Coreco was founded in 2009 with 10 employees. The firm now employs 65 and has opened a Southend office to house its customer services team.
Montlake (pictured) said the firm has pivoted over the last three years to become a “national broker”. This has involved talking to different introducers and recruiting “incredibly talented people and newcomers” outside of London.
Montlake acknowledged that the pandemic had changed mindsets around remote working, noting that the company has a protection-only broker in Wakefield, and an administrator in Scotland who is training up to be an adviser.
He said the company’s recruitment focus was on servicing lead flow, finding the right people who fit and add to the culture, and an increasing focus on hiring protection specialists.
He added that protection was an “area where we have failed at for several years” for the firm, but following a cultural shift, now viewed itself as a “mortgage and protection broker”.
Montlake said that Coreco now has two protection-only brokers to complement its six mortgage and protection brokers.
Commercial, new build and equity release areas of interest
Coreco’s areas of interest in the near-term include new build and commercial mortgages, as well as opening more franchises nationally.
Montlake said commercial was a “great market” and an area “where brokers can excel in” as it was a “grey area”, adding that its commercial department, under Julian Ingall, has been “very successful”. But now is the time to “grow the business” and seize opportunities with small housebuilders and property developers.
Montlake believes that new build is an increasingly important and growing sector of the market as more homes are needed.
The firm has therefore hired new build expert Matt Thorn to grow the team and business further in that direction.
He added that Coreco would consider entering equity release advice in the near future, but it still needs the “right people”.
“We want to be that one-stop shop for people for a life and nurture those clients and empower them to make better financial decisions. That’s our motto,” he said.
Work with more partners and expand the network
Montlake said that Coreco’s priorities include developing introducers, working with more estate agents, increasing corporate partners and continuing to promote its website, social media activity, and brand awareness.
This includes expanding its Southend operation and adding telephony brokers.
He added that its purchase of Mortgages Online will be leveraged as a lead generation tool so it can better compete with digital mortgage brokers.
Network growth is also on the cards, with Montlake hinting at hopes to open an office in Scotland in the near future.
Coreco is working with two network partners, who are both looking to grow, and is “in conversation” with several more.
The firm is also developing a retirement plan for brokers who may want to pass on their client bank and earn as an introducer.
‘People powered by technology’
A point of frustration for Montlake is when people or firms would enter the mortgage market and say it’s “broken” and they were going to “fix” it.
“They’re talking nonsense. This industry is not broken. Yes, we can do things better, but we are one of the most well-run, well-regulated, consumer centric industries,” he said.
Montlake believes that as the technology in the mortgage sector improves, it will always remain “people powered by technology, not technology powered by people”. He cited companies like Habito and Trussle that he said had assumed they could disintermediate the mortgage market, only to find that’s not what customers wanted.
He said that these firms have since pivoted and decided to “put people front and center”, but that their efforts have boosted the intermediary services’ public presence for everyone.
“Although some people love to hate them, what they’ve done is made us look at ourselves and think about how we deal with our customers, how we use technology, and how the customer journey works. They’ve advertised so more people are more aware of what a mortgage broker is,” he said.
Key industry challenges
Montlake said that customers will now compare mortgage brokers to their last interaction with a company, so comparisons with Amazon, for example, will become the “standard”.
He noted that brokers who utilized technology to “enhance” the customer journey would be best-placed to succeed, and doesn’t think “old-fashioned sales operations will survive if they don’t adapt”.
Another big challenge for the industry is diversity and inclusion, which Montlake has put a lot of work in to in his role as chairman of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI). He said particular focus needed to be paid to recruitment, retention and promotion.
“I think that’s imperative. It’s not just a moral obligation, but there’s a clear, proven business rationale for it.”
Montlake said that “diversity of thought” would only make a business better and customers will increasingly want to see themselves in the companies they interacted with.
The governments green agenda also presents a lot of uncertainty, according to Montlake, particularly with the practicality of getting all properties up to the required Energy Performance Certificate rating in time for the proposed, yet unconfirmed, deadlines. He expressed additional concern over how the mortgage industry could encourage landlords to make the required changes in time.
Montlake continued that recent papers and proposed changes from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were not “as well thought out as they should be.
“They could spend more time policing the bad people than just creating more work for the good people. The bad people are always going to do it, so I think that it’s just increasing regulation for regulation’s sake and increasing costs eventually get passed on to the consumer – that doesn’t help anyone.”
He added that there were “excellent people” at the regulator, and he had been “encouraged” by its engagement. However, he said more collaboration between brokers, lenders, trade bodies and regulators would be needed to yield the best customer outcomes.
“We’re a fantastic industry. In fact, in many ways, we’re a leading industry. I want everyone to know that, and I want more voices, especially more female and diverse voices, and a lot more competition.
“I look around at some of the new companies and leaders and I am excited about where they will take the mortgage industry,” he said.