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L&C signs specialist finance partnership and looks to future

  • 03/10/2023
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CEO at London and Country (L&C) Mortgages Alan Young (pictured right) and chairperson Phil Rickards (pictured left) have been charged with reinvigorating the vision and direction of one of the biggest advice brands in the UK.

L&C, also the UK’s largest fee-free mortgage broker, confirmed a partnership with specialist comparison site in early September for customer referrals with specialist property finance needs.

The collaboration will allow L&C’s clients to receive advice and support when it comes to obtaining specialist finance, with a focus on commercial, bridging, second charge, and development finance.

Young said at the time: “I’m committed to expanding our leading advice service further and so am delighted to take another step on that road and enhance our specialist proposition in partnership with Propp. Specialist finance is likely to be a growing need for our customers and Propp’s team are experts in the specialist space.”

Speaking to Mortgage Solutions, Rickards added: “When it comes to diversification, we’re not afraid to change. If it’s change for good, and it means that we can evolve our business, then we’ll change.”

Young continued: “But the key part will be having specialists within each mortgage area, so the customers are fed to the buy-to-let team or the high-net worth team in the London office, making sure that no matter where they come from they go to the relevant broker.”

L&C has 340 mortgage and 97 protection advisers on its employed staff roster and company-wide staff of around a thousand. Young has been CEO for just over a year, with a cross-sector CV taking in GMAC, ULS Technology, John Charcol and Landmark data before joining the firm.

Rickards, who joined shortly after his CEO, says he and Young have a really good understanding of each other after working together at various times and even had a mentoring relationship for two years.

“I was honoured to be approached about this role to be part of an amazing business I have worked with historically on the other side for over 20 years. It may have come a little early, as I was going to do a couple more years with LBG before retiring gracefully,” said Rickards, “but then I heard Alan was coming on board and made the decision.”


No consumer fees

On fee-charging, they confirmed they have no plans to change that strategy in the longer term, especially in the new era of Consumer Duty, which leaves them very well-positioned no matter how many other broker bosses call him up to tell him otherwise, says Young.

Rickards says: “The plan of action is to maintain that strategy for as long as we can as a business. We feel like it’s the right thing to do for our customers. It’s worked for L&C for the last 20 years plus and if things became very, very difficult in the future it is always nice to have that in your back pocket should it be needed, but it’s certainly not our intention to charge fees.”

But questioned on strategic plans, Young said: “We have an incredible opportunity to look at lots of different avenues and opportunities. When you look at the volume of mortgages we write, £13.5bn last year, we have a lot of customers coming to L&C and we have to do what’s right for them.”

Gamekeeper turned poacher

Rickards has spent 38 years in financial services, 30 of them with BM Solutions, the largest buy-to-let specialist lender in the mortgage market, before joining L&C. One of the qualities he brings to the broker is the experience to help a relatively new executive team “shape their thinking” and scan the horizon.

He continued: “It’s the battle scars of going through market downturns four or five times in a 30-year period and navigating your way through them. It may look like the end of the world, but it never is, and the market always comes back that little bit stronger.” Through mentorship, the team is already planning for the time when it returns, Rickards added.

L&C says it has done a lot of work on its internal technology in the era of Consumer Duty to harness both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the massive amount of data the broker holds and generates.

Young  said: “Someone said to me the other day that data is the new oil in this market and L&C is Dubai.”

“We are going to lead the way on how this plays through and there will be a lot more to come on that front. Making sure that we know, no matter where the customer comes from, exactly what happens and making sure we handhold them throughout the whole process,” he added.

“It’s making sure you give the customers what they want at the time that they want it throughout the homebuying process. That’s what we’re working through.”

Young suggests on Consumer Duty, harnessing AI and using tech to predict behaviour makes him very comfortable on satisfying the regulatory requirements. Equally, he says AI will never replace the adviser, but better “support” the consumer and broker in the future, with further announcements to come on that too. He added on AI, that the process won’t look like a big bang, but a series of tests and process changes because there won’t be “one silver bullet” that changes everything.


Working patterns

Young remains very relaxed about how and where his brokers choose to work saying “it’s about results”.

“Now, we leave it to our guys, because, for me, it’s about output. So if people want to come into the office, whether it be Newcastle, Bath, or London, they can, if they want to work remotely or come in once a week they can.”

And the results? “It’s a mix. So, we did a lot of staff surveys. Everybody’s different.”

As a result staff attrition has been low, he said, and the firm has done a lot of work on office culture and says its well-positioned to “satisfy everybody’s needs”, including a virtual office set up for roughly 70 of its staff.

Rickards said on staff motivation and the L&C culture change: “Alan’s spot on here. I’ve attended some of the vision and values calls that he holds and have never seen a chief executive of a business, big, small, medium sized, have such an open way of conducting himself with any member of staff. And that’s filtering its way through the whole organisation.”

Rickards, who is conducting one to ones with all the senior management team, added: “People appreciate being listened to.”

Before the appointments of Young and Rickards, the company saw loss-making years post-pandemic, but is looking to the future. L&C is working hard to involve and inspire and evolve its staff in the delivery of this new vision.



Alan Young CV: U18 England cap to CEO

After years being nurtured by the Swindon Town youth system, Alan Young made his debut for Swindon Town aged 17 on 6 January 2001. He played 26 matches for Swindon and trained for a period with Celtic under manager Kenny Dalglish, including a call up for the England U18 squad where he trained alongside many of the greats.

“I was the only player in the under-18 England squad never to have played in the Premier League. I played alongside Jermaine Pennant, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney – he was very shy, very quiet. But he was a fantastic personality and would light up a dressing room. The mentality among these players being, you get out what you put in. The harder you work, the luckier you get. All of them stayed behind to put in even more work to make themselves world class.”

Injury, recovery and further injury led him to a heartbreaking retirement decision at 20 years old and a job at GM in Bracknell.

Young’s father, Andy Young, was CEO of TBMC and good friends with Stephen Knight at GMAC who asked Young if he wanted to come and work at the firm, and he started off in the call centre working 9am to 5:30pm.“It was quite a culture shock,” noted Young.




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