When you talk to Danny Belton, head of lender relationships at L&G Mortgage Club, it’s easy to see why he’s one of the most popular figures in the mortgage industry.
With a penchant for wine and cheese that he inherited from his father, who was instrumental in guiding him into a career in financial services, to his love of rugby, cycling and table tennis – not ping pong – everything about him is modest and understated.
Leaving school at seventeen and taking on a role managing the newsagents where he previously had his paper round, his story is one of hard work, a lot of inspirational bosses and colleagues and a continuous desire to learn and challenge himself.
After a year at the newsagents his rugby coach at Sutton and Epsom rugby club, who was a Nat West branch manager, put an application form in front of him for a job in his local branch.
The application was successful, not least because he had a ‘propensity for numbers’, and so started a career in financial services that has spanned more than 30 years and seen him be a constant and instrumental part in growing the L&G Mortgage Club from lending £1bn in its second year (1997) to £65bn in 2017.
“I moved to L&G after two or three years with the bank, a girlfriend worked there and suggested I should join, so I did,” he explains.
His first role with L&G was setting up direct debits in the pensions team before he moved into the commission department dealing with queries from brokers.
“We set up a commissions helpline, it was the first real contact I had with the broker world and I enjoyed the external exposure, there were six or seven of us and we were taking 100 calls a day. It was a great role and added value to the customer experience,” he says.
Then in 1995 L&G started its Mortgage Club. The brainchild of Robin Phipps the theory went that if it could work with lenders to bring benefits to brokers they were more likely to recommend L&G protection, investment and pension products.
And it worked. In its second year £1bn was lent through the Club. Danny took over the team managing the Club’s procuration fee payments to brokers in December 97 – it was his first experience of the mortgage market, but he saw it as a good opportunity to progress and grow.
“We had a lender panel of about 20, it was still a new concept, but the performance was impressive. A few years in we wanted to grow the volumes and introduced procurement fee payments on exchange of contracts to help brokers with their cashflow, it was and still is one of the unique selling points of the Club,” he explains.
When the payments team moved to Cardiff Danny stayed in Kingswood and took on the role of operations manager for the Club. It marked the start of a more strategic approach to lender relationships, working more closely and sharing data.
“John Cupis he had a really strong profile in the mortgage industry and reported into Stephen Smith, who is an industry legend. When John left Stephen took over the mantle and that was the point that my outlook and self-belief changed. He showed an absolute belief in me and the team.
“Stephen’s trust and faith allowed us to develop and challenge ourselves for the benefit of the Club. He recruited Ben Thompson who quickly became a strong industry figure – he’s a fantastic person and along with the faith Stephen had shown in us developed us into the team we are today,” says Danny.
Stephen and Ben successfully steered the team through the crash, which is a time Danny looks back on with affection. “We were all on a journey together, everyone was there to help and support each other and it felt like a family, we were constantly learning and developing for the benefit of our customers.”
Ben Thompson handed the baton over to Jeremy Duncombe who from the strong foundations laid down, successfully led the Club through arguably its most successful years. “Jeremy was yet another strong figurehead that lead from the front, yet he allowed the team to grow and develop into the strong unit we are today, and seen by many as thought leaders in the industry.” says Danny.
The latest addition to the team is Kevin Roberts who transferred from L&G. Danny says he’s the first head of the Club that doesn’t have a mortgage background.
“He’s bringing new ideas, his experience in technology in the general insurance market marks a new period of learning and expansion, we’re openly talking about the ‘frictionless mortgage journey’,” he says.
And it’s the pursuit of the frictionless mortgage journey using technology that is the new challenge for Danny: “We’ve had companies like habito enter the market and use technology to disrupt what’s been seen as the norm, these early adopters may not be the ultimate solution, but it has opened people’s eyes to what is possible – and that’s a good thing.”