid.”
That said, however, it is with a tinge of regret in his voice that
Clifford remarks on how some of his contemporaries from the Derby Playhouse
have made it to the West End. The self-professed “musical man” didn't make
it any further than Derbyshire. He says he got great reviews all the same.
Drawing particular praise was his rendition of Seymour in The Little Shop
of Horrors, although he was put out at being described as a “young Woody
Allen” in a review in the Derbyshire press.
Mustering inspiration from the classic musical Gypsy Rose Lee, you find
that even when it comes to mortgages “you've got to have a gimmick” –
Clifford's is agenda-setting.
Along with fellow MCCB board directors Jim Gaskin and Dave Seviour, it is
understood that he is setting up a rival to the proposed National
Association of Mortgage Brokers and Advisers. Clifford will not confirm
this but he does say that if another trade body emerges with the support
and interest of the intermediaries, that is non-profit-making and has a
wholly democratic management structure then it will be a success. He will
also not be drawn to pointing the finger in any specific trade body's
direction, but it is obvious that he does not believe Namba will fit the
He is on a crusade to champion the cause of the mortgage intermediary,
whom he feels has not had a real voice. “My ticket on to the MCCB board was
being the representative of the smaller intermediaries. The sector is
extremely disparate and is very much a cottage industry. It still needs a
lot of cleaning up.” Looking down the list of MCCB-registered
intermediaries, it becomes clear he has his work cut out for him. “It is a
massive market made up of oneto three-man operations. This makes it very
difficult to organise it and point in the same direction.”
It is a difficult task further compounded by what Clifford describes as
the “really unfortunate apathy” in the broker market. But he is not
The 33-year-old believes the way forward for him and Mortgage Force, the
franchise network of mortgage brokers, is being a UK leader. “There is a
vacuum in terms of mortgage broking branding. There isn't a brand around
that consumers recognise as truly national.”
M ortgage Force started a franchisee recruitment drive back in March, the
fruits of which are now seen in its 32 franchise branches across the UK.
“Eight months after we got investors on board, I was surprised that no one
had emulated our model.” He concedes that a couple have started to use
franchising as a business model (MGM and Dunbar, for example) but is
adamant that Mortgage Force still lacks any direct competition. In three to
six months time, however, he thinks that could all change. “I would expect
to see a large, successful, regional business transpose itself to a
national franchise or perhaps a lender do the same.”
Without a hint of irony, Clifford says he has been able to draw on his
acting experience to help him swell the ranks at Mortgage Force.
When pressed on exactly how, he says anything that involves relationship
management calls on good presentation skills. “Theatre gives you those
The last time this mortgage man put his thespian skills to the test on the
stage was back in 1996 when he graced the boards of the Derby Playhouse
with his take on the only straight man in La Cage aux Folles – all the
other characters being transvestites.
Nottingham-born and bred, Clifford lives with his wife and young son just
around the corner from where he grew up. He comes across as confident
without being arrogant – a trait he says he hates in others – and only one
question manages to throw him.
Quiz him on why his preferred mode of transport is a 4×4, when driving
around Derby could hardly be described as offroading, Clifford tries the “I
live on a farm” line. But he folds when probed further. “Well, it's not
really a farm per se, it's more of a barn conversion – it has 'farm' in the
address though, does that count?” No, it doesn't. So what is the real
reason then? Clifford, fighting shy of 5ft 7in, admits the real attraction
for the 4×4 is sitting high above everybody else. “Ok, I like it for the
driving position, I can look down on the other road users.” Perhaps that is
why making the first move and watching your competitors play catch up
appeals or why the elevated boards of the stage proved so alluring.