Wilkinson joined the sector 15 years ago after closing down his Wales-based restaurant – A Touch of Class – following the birth of his daughter.
“It was quite a nice restaurant, we had a few famous visitors too. We spent the first Christmas after our daughter was born at work, and that’s when we decided ‘we can’t do this’. So we sold the business and that’s when I got to be a mortgage broker.
“I trained in Wales then moved to north London, where I worked as a mortgage broker with various networks for a number of years.”
Access Financial Services began as a one-man operation in 2017 and reached its 100-broker milestone last year.
After working as a self-employed broker, Wilkinson wanted to move on to the next stage which was helping more brokers come into the industry, and pass on the knowledge he had gained as a mentor.
Wilkinson said: “When I first joined the industry, I was lost. I didn’t know what to do, how to speak to my first customer – anything. Through perseverance, I managed to push through and learn as I went along, but some people need extra help.”
“That’s how it started, and it’s grown organically since then,” he added.
Wilkinson said the core values of Access Financial Services had stayed the same, but it had since “developed and grown legs”.
He said his firm was stood out, as many brokers had told him that networks treated them “like a robot, or a number, and all they’re bothered about is compliance or the quality of the file. Pointing out where you haven’t got it right or haven’t done it how they expect.
“Don’t get me wrong, we are strict on compliance as it’s the most important thing. But we do it in a way where we make sure the broker understands what they’re doing and why they need to do it.
“Once they understand why we’re doing the things that we do, they support it and embrace it.”
Wilkinson wants to see people who join the sector stay in it and commended his firm for having a high employee retention rate.
As for his managerial style, Wilkinson said he was “not a micromanager”, adding: “I hate micromanaging and you never get the best out of people by doing that.
“I would give a set of goals, I would give an objective but how my employees get there is entirely up the them. It brings out the best in people, and they might come up with a solution that’s far better than what I could have ever come up with.
“And it makes them feel like there’s ownership.”
He added: “There’s a lot of love, not just from the brokers but from my head office team.
“There’s a lot of love for Access. They all really love and care for the business because they all feel like they have an element of ownership and are equally responsible for it.
“And I do develop my team. I’ve taken on members of staff that have been at a junior level that are brought through the ranks and are now at senior level.”
Shifting the market
Personally, Wilkinson described himself as a “disruptor” to the sector, pointing to his campaign to combat estate agent conditional selling.
“I’m new to this industry, not just from a broker’s perspective but from a business owner’s perspective. Other business owners have been in the industry for 10, 20 or 30 years but I’m coming in completely fresh.
“My aspirations are to get to 1,000 mortgage brokers and be up there with the best of the best.
“A fresh approach, a fresh set of eyes, a new look at the industry. I’d love to have an influence in the future of and the shape of the financial services industry in the UK.
“In five to 10 years’ time, it will be good for me to have that influence.
“Financial services is changing a lot, and it’s changing very quickly. A fresh face, a fresh pair of eyes or a fresh mind in the industry will help us see things differently.”
Branching out into wealth managment
Access Financial Services is also preparing to set up a wealth management division.
“As a mortgage broker, I’ve always hated the fact that my client can go somewhere else for other products. For one, I felt there was a risk that with someone else they would be marketed for mortgages and protection which would mean I lose the customer.
“It’s also in the interest of the customer as their data ends up being spread across multiple firms. It’s about making sure the data stays in one place,” he said.
Wilkinson said Access FS was also working on a direct-to-consumer product which was penned to launch in 2024 and expected to have a “massive impact in the industry”.
As well as welcoming experienced advisers, Wilkinson plans to expand the firm through its broker academy.
He said the programme which was launched last year had a “positive uptake” and led to the recruitment of Peter Phillips as its head of training.
Wilkinson said: “He’s developing some CeMAP courses so that we can take somebody from ‘cradle to grave’. He’s also developing some wealth courses and other financial services courses so that actually if somebody does want a career within the industry, you know we can actually take them through a whole career. So, someone can start off as unqualified and work their way through to becoming an independent financial adviser.
“We’re still in the early days of development but there are a lot of things Peter is working on to make the academy a success.”
While he admitted he did not want to speak about it like it was a novelty, Wilkinson said his firm was diverse which worked well at effectively reaching otherwise excluded communities.
“It helps educate people because there are communities that don’t understand a lot about the UK financial services industry. They don’t know what you need to do to get a mortgage, what life insurance is, because they haven’t been brought up knowing how the UK financial services market does things.
“This year, we’re concentrating a lot on solidifying the academy, building up the academy and supporting our existing advisers.
“A lot of them that do, want to go into from protection to mortgages. So, we’ll be working on that towards the end of the year as well as introducing the wealth side of the business, then the direct-to-consumer product.”