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Sesame’s Mark Graves: ‘Give advisers support not targets to provide better customer outcomes’

  • 23/08/2018
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Focus on adviser support, rather than hitting numbers, is the key to generating excellent customer outcomes, according to Sesame Bankhall Group managing director, Mark Graves, who won the business leader for networks award at the British Mortgage Awards 2018.


With 425 firms and over 800 advisers within Sesame, about 20% of the mortgages completed in the intermediary market go through the group.

Mark Graves (pictured) tells Mortgage Solutions the importance of building business momentum in a style and culture that people can understand.

“You cannot set up to win an award, you just have to behave in a way whereby other people recognise you are making a difference,” he says.

“The same culture and the same way you are looking after advisers is transferable to whichever business you are in.

“The most important thing is to have a good team working with you that believes in the same philosophy. Therefore, as a collective team, you can make a difference.

“Our management team do not recruit advisers just to hit numbers. We work with existing firms, helping them grow and develop.”

Sesame provides a weekly induction course to everybody that joins, as well as regular training and courses to offer further support and advice.

With over 25 years of experience in the mortgage industry, Graves points out the importance of building trustworthy relationships with advisers.

“I can’t always give them what they want, but I explain to them why. If I say I am about to do something I actually do it and I expect people who are working with me to have the same philosophy when they speak with advisers,” he adds.

Rewire Routines protection campaign

Sesame’s Rewire Routines protection campaign marks one of its most significant achievements so far.

Protection business for the group rose by 22% in the first six months of 2018 to £35.8m, compared to £29.4m in the same period last year.

Graves says: “It is part of our wider strategy to work closely with our members to help evolve their business models and free up time to service their mortgage customers’ needs more widely.

“Our members are embracing this opportunity to have deeper conversations with their customers with regards to protection.

“These results also demonstrate how doing the right thing for the customer is good for advisory firms too.

“By staying close to their customers, advisers will remain the first port of call for professional advice, which is more important than ever in light of new advice disrupters who are entering the market.”

He also notes that recent government benefit changes have once again highlighted a long-term trend in the roll-back of state support and an increasing onus on people to seek private provision.

“Only professional advisers have the right skills to deliver the fully-rounded advice that customers so desperately need,” he adds.


More lenders to panel

The Sesame managing director expects a further eight lenders to be added to the network’s panel by the end of the year, following the eight added in the first six months of this year.

“We are continuing to add lenders to our panel, with an average of one a month. Therefore, we need training support when a lender comes on board so everybody knows the products we have available,” Graves says.

He explains it takes three months of work for every lender that comes on board.

“It’s a diligence process aimed at checking different criteria including the product, its range area, where it may fit in the market, credit affordability level, the contract and service level agreement,” he says.



As technology becomes more mainstream in every business, Sesame’s strategy is to make sure its advisers remain relevant with a focus on the customer’s digital experience.

However, borrowers must see and value what brokers do, instead of having just an automated system.

“The key is to support advisers to help them evolve their business models,” Graves says.

“The most important thing is to see which direction the market is going and have regular meetings with lenders to share data, keep advisers involved, and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Graves would like the whole industry to have one common trading platform.

He says: “We all know that we need to change, but it is incredibly difficult to do it quickly because we haven’t got a common platform yet.

“Eventually we will work together on one common trading platform, but I think it will take time.”


A good manager is not necessarily a good leader

Graves said his key priorities on a day-to-day basis are to support change, guarantee a business model that offers a good customer experience and provide advisers enough tools to do the right job.

However, he believes that a manager does not necessarily have to be a good leader.

“A manager can do a great job without being a leader. A good leader is someone who is focused on placing people in the right area where they can make a difference.

“Your strength for being a good leader is dealing with challenges, including the ability to come up with strategies even when things are not going well.

“We all have a different skill set, but we all need to know our strengths and weaknesses. And I am glad to have a good team around me which compensate what I am not good at,” Graves concludes.

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