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We Are All Critics Now

10th November 2009

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Forgive me people for I have sinned! It has been far too long since my last confession, sorry, I mean blog post! In the meantime I have been through quite a bit, what with turning 40 yesterday (I know I don’t look it), and experiencing the general ups and downs of life and the mortgage industry, (more in a separate posting).

I have been paying alot of attention to the mortgage and financial press as you would expect, reading with both amusement, hearty agreement and utter despair some of the comments with regards to FSA regulation, self-certification, the behaviour of lenders and brokers, the proposed breakup up of some of our much maligned banking institutions, whilst also watching the pleasing plethora of new rates flooding the market.

There is one overwhelming thing that keeps rearing its head in almost every article I read – criticism. As one of my colleagues here said to me the other day, don’t you think everyone is now a critic? It has become too easy to judge everyone else and criticise their views, opinions and decisions, often vehemently and without thinking.

In the national press and on our TV’s criticism is everywhere, it is the new national obsession. Every weekend we each become expert singers, dancers and ice skaters, shaking our heads and muttering over every slight missed note or crooked arm, not bothering to think how difficult it may be for some kid who has never performed in public before trying to sing a legendary song that most so called “stars” would mime their way through. Oh and by the way, what the hell is she wearing?

This passes through into our industry and spills out into our articles. It almost seems that we have lost the power of empathy, or the art of civilised discussion. It seems too easy to simply comment via criticism.

I am not saying that each of us receiving “constructive” criticism is not a good thing, of course it is when it is done in the right way. Mostly, however, the easy quote is not done that way.

How about the FSA’s new proposals? Mr Boulger in his blog produced a passionate, yet reasoned argument about how the FSA had misunderstood the issues. Yes some of it was incendiary, but some of the comments it produced verged on just plain vindictive. (Before I defend the guru, let me just point out that he is guilty of some of his own unthinking criticism himself which perhaps he should take note of, but I’m an understanding chap! Is that criticism?)

One particular quote mentioned the word “dinosaur” and a few that all those who wanted a self-cert loan were “liars”. Hardly a well-reasoned response. Who else in our industry would spot some of the flaws in the FSA’s work or have the balls for that matter to publically raise it?

As an industry under threat we should be working together, not just taking any opportunity to criticise each other. Personally I believe that fast track should be banned rather than a well-documented self-certification product.

What about lenders? Do they really owe brokers a living? Many of them have supported us well for years and when they need a bit of understanding as they battle for their own survival, just blindly criticising their every move helps no one.

I see a lot of moaning, a lot of blaming instead of looking internally and changing attitudes. I saw the inspirational Paul Merrigan talk the other day, and he recited a famous JFK quote that has never been so apt.

“For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

So, to unashamedly quote Fleetwood Mac, (having watched a documentary about them boy they have had their ups and downs, but are still going strong), we should not stop thinking about tomorrow. We need to look to the future and start being positive with each other, remember how to empathise, to argue passionately, but constructively. And, most of all, to remember that it is a singing competition Simon !

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Andrew Montlake

About Monty

Andrew Montlake, Director and Spokesperson for Coreco, gives his honest and forthright views on the mortgage market, economy and all things property related. Monty was voted "Mortgage Personality of the year 2008", "Best Press Spokesperson" in 2011 and is the current holder of the British Mortgage Awards “Best Marketeer” title. Expect expert analysis, delivered in a down to earth style with a side helping of exuberance.