Scottish lender plans move into England

First Mortgage targets north of England for expansion

Ian McGrailFirst Mortgage, the largest independent mortgage provider in Scotland, is expanding into England as part of an ambitious development programme.

The Edinburgh-based company, which has built an extensive network north of the border, has hired a manager for its first office in Manchester which will be the first of a number of  branches in cities in the north of England.

The move comes after a period of rapid expansion and growth in Scotland which has seen the company provide around 7,100 clients with just shy of £1 billion in in the last financial year, equivalent to almost 20 mortgages every day.

Director Ian McGrail, formerly of Standard Life, is confident the current year will see that figure exceed £1 billion for the first time.

Outlining the thinking behind the expansion programme south of the border he said: “We already have a presence through a franchise operation in Newcastle which has proved highly successful and has seen the operator there double its mortgage market penetration in just four years.

“We also secure business down south through a network of call centres.

“But this will be our first branch presence and we are keen to retain full control of the business as we expand.

“Manchester has been chosen as it fits well with our existing successful model in Scotland which has proved to be so successful and where business has doubled in recent years through enormous growth in the mortgage market.”

First Mortgage now employs more than 100 staff, including 55 specialist advisers servicing a network of 10 Scottish branches including four in Edinburgh, a 5,000 sq ft base in Glasgow,  two branches in Aberdeen and a presence in Dundee, Kirkcaldy and Falkirk.

Mr McGrail said: “A full management infrastructure has been established to cope with the growth of the company with five sales managers, four supervisors and a training and development manager.

“All our advisors are employed full-time by the company unlike many firms in the market where advisors are self-employed. We believe this is the best way and helps maintain standards of service.”

In recent years, the company has pinpointed key market sectors on which it focuses special attention, according to sales and operations director Antony Stackhouse, a former senior executive with Legal & General.

He said: “We concentrate especially on on the first and second time buyer and also on the new build sector.”

First Mortgage specialises in providing mortgages, remortgages and mortgage protection plans, regardless of a customer’s financial background including those with bad credit histories.

Mr McGrail says the new Manchester operation will focus initially on servicing first and second time buyers.

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