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Robert Clifford

Lives: Belper, Derbyshire.

Born: March 9, 1968 in Nottingham.

Age: 33.

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

Mortgage Force.

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&#39s perceptive” – John Malone, national mortgage manager,

Scottish Amicable.

W ho says there&#39s 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&#39t 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&#39ve got to have a gimmick” –

Clifford&#39s 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&#39s

direction, but it is obvious that he does not believe Namba will fit the

bill.

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

defeatist.

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&#39t 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

skills.”

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&#39s not

really a farm per se, it&#39s more of a barn conversion – it has &#39farm&#39 in the

address though, does that count?” No, it doesn&#39t. 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.

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