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Black History Month: There is a scarcity of leaders in the sector who resemble me – Brown

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  • 25/10/2023
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Black History Month: There is a scarcity of leaders in the sector who resemble me – Brown
To mark Black History Month this October, Mortgage Solutions is profiling black and black mixed professionals in the sector.

Michael Brown, senior relationship manager at Paradigm Mortgage Services, joined the company in February last year. He has worked in financial services for almost a decade, with previous employers including MAB and Skipton Building Society. 

 

 

 

Have you always wanted to work in the finance sector? (if not, what job did you picture yourself doing?) 

In my early career plans, the finance sector wasn’t my initial focus. I had envisioned a career in sales, although the specific sector was yet to be determined. However, my path took a turn when I discovered my passion for studying property and the broader economy. I developed a keen interest in reading and observing economic events, always eager to comprehend how various market factors influenced economic growth. It was this curiosity that led me to the world of finance, where I found my niche. Studying the intricate relationship between different market aspects and their impact on economic growth fascinated me and ultimately drew me towards the mortgage industry. 

 

How did you get into the industry? 

Through a crucial sponsorship opportunity. I was fortunate to be employed by an organisation operating in diverse sectors, including financial services. An opportunity arose within the financial services department to lead a team of financial specialists providing mortgage advice. With their support, I obtained my CEMAP qualification, and the rest, as they say, is history. Pursuing relevant qualifications and networking with professionals in the field not only helped me secure my first position but also facilitated my continuous learning and growth within the industry. 

 

What is your favourite thing about working in the sector? 

My favourite aspect lies in the unique combination of financial expertise and personal connection. Providing intermediaries with strategic guidance, enabling individuals to achieve their dreams of homeownership amidst intricate financial landscapes, is exceptionally fulfilling. The opportunity to instigate positive change in people’s lives is what I value the most. Additionally, there’s a strong sense of camaraderie among industry peers. Despite working for competing organisations, the recognition that the market is expansive enough for everyone is truly commendable. Moreover, collaboration is prevalent within the industry, whether it’s focused on the green agenda, initiatives like DIFF, or working alongside distributors to support their members.

 

Did you ever feel there were barriers due to your race? 

While progress has been made, it would be overly optimistic to claim that racial barriers have completely vanished; a glance at the data underscores this reality. Fortunately, I have been privileged to work in environments that prioritise diversity and inclusion, significantly mitigating such challenges. 

Examining the leadership teams across the industry, including lenders, distributors, and major brokerages, one cannot help but notice the scarcity of individuals who resemble me. It’s crucial to have a diverse array of leaders from various backgrounds. Research demonstrates that diverse leadership not only fosters profitability but also prevents groupthink. This diversity helps shape policies and procedures that are inclusive and fair, benefiting both employees and customers. 

I firmly believe in social mobility and the power of role models. When individuals from similar backgrounds are visible in roles that might seem unattainable, it serves as inspiration. Seeing someone who looks like you or shares your background in positions that others might perceive as unachievable fosters a belief that they too can reach such heights. 

 

Do you feel like diversity and inclusion have improved over your time in the sector? 

Yes, there has been noticeable improvement, but there is still work to be done. Many organisations are actively promoting diversity and inclusion, creating environments where everyone’s unique perspectives are valued. However, actions speak louder than words. It’s crucial to see tangible results rather than just rhetoric. Representation at all levels of organisations is vital. Merely discussing these initiatives without implementing robust frameworks is akin to inaction 

 

Who in the sector inspires you the most? 

Richard Goppy, and I say this not merely because he is my boss. Even before I worked closely with him, I found him to be incredibly supportive and open, always willing to provide guidance. As I’ve worked closely with him, I’ve come to recognise his exceptional leadership skills, adept networking abilities, and extensive knowledge of the intermediary market. I consider myself privileged to work alongside him and continue to learn valuable lessons from his expertise. 

Dom Scott, we had originally a commercial relationship while we were both at our previous employers. What I like about Dom is that he had time for others and shared his knowledge and experience. He has always championed good social causes and is one of the few rare senior leaders with a similar background. 

In addition, Damian Thompson and Sidney Wager deserve a special mention. Their incredible support and their positions in key organisations within our sector serve as an inspiration, showing others that reaching senior positions in important institutions is indeed possible. 

 

Outside of the mortgage/finance market, who is your biggest inspiration? 

My late grandmother. Her life and achievements inspire me to continuously strive for excellence and make a positive impact not only in my professional life but also in my community. She lost her husband and assumed the head of the house. She provided wisdom to all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

 

What advice would you give to anyone from a minority group who is thinking of joining the industry? 

To embrace your unique perspective and use it as a strength. Seek out mentors, build a strong professional network, and never shy away from opportunities to learn and grow. Your diversity is an asset that can drive innovation and positive change in the industry. 

 

What has been your biggest career achievement? 

My most significant career achievement has been transitioning from retail management, where I spent a substantial part of my early career until 2012, to the mortgage intermediary sector. During this time, I successfully built an extensive network of industry peers. I had the opportunity to work for one of the largest networks, where my responsibilities included safeguarding their members from a regulatory standpoint. Additionally, I consistently increased market share year after year while ensuring positive customer outcomes while working for a prominent lender. Currently, I hold a strategic and development role with a major distributor, allowing me to contribute meaningfully to the industry’s growth and development. 

 

What skills and/or qualities do you bring to your role? 

A combination of analytical skills, empathy, and a deep understanding of the intermediary market. Additionally, my ability to communicate complex concepts in a clear and concise manner has been instrumental in fostering strong broker relationships. 

 

What life lesson or advice helped shape who you are today? 

The power of perseverance. Regardless of the challenges faced, staying determined and resilient can overcome obstacles and lead to personal and professional growth. 

 

Where do you see yourself in five years career-wise? 

I aspire to take on more leadership roles within the mortgage industry. I want to continue advocating for diversity and inclusion while contributing to the development of innovative solutions that make homeownership more accessible and sustainable for everyone. 

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