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London Money: Looking for a revolution


Martin Stewart

For my first Loan Talk column, let me start with a story.

My first job was as a checkout operator for a supermarket chain. This was 1987 and I was the first male in the area to hold such a position. There were 27 checkouts and come the Friday 6pm ‘big shop’ rush, all the tills would have long queues of people patiently waiting to be served.

All except mine. Why?

Quite simply, because I was a teenage boy amid a sea of women. People would look straight through me as they joined the line at other checkouts, happy to waste their time rather than come to my till. Others would pretend to not see me at all. The worst were those who started to unpack their shopping, only to remove it from the conveyor belt and head for another till, once they realised a man would see their shopping.

I reacted by writing anonymous letters to management, pointing out the unfairness of the situation and bravely posting them secretly under their door. I can’t pretend they were works of great literature, even though I quoted Marx, Lenin and Che Guevara (I was spending a lot of time in the library back then). I told management that a bloodless revolution was required to fix the discrimination I was suffering.

Fast forward 30 years and no one bats an eyelid at who scans their groceries. See, I was ahead of my time even then.

And the relevance of this to the mortgage and second charge market?

I was looking for a revolution back then, and I’ve not stopped since. Now, as I sit here today, I believe I’ve found my cause.

I see unfairness in our industry in both the first and second charge market. I see cartels operating to the detriment of the hands that feed them – brokers. There are too many empires and closed shops with bloated expense accounts and car parks full of expensive motors. I see seclusion, separation and favouritism.

This, comrades, is where I will plant my flag in the sand.

And who shall I recruit into this army to be a force for good and drive change? Why you, my fellow brokers.

It is you, as much as anyone, who keep the wheels of this great industry turning. We need a voice so our opinions can be heard. The time is ripe for change and the field needs to be levelled. Remember it is us, the brokers, who have brought the ball for others to play with.

We’re living in a populist era where change now appears to be the new normal. So why don’t we, as an industry, embrace this and get brokers sharing best practice and helping one another? Let us think peer to peer, work closer together and collectively become what we always should have been – a cohesive force that the industry would be wise to listen to.

If you’re wondering how my supermarket career ended, I’ll tell you – badly. I got so bored I resorted to guessing the prices for those goods with no price label. A customer complained, as they thought they’d been overcharged. In fact, I had undercharged them. Still, the cat was out of the bag and I was banished to the warehouse with a broom and a sense of injustice – which still resonates today.





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