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I wanted my sons to go to uni but they followed me into mortgage broking – Yerou

  • 03/04/2024
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Advice firm Mortgage Quest is like “one big, huge family” due to the number of staff who are related, its founder said.

Speaking to Mortgage Solutions, managing director John Yerou (pictured, centre right) explained how working with his wife and two sons was not unusual at the firm. 

“There are husbands and wives who are mortgage brokers, a husband who’s a mortgage broker and his wife who’s an administrator. There is also a father and son, so it’s really like one big, huge family here,” he said. 

Yerou’s wife Samantha (pictured, centre left) joined the company in 2006 to help with compliance and HR demands after Treating Customers Fairly rules came in. 

She previously worked in logistics and management, Yerou said, so her skills fit the role. 

His sons George (pictured, left) and Jason (pictured, right) are advisers at Mortgage Quest, with Yerou adding: “If I have to be honest with you, I wanted them to go to university and pursue their own careers, but they see me as their hero.  

“They also wanted to get on the property ladder soon and they saw this as an opportunity to do that.” 

His eldest son George joined first after finishing his A levels and “fell in love with the business”. 

“He loves it. He’s so passionate and he’s probably one of the biggest mortgage writers,” Yerou said, adding that he writes a “phenomenal amount of business”. 

Yerou said his son was also advising lenders on the borrowing needs of contractors and helping them to understand the nuances of the sector.  

“He’s definitely following in my footsteps,” Yerou added.  

He said his younger son Jason then “wanted to follow his brother”. “So that’s how my whole family came into the business,” he added.  

Other employees also bring in their teenage children for work experience or placements and they often end up joining Mortgage Quest. 

He said one broker had trained his sons and other young joiners, in addition to the firm’s mentoring scheme for entrants to learn on the job. 


Repositioning to mainstream cases 

Mortgage Quest recently announced a rebrand with a focus on more mainstream, vanilla borrowers. 

He said the firm had built its reputation as an advice firm for self-employed and contractor borrowers, but he now wanted people to know the company handled “conventional” cases just as well. 

This included a redesign of the company website, which Yerou said he spent around £20,000 on and looked at the layouts of major mortgage advice firms’ websites for inspiration. 

“That’s your shop window, that’s where people first come in. In order to get them to come in, you have to have a website that’s not only good from a content perspective but the way it’s designed, how it looks, how it feels. It has to have the wow factor,” Yerou said. 

He “took Consumer Duty into account” and the website now features guides for borrowers, downloadable PDFs and a mortgage calculator. 


Influencing self-employed lending policy 

Yerou said the firm would continue to cater to contractors and the self-employed through its other brands which include Freelancer Financials, Contractor Mortgages and Self Employed Mortgages. 

“We still want to remain leaders in the gig economy and flexible workforce. Remember, there are about 4.3 million self-employed workers out there,” he added. 

Joining the profession “by accident”, Yerou has engaged with a number of lenders to help shape lending policy for contractors and the self-employed, he said. 

Before becoming a mortgage adviser, he was the vice president of Motorola for South East Asia, and also a managing director for a telecoms company in Spain. 

Deciding that he needed to spend less time overseas once his first child was born, he changed career in 2004 and went to work at his brother’s accountancy firm as an adviser. 

It was there that he gained his CeMAP and set up Mortgage Quest. 

Yerou said: “I was working out of an office with my brother, basically a room. He had his accountant and there was just me. And that’s how I got started. 

“I never envisaged that my business would grow to the extent it did. And then we had the financial crisis, and it gave me an opportunity to step back and have a look at what was going on.” 

Yerou said he had always specialised in niche markets to differentiate himself. He then started to focus on freelancers and contractors who were struggling to get mortgages. 

The sector was brought to Yerou’s attention when he spoke with a business development manager at a high street bank and saw there were restrictions around lending to contractors, even when they had been formerly employed and now earning more. 

“When I stumbled on that, I thought ‘oh, my God, this is a great opportunity. I can go out there and target people who are contracting’,” he added. 

He then saw a different high street bank retract from lending to contractors because of the financial crisis. 

“I thought, if I’m going to set up some brands and target that part of the market, I need to educate lenders on the nuances of contracting and get them to adapt to contractor friendly policy,” Yerou said. 

He said after the self-certification process was removed for self-employed borrowers following the financial crisis, “all of a sudden the brokers needed to understand because before then you didn’t need to understand how a self-employed person operated”.

Yerou’s previous employment meant he was “not afraid” to approach the lenders’ risk departments and arrange pilots for self-employed policy through Mortgage Quest. 

With his experience running a business and working at his brother’s accountancy firm, Yerou said this gave him a knowledge of interpreting accounts. 

He added: “You may think when you send information to a lender that they’re all trained to an accountancy level, but they are not. The staff tend to get basic training and sometimes we as brokers have to help them interpret the information.” 

Yerou said his firm had been “instrumental” in helping to shape lender policies for contractors and the self-employed and worked with one mutual to assist the development of a policy for contractors working under umbrella firms. 

Still, he added, all lenders had varying approaches and Yerou said he was constantly in dialogue to try and enact changes. 

“We’ve developed that sort of relationship with lenders, but it’s been a hard slog,” he said. 

This year, the firm has been partnering with organisations such as the Freelancer Contractors Services Association (FCSA) and recruiters for specialist sectors to help contractors access mortgages. 

Yerou said he would also be “freshening up” the Freelancer Financials division and Mortgage Quest’s other specialist brands to make them “leaders in their field”. 

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