We couldn't have done it without him

I wanted to take this opportunity to write about John Coffield, particularly the massive contribution he has made to Paradigm over the past 14 years.

We couldn't have done it without him

Bob Hunt is chief executive of Paradigm Mortgage Services

There’s that old adage that you know when you’re getting on a bit because the police officers start to look younger than you.

Perhaps the next stage of that, certainly from a work point of view, is that your colleagues and peer group begin to retire – those individuals that have played an integral part in your working life, who have moved from being fellow employees to friends, who have been with you on large parts of the journey decide that it’s time to take their leave and move off into a different part of their life free from work.

Which has certainly been the case for us at Paradigm recently with the news that our head of mortgages, John Coffield, will be leaving the business and retiring at the end of August this year.

We’ve obviously known this was coming for a number of months and we’ve been able to plan and prepare accordingly, and we get John for a few more months yet so he’ll be able to play a huge part in handing over to our new director of mortgages, Richard Howes, who joins us in mid-July.

However, I wanted to take this opportunity to write about John, particularly the massive contribution he has made to Paradigm over the last 14 years and the fact that, quite literally, we couldn’t have done any of this without him.

As I say, John and I have been working on the Paradigm proposition together since 2007 and clearly part of the reason why I wanted to work with him was his huge experience in, and knowledge of, mortgage distriubtion – he was heading up TMA before joining us – and the great range of adviser and lender relationships he already had in place.

Indeed there were few other people in the sector who were anywhere near John’s level and we both realised very early on that we could build a new kind of distributor, with a unique element to it.

One that was a very far way removed from the ‘sticker clubs‘ that advisers were having to put up with, one that delivered ongoing value and was based on quality, one that gave member firms a stake in the business, and one that was a true partnership, working for all stakeholders whether adviser, lender or provider.

I recall those very early days when we had just launched and we were doing a round of media interviews with trade publications like Mortgage Introducer in order to introduce the proposition and what we were going to achieve. There was a great deal of interest of course because it had this new element and we were in a period where the mortgage market was booming and there appeared to be plenty of opportunities to reshape distribution for advisory firms.

Within, what seemed like, a matter of days however there were queues outside Northern Rock, the Credit Crunch had begun, we were sliding towards bail-outs and recessions, and John and I couldn’t help but think of that old gag, ‘What’s the secret of comed...?‘ ‘Timing‘.

But the two of us are nothing if not optimistic and we believed we had something special with Paradigm and that, people would continue to need mortgage finance, quality advisers would find a way like they always have, lenders would begin to lend again, the market would heal with time, and there would be a space for a distribution business that worked hard for all. And that proved to be the case.

There’s no doubt there have been some major moves in our favour certainly over the last decade – I’m thinking of MMR in particular – but also, even in these most challenging of times, the housing and mortgage market continues to perform strongly, it grows in complexity and the need for advice remains a constant, albeit one we should not take for granted.

As we grew as a business more important matters took over. John underwent 12 months of treatment of cancer – to say it was serious would be an understatement but he, and his family, faced it with the type of positivity and strength that I’m not sure many other people would have been able to show. It was a very long road but, once again, we were all delighted to see him overcome his illness and to return to work as enthused as ever.

That energy, drive, good humour and every other positive quality you might wish to list has been the bedrock of our organisation for many years since. We are a small team and I know every single one of us will miss not having John with us, even if lately it’s only been possible to communicate via Zoom or Teams.

When John made the announcement of his retirement, I took a quick look at some of the comments and messages he was receiving on LinkedIn and Twitter. Many echoed the same sentiments – that John was a true gentleman, one of the industry’s good guys, nice, honest, a pleasure to work with, would be sorely missed, etc. Comments that I concur with wholeheartedly.

Cunningly, it would seem that his children and grandchildren have contrived to live at opposite ends of the country, so it would seem he and his wife, Mary, will be spending a lot of their time in retirement travelling around the UK – something I know he is looking forward to.

We get to keep him for the next few months and then he will be free to do as he wishes. Everyone at Paradigm is incredibly sad to see him go but at the same time we are incredibly lucky to have had him on our team and we wish him and his family a very long and happy retirement. Cheers John, it’s been an absolute pleasure.