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Steve Haggerty

Steve Haggerty, the new managing director of Skipton Building Society, is not short of ambition. This is the man who took Homeloan Management’s assets from £5.2bn tomore than £50bn in just five years and now he wants to see Skipton as the UK’s third-biggest building society.

He says: “I do believe in setting fairly hairy targets for the consumption of the staff and external consumption. We are in it for the long haul and want to be a major player in the market, and that means we need to be in the top three.”

Skipton is currently the sixth-biggest society, based on group assets of £10.5bn, and to achieve the goal of third place and knock Yorkshire off the number threespot, that figure would have to double.

Although he will not commit toa timeframe, Haggerty’s ambition is anchored by a pragmatic approach and35 years of building society experience. Despite the slowdown in the housing market, he thinks now is the time for mutuals to grow and he sees opportunities arising.

Haggerty is enthusiastic about Skipton’s future. He wants to shrug off the “sluggish and dull” reputation associated with building societies and for customersto see that they can be dynamic.

Skipton is, in his words, “a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing”. It continues to meetthe interests of a mutual but Haggerty will nurture the more competitive nature of banking finance in its internal workings.

The society received the same number of mortgage applications for January this year as in 2007 but Haggerty does expect to see a decline in the number of approvals.

He predicts that we will see a drop inthe amount of 75 per cent to 80 per cent loan to value mortgages that are granted because the collapse of the sub-prime market in the US has shaken UK confid-ence and he says Skipton will focuson prudent lending.

Haggerty plans to improve other partsof the Skipton business. “What we call counter-cyclical businesses in the group, such as Skipton Information, a credit-referencing agency, and Skipton Business Finance, and increasing the network of IFAs. All of which keep doing well whenthe housing and mortgage market are doing less well.”

IFAs are important for Skipton and itis aiming to continue to buildnew relationships with advisers.

The current business environment hasa lot in common with the time Haggerty began his career in financial services. Instead of heading off to university to study English in the hope of becominga journalist, the winter of 1973 saw Haggerty decide to get a foot on the career ladder. He took a position with Bristol & West as a management trainee at time when, like now, oil prices were rising and the markets were suffering. He became mortgage controller in 1990 and then moved to Skipton to help with Homeloan Management when it was starting.

After five years, Haggerty became operations director and by 2000 was managing director. In 2006, he was appointed group commercial director, looking after a number of Skipton’s businesses until the beginning of this year, when he took on the role of managing director of the building society.

Haggerty has plans to take Skipton into the growing equity release sector. He says: “Equity release and sharedequity schemes are both in the development bucket.”

He believes that both of these sectors are essentially mutual products and belong ina building society’s armoury. Haggerty has been looking at products that help people maintain their quality of life after retirement and also helping younger people getting into the housing market.

“It is all about timing and the current market is not great for launching new products and concepts. My son had to geta shared equity mortgage and he would not have been able to afford to buyin London without that product being available so I have had first-hand experience of how valuable they are.”

Haggerty lives by the motto “life’s nota rehearsal and you only get one shot at it” and this helps to keep him enthusiasticand motivated.

He is looking forward to a hands-on role. “To get back into a job where I have the totality of the thing at my fingertipsand shape it the way I like it is exciting.”

Born: Bristol

Lives: Harrogate

Education: Hartcliffe Comprehensive

Career: 1990 to date: Skipton Group; 1973-90: Bristol & West

Likes: Poetry, Italy and fine wine

Dislikes: Most TV and the cult of celebrity

Drives: Jaguar XJ6 Sports

Book: Crow by Ted Hughes

Film: The Godfather

Album: Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan

Career ambition: To run the biggestbuilding society

Life ambition: To own a property in The Circus in Bath

If I wasn’t doing this I would be…An aspiring playwright/poet

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