Know Your BDM: James Forth, Kent Reliance

  • 19/07/2016
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Know Your BDM: James Forth, Kent Reliance
This week being quizzed for Mortgage Solutions' Know Your BDM series is James Forth, business development manager at Kent Reliance.

How many brokers and broker firms do you cover in your role?

My role is a newly created one within Kent Reliance, dedicated to covering the north of England, as we look to significantly increase business in the region. I cover an area from Crewe and Hull northwards, including major cities such as Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds and Liverpool.

How do you successfully organise and deal with business on a daily basis?

With such a lot of ground to cover, diary management is the key to ensuring that I see the right people, in the right areas at the right time. But it’s not just about being proactive, I need to able to react to brokers’ needs too. I have to be flexible and prioritise throughout the day, leaving sufficient time between broker visits to respond to calls and emails, and responding to all by the end of the day.

What issues come up time and time again?

While my role at Kent Reliance is a new one, with 16 years of industry experience, 12 of those as a BDM, I wouldn’t be surprised to encounter some of the same issues I have experienced in the past. Tight timelines are a common issue, helping brokers that need an urgent offer or decision due to exchange deadlines, and managing expectations when they are unrealistic.

Ensuring brokers know the best way to present cases is also a common need, and have all the right knowledge of our criteria and packaging requirements.

Kent Reliance has a credit committee which meets twice-weekly to discuss and agree large loans, complex cases and cases outside of the normal lending criteria. As a specialist lender, this facility helps us go the extra mile to support quick decisions for more complex and bespoke cases.

What do you wish brokers understood about your job?

Most brokers understand that my role is to work in partnership with them, but it’s important that they keep this in mind when things don’t go so smoothly; we have the same overall goals. For example, in cases of down-valuation, brokers can sometimes mistakenly believe that this has come from the lender rather than the surveyors. It’s important that we work together at all times to achieve the best outcome for the customer.

What do you think is the most important attribute in a good BDM?

Before becoming a BDM I worked for a few years as a broker, which helps me understand what brokers really want from an effective BDM. Excellent customer service is a catch-all phrase, but critically brokers value quick responses, full support through any issues along the way, and above all else not to take a “head in the sand” approach, staying in contact even if service was to slip. In my 12 years as a BDM I’ve prided myself on offering this excellent customer service, and will continue to do so now at Kent Reliance.

When you’re unavailable to contact via telephone, what’s the second-best way for brokers to get in touch?

Voicemails and emails will always be picked up at the earliest opportunity, and whatever happens I will always respond on the same day. As a specialist lender we excel at complex cases and brokers have come to rely on me as a key contact when these come up. For more straight-forward cases, a broker in need of urgent help can always call the broker liaison team, who have the knowledge and experience to support on new cases as well as submitted applications.

The Kent Reliance online portal system can also be used, for real-time case updates.

What was your motivation for choosing business development as a career?

With a background in sales, business development was a natural progression for me. I started working in the mortgage industry as a telephone BDM in 2000, moving into an underwriting role, followed by a broker role, and in 2004 into a BDM position. The role allows me to deal with wide range of people, gives me the challenge of finding solutions to problems and provides a great deal of day-to-day variety, all of which make for an exciting and interesting job.

How do you establish and maintain a good relationship with brokers?

I believe that good relationships with brokers are built on great experiences, so every communication we have helps build that relationship. This means I always aim to do what’s best for them; rapid responses, when a quick no is just as important as a yes, honest and accurate answers, delivering on promises made, and providing expertise, which may mean finding solutions the broker has not thought of and even suggesting other lenders when I know we can’t help.

And how do you establish and maintain good relationships internally?

Being part of a strong Kent Reliance team is essential to delivering a great service; communication is the key to this, allowing me to tap into the skills across the team. For example, at Kent Reliance all cases are manually underwritten, and credit-searched, not credit-scored, giving the underwriter the authority to underwrite. By maintaining good communication we can ensure the case is fully understood and the right decision is made.

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked?
The most baffling question came from a broker who was unhappy a valuation had been carried out the day after an application was submitted. He asked: “Who gave you the authority to carry out a valuation and why was it done so quickly?” When doing all you can to turn around an application quickly, it certainly came as a surprise to hear we’d been too quick.

And finally, what did you want to be growing up?
Growing up in the rugby-town of Warrington, unlike many of my friends I wanted to be a football player. I’d like to say it was a knee injury that held me back but it was actually a lack of skill. That doesn’t stop me living out my dream every week at five-a-side though.

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