Since joining Sesame Bankhall Group (SBG) in December, Graves, known for his penchant for controversial business ideas has been noticeably quiet from the trade press. His attentions have been focussed on getting out in the field, meeting DAs and asking them what he can do to support their businesses.
The group has been through a turbulent two years, with a change of ownership following Aviva’s acquisition of SBG’s parent company Friends Life which gained regulatory approval in March 2014 after a year of uncertainty for SBG’s future. John Malone, founder of PMS retired as executive chairman in December 2013 after 17 years leaving the club with no clear figurehead and on communication lock down while the group rethought its strategy.
“When I started the field visits I wasn’t expecting it to be easy,” says Graves. “I listened to them and let them say their piece. They wanted us to address communication which is not a surprise to hear, because we know we’ve been absent. When a company is going through difficulties and you don’t know yourself what your strategy is, how can you tell anyone else.”
His time away from head office has left Graves with a clear idea for the future of PMS. He wants brokers to use the club to support all their client needs. “So my attitude is, tell me what it is you need and I’ll give it to you.”
The simplistic strategy is already producing results. PMS has almost doubled its business development team to nine managers operating across the country. It launched a specialist lending panel of master brokers and packagers in March to meet the rising demand for diverse lending products and is currently piloting a dedicated life and protection desk for mortgage brokers to refer leads to. Equity release is the group’s next priority, with development work underway to put together a panel of specialist brokers to support DAs who don’t want to write the business themselves.
Graves, formerly director of Pink network, says he believed in the club before he joined because it was one of the few clubs which understands what it has been created to do. “We exist to support brokers, that’s it. If you can’t add value to their business then you’ve missed the point of your proposition.”
“I’m not absolutely convinced about the value of offering exclusive deals to brokers, it’s not enough of a reason to be a member. Telling everyone, constantly, about how many billions of pounds of mortgages has been arranged through PMS also seems pointless. Why would a one-man-band brokerage care?” says Graves.
His strategy to build up support services will play out over three years. At the end of which, Graves hopes the club membership will have grown. “It’s different to our recruitment plans on the network side, with Sesame. The AR membership we want to maintain at roughly the same level, but we do want more DAs to join PMS.”
Naturally protection sales are high on Graves’ agenda, his time at Pink saw the network try different approaches to selling cover but he still thinks the process needs to be overhauled.
“Selling protection the way we sell life doesn’t work anymore. More support from mortgage lenders is needed to hammer home the importance of protection policies,” he says.
Is this a hint that we are about to see a Graves campaign about to surface? “I’ve got a lot on my plate supporting our brokers who have been loyal to us, but who knows,” he laughs, “it may be a possibility.”