I was a drop-out now I've millions; BIG BOSS OF ONLINE MONEY SUPERMARKET SAYS TIMES WILL GET TOUGH VIEW FROM THE TOP.
THE worldwide credit crunch could tip Britain into a mini recession hitting jobs and house prices, the boss of financial website Moneysupermarket believes.
And Simon Nixon fears the storm could take another two years to blow itself out.
House prices in less prosperous areas are likely to tumble by up to 20 per cent, he warns. But he believes property in the pounds 1million-plus bracket will escape largely unscathed.
The credit squeeze has done little to dent Moneysupermarket's price comparison business to date, claims Nixon.
While loans and mortgage business is flat, demand for other financial products - particularly savings and insurance - are booming.
"I do think we are going to go into a mini-recession but I don't think that will necessarily harm us. We're not recession proof but we are probably better placed to cope than most businesses.
"You could argue price comparison sites really come into their own when times are tough, as they are a way of saving money.
"The biggest obstacle we've had in the past is apathy. People can't be bothered going online to compare prices when they're feeling well-off. It's when they're struggling to cope or have blown their budget they're more likely to search for ways of saving."
Moneysupermarket gets around 90million people a year visiting its website.
And profits jumped by more than half to pounds 53million last year.
The company spent around pounds 50m on advertising last year to help raise its profile and will splash out another pounds 70m this year, despite the economic slowdown.
Nixon is certainly not feeling the squeeze himself. He pocketed pounds 100m when the company he started as a college dropout floated on the stock market last July, just before his 40th birthday.
Nixon, a lifelong fan of Liverpool FC, still owns more than half the company, worth another pounds 340m, and is not coy about his wealth. He admits to having the travel bug and happily hiring a private jet or helicopter to whisk him and his girlfriend away to Majorca or St Tropez or the Lake District.
"I get away about 15 times a year," he says. "Sometimes, it is just a long weekend but I feel the need to recharge my batteries. Hiring a private jet is simply practical.
It's not much more comfortable than flying on easyJet to be honest but it saves a lot of time."
This is vital for someone who remains remarkably driven. "I've never met anyone so focused in my life," says one company insider I quiz on a trip to the firm's HQ in Ewloe, North Wales.
Nixon's life changed when he dropped out of an accountancy course at Nottingham University.
"When I got home, my parents had the Chester Chronicle open at the jobs section," he recalls. He got a job as a mortgage consultant but quickly tired of ringing the banks to check their mortgage rates. So he launched a trade magazine supplying the figures to other consultants.
It was popular but he realised it was too slow and computers were the way forward.
He hooked up with Duncan Cameron, the brother of his then girlfriend, who had just done an IT degree. They launched moneysupermarket in 1999. Nixon, who follows a strict health regime, puts part of his drive down to the fact his mother died when he was in his late teens. Unsurprisingly, it scarred him.
"When your mum dies when you're quite young you feel exposed, vulnerable - as if you've no security in life."
He was also inspired by his uncle Dave, a dental technician. "He had a nice house, a nice car, nice holidays and I thought, 'I'd like that'."
Nixon, whose father was in the RAF, is clearly not working for the money now.
"That's true," he says. "It's partly curiosity, to see how far I can take the business. But it's also fear of failure.
"If I decided to resign now and take a year off I'd feel people would be saying: 'He's failed, he can't cut it any more.'"
SIMON'S TIPS TO BEAT THE CREDIT CRUNCH
1 Get a current account paying over six per cent. The majority of Brits have a current account paying 0.1 per cent or less. Each of the providers of fering six per cent or more have specialist switching teams to make the move easy.
2 Protect your credit rating by not making too many credit applications, making sure your details on the electoral roll are correct and always paying something by the due date. Annualcreditreport.co.uk offers a free credit report each year.
3 Get a credit card with a 0 per cent purchase offer of at least nine months. Invest the money you'd have used to clear the monthly debt and then pay off the total at the end of nine months.
4 Don't spend on any of the major balance transfer credit cards. You will be stung with some nasty interest surprises. Nationwide is the only major credit card that pays off your most expensive debts first.
5 Never get stuck on the SVR (Standard Variable Rate) for your mortgage. The rate is consistently around one per cent more than other mortgages, which can really add up.
6 If you are keen on getting payment protection insurance or travel insurance, never buy it from your provider. Decent savings are possible if you purchase it separately.
7 The Association Of British Insurers says the average person can save 35 per cent by comparing just five different policies for a single type of insurance. Imagine how much you can save by comparing over 50 providers on a price comparison site.
8 Pay your gas and electricity by direct debit and make sure it's one of the far cheaper online tariffs you are on.
9 Get home insurance - it's far better value than car insurance when you consider the size of the premium and value of the house.
10 Don't turn off your TV with the remote or leave your computer on standby. Turn them off properly and you'll be able to save pounds 40 a year on your electricity bill.
Simon nixon Curriculum Vitae CHIEF EXECITIVE
Home: Five-bed victorian house. Chester
Hobbies: Travel He takes 15 breaks a year
Cars: yellow Porsche, 911 convertible
Favourite Film: Gone with the wind
Favourite Book: Rise & Fall of marks & Spencer
Music: Amy Winehouse
Inspirations: Uncle Dave and Sir Richard Branson
I'm still driven by fear of failure
Simon lives life in the fast lane; SAVE IT: Money supermarket's site; HEROES: Branson and Amy