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The MM Profile: Tony Jones

Snow White smoking inspired Pink Home Loans managing director to take a new view of service and he is campaigning to rid the adverse sector of the wicked witches while diversifying and building the firm, particularly on the club side and moving into business abroad. Interview by Guy Anker

Snow White changed Tony Jones’s life. Pink Home Loans managing director was working for Nationwide at the time and was on a trip to Disney Studios in the US to learn how the firm served its customers so well.

But on the trip, he came across the sight of Snow off stage enjoying a smoke while chatting to the Wicked Witch. “That horrified me and shattered my illusions,” he jokes. “Disney told me that when on stage the actors have to play their part but they can smoke off stage. That is how I wanted my staff to be. When they were with brokers, they are on stage and play the right role at all times.”

He would like to see unethical mortgage firms off the stage completely. Pink has been running high-profile campaign in the adverse sector which aims to root out dodgy practices.

Jones began in mortgages as a graduate trainee at Nationwide in 1979 and he stayed with the firm for over 20 years before being recruited by Skipton Building Society in 2002 to run Pink.

At Nationwide and Pink, he believes that service was not good enough at both organisations but claims he managed to bring in a new cultures.

“At Nationwide, when I got there, I wanted to gauge brokers’ opinion and I got negative feedback. It was clear that I had to ramp up the service and we worked hard as there was no point asking for business until we got the service right.

“At Pink, our service was not good enough when I started but that has improved a lot. When I joined in 2002 it was known as a packager and I was concerned about whether there was a strong future for packagers. I looked at the business plan and we diversified the business and packaging is now only a small part of the business, as 80 per cent is direct to lender whereas it was the other way round before.

“We help lenders design products and help brokers and I felt we should broaden our offering although packagers still have an important role to play in the market.”

At Pink, Jones’ role can be split in two. First, he is there to grow the business but he also wants to improve market standards and insists he is doing the right thing with the adverse campaign with the slogan, Turning the Adverse World Upside Down.

“I know the adverse campaign was sticking our heads up and taking a risk but it was a job that had to be done. If I can help to provide a more ethical service, then it is something positive.”

In terms of the future for Pink, Jones insists that the freedom he is given, which includes being able to conduct interviews such as this without seeking approval from above – is something he says is not possible at a big lender and gives him personal satisfaction.

Pink has already undergone much change since his arrival but there is more to come. The network side of the business is considering acquisitions although there are none imminent as yet. There are also plans to grow the 200-strong network but not on a major scale as Jones insists that quality rather than quantity is key.

The biggest expected change over the coming years is on technology. “We have online tracking systems and we have advanced technology but we will see major changes in connectivity with mortgage providers and insurance providers.

“The club side is where we are seeing dramatic growth and that will continue. We can also help all the new lenders coming into sub-prime as there are some big names and they will need expertise of players like us for distribution and to provide support. I see a lot of growth in the overseas mortgage market as there are more opportunities and we will see our overseas operation expand.”

The most immediate new initiative will be a template for brokers to use for the thorny issue of financial promotion.

“It is a good set-up as Pink is run autonomously but we are backed up by a big group in Skipton so when, for example, we want to acquire, we have the muscle.

“It is like running your own business but with a lot of clout behind you. When Skipton approached me in late 2001 to take over at Pink, I said no initially but when they sent me the brief, I liked it and I liked the idea of running my own show.”

Lives: Near Stroud in Gloucestershire, married with one son

Career history: 1979-2002, Nationwide; 2002-present Pink Home Loans

Education: Keele University, graduated in 1979, English and history

Likes: most sports such as football, rugby, cricket and golf

Dislikes: Negative people and rubber-neckers

Drives: BMW Sport 5 Series

Favourite book: Autobiographies, last read Nelson Mandela’s

Favourite film: Dead Poet’s Society

Favourite band: Coldplay

Life ambition: To run his own business and achieving work/life balance

What would you do if you were not doing this job: Something in human resources

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