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The LSL interview with Toni Smith and Jon Round from Primis

  • 28/08/2019
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The LSL interview with Toni Smith and Jon Round from Primis
Above the clatter of lunch time service in the Holborn Dining Rooms, Jon Round and Toni Smith update Mortgage Solutions group editor Victoria Hartley on the advances at Primis since it bought PTFS in January 2018.



In February this year, Primis and Personal Touch Financial Services (PTFS), appointed representative networks of LSL Property Services,  came together under the Primis brand.

Since LSL acquired PTFS and its 2,300 registered individuals (RIs), the firms have undergone significant alignment, including integrating sales, operational and proposition functions under a single executive team.

Primis COO Toni Smith said the brand is rolling out the Toolbox technology, the PTFS operating platform, to the rest of the network and completed 200 training events for 3,000 RIs, which ran over 14 weeks from May this year.

At the time of writing, Smith said there are 187 applications to join the network from RIs, with plenty of multiple broker firms in the mix.

The figures


The group’s annual mortgage completion figures, reported in March this year, jumped from £21bn to £29bn for 2018. This was a total market share of eight per cent, which has already risen in its H1 results.

LSL’s financial services brands include network Primis, formerly trading as First Complete, Pink Home Loans (Advance Mortgage Funding) and Personal Touch Financial Services, mortgage club The Mortgage Alliance (TMA) and Embrace Financial services, an appointed representative of First Complete. Other brands include Linear Financial Solutions, Mortgages First and RSC New Homes, First2Protect insurance services and Mortgage Gym.

LSL’s first-half results this year confirmed the group’s share of the UK mortgage market is at 8.5 per cent. It also secured a 10 per cent increase in the group’s protection completions in H1 and a seven per cent rise in general insurance completions.

UK Finance product transfer data for Q2 out last week showed 292,500 homeowners switched product with their existing provider, with 164,100 on an advised basis representing £41.4bn of mortgage completions.

Last year, almost 1.2m people took a product transfer with their existing lender worth £158.7bn of lending activity, around double the figure for remortgages.

LSL reported its product transfer business in H1 this year at £4.2bn, or 28 per cent of the group’s total mortgage completions which were £14.7bn. This represents an 8.5 per cent share of the UK mortgage market.

The network currently has 860 broker firms in its network and says: “We understand that Primis is the largest network by mortgage volume as confirmed by most of our lender partners.”


The strategy

“We would always claim one of our unique selling points is the mutual benefit to the people joining us and the business. It’s a triangular effect – 184 events this year – the market, the proposition, what’s in your kitbag, challenging brokers to do a proper job every single time you sit down with a customer,” says Smith.

She adds that cascading product and technology knowledge and teaching businesses how to run a business are key strands of Primis’ purpose.

“Great brokers are not necessarily great business people,” adds Smith.


Primis CEO Jon Round (pictured) said: “We have historically worked with Twenty7Tec. I think that’s the software most of our brokers will be using moving forward. It’s the closest connection and the strongest software.”

He suggests that choices of sourcing system available in the market will narrow over time.

He adds: “You’ll probably have multiple solutions for a while. It will take time for lender systems to connect up [to distributors]. Lenders will want to try to connect with most of the larger distribution groups but they may not have the capability. They have the same issues many of the networks have that they will have to wait to be connected up by their software provider.”

Smith adds that the group will be ready to showcase its software in September and its initial Application Programming Interfaces (API).

In September last year, LSL entered a partnership with MortgageGym, which is an automated advice and artificial intelligence services firm, valued at £12m, which also only launched last year.

Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, MortgageGym offers a free 60-second mortgage-matcher and mortgage advice, which includes full integration with Experian credit files and mortgage lenders’ live scorecards.

Round says: “Our plans with Mortgage Gym further demonstrate our commitment to investing in technology for our members. Mortgage Gym will allow our brokers to place cases more quickly and easily, encompassing the whole point of technology in the mortgage market – to support the human aspect of the application process.

“We look forward to working with the team at Mortgage Gym to help more brokers embrace the technology that’s out there and produce the best possible outcomes for their clients.”

He adds: “If you go back three or four years, the discussion with the broker was all about what system or platform a network has and the technology was more the domain of the administrator. Now when you think about which network to join it’s all about tech offering and asking how it’s going to grow your business.

“If you can’t show the platform in place and how you’re going to keep pace, you can’t compete,” he adds.

Market projections

I ask Round and Smith if the advisory market has peaked in terms of business volumes given the momentum being created by product transfers and execution-only regulation.

Round said: “Unless regulatory change drives it in another direction, I can’t think why people would look for less choice.

“The mortgage journey is never going to be simplified back to its unregulated status, to a few tick boxes. It’s always going to have rules and compliance and be complicated to an extent and so you’re really going to want to talk to someone about that.

“To go and just have a conversation with one lender, why would you do that? Some have fantastic digital propositions – but are they getting traction? No, they’re really not.”


The outlook


Round suggests that the broker models that will work will be extremely well diversified, with a polished proposition aligned with better technology tools – the bionic broker model.

He continues that later life lending still needs plenty of product flexibility to create truly inter-generational products that can qualify a mortgage through the generations passing property title from one tier to another without a property sale and the advice to go with it.

“It’ll get there,” he adds.

Round says this market never sits still, which is why it remains exciting.

“That’s good because we’re competitive and you can be nimble and win but it does constantly mean you have to keep thinking. Its that sort of vibrancy. It’s a fascinating market.”

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