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The MM Profile: David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth finds introductions at parties somewhat difficult. When the question, “What do you do?” crops up, Hollingworth find his response of “mortgages” tends to send people running for the door.

But Hollingworth says it is not long before the taboo of a 30-year debt reels people back.

“People’s eyes glaze over when you tell them you work for a mortgage broker,” he says.

“They say ‘oh right’ but two minutes later they are coming back to you and asking what is happening with house prices and they want to know what good deals are in the market.”

Hollingworth, 35, started out as a mortgage broker in 1999 after opting for a shift in career following five years as a general manager with theatre and concert group Apollo Leisure, which was bought by SFX Entertainment for £158m shortly before he resigned.

“I enjoyed what I was doing and it was good but after five years I wanted a change and I wanted to try something completely different,” he says.

Hollingworth responded to a newspaper ad for a job at Bath-based mortgage broker London & Country. He was successful and started work as an adviser.

But it was not long before another change was on the way although it was a little more subtle this time around. He took a step sideways, moving from an adviser within L&C to taking on a full-time role as the company’s head of communications.

Hollingworth says: “Pat Bunton (director) was dealing with journalists all the time and I was helping out a bit but gradually it became busier. We were growing and as our name got out there more, we got more and more calls from journalists.”

Hollingworth, who studied law at Manchester University, spends his day fielding media enquiries and setting the public agenda for what he says is the UK’s biggest fee-free mortgage broker. It is a job that involves wining and dining journalists but also relentless calls to his mobile phone at all hours of the day and usually with a deadline looming.

But he enjoys the hectic and unpredictable nature of his role.

“I might plan for a quiet Friday afternoon and that can all be shattered on Friday morning depending on what news is going on,” Hollingworth says.

One of the bigger issues that ate up his time this year was the controversial introduction and ensuing back flip on home information packs.

“I think it was handled very badly by the Government and it was an embarrassing climbdown because the industry had expected it to go ahead and many companies had invested time and money ahead of its introduction,” Hollingworth says.

But making the condition report a voluntary component of Hips is a win for the industry, he says. “It has created debate about whether Hips will make an impact and it is hard to see it having an impact now but there is a big question mark over what will transpire.”

Hollingworth says the whole-of-market mortgage broker has been able to strip out fees to clients because of its low-cost base.

L&C has a similar environment to a call centre, where clients ring their advisers and get advice over the phone. The fee-free strategy is also based on generating higher client volumes.

“Some brokers will charge up to 1 per cent of the mortgage fee, so you can end up with a £1,000 broker fee. But that broker will also get a commission from the lender. Some will rebate that, some with negotiate on the fee. We just don’t charge the fee,” he says. “We do that because we work on the basis of what does the man on the street actually want?

“We work on the fact that people can get the right advice and not pay for it and that brings us higher volumes.”

L&C, which employs about 250 people, is on track to write £3.5bn to £4bn-worth of mortgages, according to Hollingworth.

He notes regulation of the industry will not stymie innovation. “We are already seeing new styles of products come out,” he says.

“The principle of regulation is to make things clear and improve transparency and that has to be a good thing.”

Britain’s soaring house prices are making it tougher for first-home buyers.

In the June quarter, the average house price in England and Wales shot up 7.7 per cent on a year ago to £199,184.

Hollingworth says lenders will have to become more innovative in the products they deliver to the market.

But he points out that a move to interest-only mortgages has the potential to create a negative longer-term impact.

“Interest-only loans could be a time bomb for first-home buyers,” he says. “We are starting to edge toward a generation who are comfortable with having debt as opposed to getting rid of it.

“They have had debt since university, they have credit cards and they have to borrow a hideous amount to buy a house. It is clear that people are not as focused on making sure there is plenty left for their kids to inherit.”

The Manchester United club member bought his first home four-and-a-half years ago in Bath. “Even then it was not an easy market, we were mid-way into the (boom) cycle,” Hollingworth says.

But he says he did not worry at the time whether or not property prices had peaked.

“I honestly think that if you look at it from a longer-term point of view you will do okay.”

Born: July 1971, Rossendale, Lancashire

Lives: Bath

Education: Manchester University Law, York Law School, LSF

Career: 1994-1999: Apollo Leisure Group/SFX, 1999-present: London & Country Mortgages

Likes: Manchester United, tennis, food & drink

Dislikes: Lack of humour

Favourite book: Creator and Trader by Stephen Knight

Favourite film: This is Spinal Tap

Favourite album: The Stone Roses

Hero/heroine: Eric Cantona

Drives: VW Bora

Life ambition: How long can Fergie carry on….?

Career ambition:Honest success with a few laughs along the way

If not doing this job I would be: Unable to meet my mortgage payments

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