What has happened to Mike Blackburn’s Halifax?


Released  2nd October 2008  

Summary: In the UK most of the former building societies that converted to banks, have been taken over. One such bank is HSBOS that was formed partly from the growth of the Halifax under the era of it's Chief Executive Mike Blackburn

Following the events within financial institutions in the UK in late September 2008, Philip Suter of jml insurance looks back at working for Yorkshire based building societies who later became banks and what could happen to the HSBOS estate agency chain in the future.

In the early 1980's Banks, Building Societies and some insurance companies started buying up estate agents throughout Britain. The objective was to have a vehicle to sell their mortgage products. Building societies took advantage of the 1986 Building Societies Act which meant they could diversify their activities into estate agency, share selling and off shore banking.

They invested heavily in this, making a lot of estate agents very wealthy overnight. In most cases they bought the trading name. This would have been very well known in the local area, however organisations like Prudential Insurance and the Halifax Building Society thought customers would naturally use these estate agents more if they took on the identity of the parent company.

Philip Suter who now heads jml-insurance.co.uk was running the residential letting office for a firm of agents with offices in south Bucks, west Middlesex and east Berks - Frank Farr and Sons and the agency was sold to the Leeds Permanent Building Society.

 Like other building societies the Leeds set up a limited company to run it's estate agency arm. Their policy however was not to remove the trading names they had purchased. Some of these went back to the 1800s like Frank Farr and Gale and Power.

   As in 2008, because of the housing market and then negative equity problems many more estate agents would have gone out of business had they not had the building societies and banks behind them.

  The Leeds Permanent was run by Chief Executive Mike Blackburn who had previously worked for Lloyds Bank and Philip Suter remembers meeting him and hearing him speak at a couple of staff meetings; he was most impressive character and leader of the business.

In 1993 he moved to the Halifax Building Society as Chief executive.

Two years later in August 1995, under Mike Blackburn's leadership the larger Yorkshire based Halifax Building Society merged with the smaller Yorkshire based Leeds Permanent Building Society.

Although portrayed as a "merger", the Leeds name was soon phased out with new name being "the Halifax". It was like a typical marriage, the groom retained the name, whilst the bride lost her one!.

 Property Leeds UK Ltd became absorbed into Halifax Estate Agents Ltd. Although some re-branding in the estate agency names to Halifax took place, there are still names within the Halifax Estate Agency network that have retained their original names including the firm Philip Suter worked.

 In 1997 under Mike Blackburn's leadership, the society converted to a Plc. Mike Blackburn retired from the Halifax the following year.

In 2001 Halifax Plc merged with the Bank of Scotland and became HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland) becoming the fifth largest financial services company in the UK.


All appears to have gone well till 2008, they have retained the estate agency division although much smaller than in the mid 1990's and sold off the residential lettings business only to start it up again a while later.

Unlike most of the other former building societies and banks who have pulled out of the estate agency business the past few years as they have been able to sell their mortgage and insurance products without the costs of running estate agents, the HBOS group has kept theirs.

Now in October 2008, it looks very likely HBOS will become part of Lloyds TSB and they will naturally be looking at costs and services and sell off Halifax Estate Agents as they sold off their "Black Horse Agencies" and TSB Property Services many years ago. This will be the closing chapter of the great estate agency buyout from over twenty years ago.

There have been a lot of changes in the financial industry in the last twenty years or so and a lot more changes will happen in the next.

Company Information

jml Insurance.co.uk is part of jml Property Services, the trading name of Jeffrey Milner Ltd. The company is an UK based company that was established in 1979. jml insurance acts as an introducer for insurance companies selling property insurance including HomeLet landlord and tenant rental products, pet insurance, wedding insurance, motor insurance, insurance4carhire car hire excess insurance, travel insurance and non standard insurance products. They also operate jmlvillas.com an online marketing service for owners of holiday home property to advertise and are part of the jml Group that includes jml Training and Consultancy

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