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Turn the tables

The decision in my house as to which Saturday evening reality show to watch is easy. One programme features self-absorbed judges with limited credentials of their own assessing vulnerable young wannabes, the other contains judges well qualified to make constructive remarks on the performances of contestants who are more relevant than their actual assessors.

I make this point as context for my increasing frustration with the network tables periodically printed in the trade press. Just what is the point of them?
It could be argued that they provide comparative data on the size of the networks and therefore are helpful for brokers looking to enter the profession or move from one host to another. But herein lies the paradox – since when was size a virtue in this regard?

The expression “too big to fail” has now entered our corporate lexicon. And as a number of lenders disappeared, so too did some notable networks. Network Data, Mortgage Times and Home of Choice are just three that used to espouse and proliferate these network tables.

Brokers looking to move should be addressing issues of solvency and value for money, not size. Anecdotally, I know some of the surviving networks are still losing more than £50,000 a month and no doubt there will be resultant M&A activity for these after Christmas when the lenders or insurance companies propping them up finally lose patience.

Brokers should be free to discreetly view a network’s audited figures to glean some important facts, including what its directors earn. That would satisfy a golden rule that the biggest earners at a network should be its most successful brokers.

Finally, these tables make blurred distinctions between precisely what proportion of a network’s members are investment or mortgage-slanted. Some also detail firms as opposed to sole traders. Solid networks such as Legal & General and Mortgage Intelligence will therefore appear lower in some than is genuinely the case, defeating the point of ranking by population.

It is a shame. Many networks remain intelligently run and are not the narcissists others have become.

Kevin Duffy is managing director of Mortgageforce

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