David Hollingworth, associate director of communications at L&C Mortgages gave up a theatre management career to become a mortgage adviser, and has never looked back.
If there were such a thing as a national treasure among mortgage experts, David Hollingworth would be it.
Both a consumer champion and an ambassador for the mortgage industry, Hollingworth has become a stalwart of the personal finance sections of the national press. Few weeks go by when he is not quoted on behalf of the company where he is associate director of communications, L&C.
But his career as a mortgage adviser began partly by chance. After finishing his law degree in 1992 he went on to complete his solicitor exams in York.
But rather than take up a training contract the 46-year-old, who comes from Lancashire and is a Manchester United fan, decided to take up the offer of working for a leisure company, Apollo Leisure, as a theatre manager.
He worked for the company for five years and left just after it was bought out by SFX Entertainment for £158m.
“It was an interesting role. You think you meet a wide range of people in financial services. Well try working in theatre for a while. You meet many interesting types.”
Hollingworth then applied for a job as an adviser at L&C. “I wanted to do something analytical but at the same time work with people, the role seemed to offer both.”
L&C was embarking on an expansion programme and Hollingworth joined along with five other trainee advisers.
At first he was exclusively an adviser, but found himself taking on more media work, helping explain the mortgage market to journalists across the media.
“It was very much a gradual thing though. At first it was occasional and fitted around clients. Then the balance shifted.”
Hollingworth’s popularity among journalists – both trade, national and online – meant he was the ‘go-to’ man when the mortgage market took off in the early noughties.
“It became clear that journalists would move on if you didn’t speak to them when it suited them.”
So Hollingworth became L&C’s communications manager dealing full time with the press. He was, and is, Bath based where he lives with his wife and two sons.
“I appreciate the tight deadlines that journalists have to work to. Things are constantly changing.
Not unlike the mortgage industry.”
He admits that keeping abreast of products and being able to explain them in super-quick time is one of his strengths.
A self-confessed mortgage ‘geek’ he enjoys the challenge of taking something that is important but quite ‘dry’ and putting it into plain and simple terms.
“We want to make mortgages readable and interesting. It is about helping people save money and cutting to the core of what is really interesting. Readers are asking ‘am I better off? it’s about pounds and pence rather than jargon.
Hollingworth has seen many changes in the mortgage industry in the 19 years since he first joined L&C.
“The financial crisis was a challenging time and changed many things. In my job it meant I was being asked to comment on front page stories as well as the personal finance sections.”
“On an industry level it brought on regulation such as the Mortgage Market Review.”
Mortgage broking has also changed. Hollingworth admits it has yet to return to the peak of 2007. “The industry was worth £365bn and it’s certainly not back to that just yet.”
However, the value is now in the advice, and not just the deal.
He explains: “It’s not as easy to get a mortgage so customers appreciate the work and the value of the work that goes into helping them get one.”
But alongside regulation has been the evolution of products. “BTL – is a good example,” says Hollingworth.
“The market keeps on changing, it has undergone several significant changes in the last few years and lenders are having to respond to that.
“Suddenly what was a market that was flying along has had to re-adjust.”
Hollingworth says the entry of more specialised lenders and improved technology will allow borrowers with more unusual income streams to enter the BTL market.
“People do have that inherent trust in bricks and mortar, and lender appetite is still substantial so BTL will be here to stay.”
Hollingworth believes it is important for the future of the mortgage industry that affordability remains paramount. “We don’t want to revert back to 07. Thankfully technology can play a part in improving speed and efficiency, to make sure the market is accessible without compromising on underwriting standards.”