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The Interview

Calling a spade a spade

Why should anyone care what Mortgageforce MD Kevin Duffy has to say? Sarah Davidson discovers it might just be because he knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t beat around the bush

Kevin Duffy is one of those people in the mortgage industry who splits opinion. There are those who love him and those who aren’t quite sure what to make of him. Why? Perhaps because he heads up a 100 broker business and not a 1,000 broker one: not huge in the scheme of things. But like the man himself, Mortgageforce punches above its weight.

“Our industry features some alleged wise men with their own opinions but how many of these suits have actually been a broker themselves or ever bet some of their own ranch on their business succeeding?” questions Duffy. “Their opinions are no more weighty than that of our one man band in Macclesfield.” Duffy, 45, has been in the mortgage industry for 18 years on both sides of the fence. He started at NatWest on its inimitable grad scheme and then switched sides to become a broker. He has worked his way up through brokers John Charcol, Savills, Hamptons and Robert Sterling and in 2009 took over Mortgageforce as managing director. “I don’t go out of my way to be an industry character and I think that might be more other people’s perception than mine,” he says. “But I’m willing to admit I might be different from the stereotypical industry managing director – I try to tell it the way it is and I like to have fun.” Indeed he does know how to have fun. At last year’s Mortgageforce conference he staged a full on talent show styled on X-Factor with heckling of the poor brokers singing for survival positively encouraged. Not your average black tie sit down do. And each and every

member seemed to have a ball. “Too often in this industry people have to wear masks, play politics or keep their guard up,” says Duffy. “I don’t get that – I just think that people should see you for what you are and if they like you they’ll do business with you and if they don’t, they won’t. But the pool is large enough that you can still be a success.”

STANDING OUT Doing things differently is par for Duffy’s course. Indeed, he has reconfigured Mortgageforce into what is neither a mortgage network nor a club exclusively. “I cut a lot of deadwood adrift. We are ambitious but I wouldn’t want to grow to over 120 brokers,” he says. “The size we are allows me to run a tight ship and I’m able personally to go and see every one of those businesses every six months.” The Mortgageforce model is less

prescriptive than other industry models, explains Duffy. “Our brokers wanted that flexibility. They can be a limited company, an appointed rep or a straightforward adviser.

“People can develop their own brand identity; we’re not over-judgemental about working hours, where they work or their lender usage. So long as their processes and advice is totally compliant.

Duffy’s top three... Aldermore Clydesdale

Abbey for Intermediaries

...and suffering from averagitis Lloyds Banking Group Royal Bank of Scotland

40 MORTGAGE INTRODUCER FEBRUARY 2012 “Some businesses by contrast are

more precious around the partners brokers can deal with. We probably couldn’t operate this model with 300 advisers, it would be impractical.” He seems pretty fixed on the business staying in the 90 to 120 AR scale - interesting when all around networks are merging to profit out of cost cutting and volume generated margins. “Someone would have to articulate

a compelling case to me to persuade me that the traditional network model is satisfactorily profitable and makes more than just a hill of beans given the running costs involved,” says Duffy. “Formerly, some networks were underpinned by gratuitous marketing budgets from insurance providers and even lenders. That icing isn’t on the cake anymore and those businesses have had to rethink their core business models as a result.” Duffy doesn’t think consolidation of networks is over either, though he maintains Mortgageforce won’t be swallowed up. “That’s not in our plans. What sets us apart is our own identity which is empowered by significant lead generation partnerships with the likes of Bradford & Bingley, West Brom and several other affinity partners,” explains Duffy. The West Brom relationship is probably the most cherished as it remains a supportive minority shareholder in Duffy’s business.

HOW WE GOT HERE In May 2010 Mortgageforce reported losses of £239,800 for the year ending

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