My Bradford and Bingley mortgage
I have had a Bradford and Bingley mortgage since 1983. And I am getting slightly angry about my current image.
Am I a buy-to-let borrower, who has self-certified wildly inflated assets and an improbable salary, and is just about to walk away from my buy-to-let property rather than keep up the mortgage payments I could never have afforded anyway? Not I’m not. I was an old fashioned B and B saver, who bought her first flat in London 25 years ago, traded up in Cambridge when she met her husband and then again 15 years ago.
I went through all the old fashioned questions they used to put to you about your assets, and I didn’t fib. After all they got in touch with your employer, so how could you tell a whopper?
When demutualization came in 2000 we voted against it, in what was a hard-fought battle with the carpet baggers who wanted to turn the B and B into a bank. We weren’t great economic geniuses, but it didn’t take much common sense to see that the interests of most savers and investors were better off with a mutual. How could they not have been? Though Mr Brown was hardly in evidence then, when we needed him. He was all in favour of the demutualisation, wasn’t he?
So why did we stay with the B and B after that?
Simple. Because the staff were wonderful and they had always been nice to us, at the counter.
I’m not quite sure how the B and B did it. But unlike the Halifax, which put up security grilles and taught their staff to growl at all-comers, the B and B taught their staff to be nice to you – across a counter where there was no wire fence separating the cashier from the customer.
For a time, when we were extending our house, we went into the local branch a lot withdrawing money to pay the builders. They ended up inviting us to their Christmas party.
Only a few months ago, on some earlier bit of bad news, I was in there – rather guiltily -- withdrawing some of my paltry savings in a fit of anxiety. I witnessed exactly the kind of service that had kept me loyal.
An elderly lady (by which I mean a good bit older than me) had come in to withdrew all of her cash. It became obvious from the conversation that she had more than one option. She had planned an instant withdrawal, which would clearly have lost her a lot of money. The other option, which she had not considered, was some kind of transfer, which would have freed her from the B and B, but kept her accumulated interest. The cashier, no doubt risking her job (I imagine they are forbidden from giving this kind of advice) was not trying to persuade her to keep her money in the B and B, but to consider better ways of leaving…. She was kind and patient in the face of near hysteria; and eventually the old lady left, to ring up her financial advisor and get some help.
It was just like the old mutual B and B, which we should never have lost.
Meanwhile, if anyone would like to give me some suggestions about my mortgage I now have with the government (or is it Northern Rock?), about one fifth the value of my house, with 10 years to run, I’d be very grateful.