For Personal Touch chief executive officer Jane Cross the drive toward quality is still far from over.
Cross, who was previously Personal Touch network’s finance and IT director, became CEO of Appointed Representative network Personal Touch Financial Services after Max Wright stepped back to be chairman at the end of last year.
Cross, a serious flute-player with an accountancy background, confirms the weeding out of ‘mortgage dabblers’ the phrase Wright infamously coined, isn’t over yet.
The network said its five-year plan to create a smaller, higher quality advice network with a focus on consumer outcomes and professional standards continues to-date.
Today, PTFS can confirm its AR membership stands at around 300 firms and 600 Registered Individuals, in what has been a monumental shakedown of numbers over the last few years. The high watermark for PTFS was reportedly 1,500 ARs, pre-2012 although some were registered twice.
Personal Touch Financial Services (PTFS) was the third largest mortgage AR network in the UK after Sesame, then Openwork after launching in 1994.
But this has been a long, deliberate journey. In September 2013 the firm broadcast the fact it contacted 16 member firms to tell them their AR contracts would be terminated later in the year.
In September last year, another large block of mortgage advisers were asked to leave simultaneously because “they didn’t fit in with our policy or culture,” says Cross.
In the politically-charged network world, PTFS chose the road less travelled with its assertiveness and willingness to explain both its plans and motivations to members, the industry and the media over the last few years.
In November last year, the network announced plans to cut membership fees for quality-approved members which it said would ‘stop some firms subsidising others.
The new structure was implemented from 1 February 2015 with final fees based on each firm’s quality rating and business volumes as of 31 December 2014. The firm asserts the move will see two-thirds of members paying less for their membership in 2015 than the previous year.
I asked how that was communicated and received? “Positively,” says Cross.
“We’ve been messaging about this quality gear change for over a year now before we actually introduced it. We spent a lot of time talking to members at events about it. There was a huge amount of planning that led up to it. The quality model we actually arrived at that we went with in November 2014 was iteration number 106, she says.
This attention to quality is crucial in the management of mortgage advisers as it brings risk levels down and means less interventions and better pricing for everyone.
At that time, 73% of advisers were assessed and emerged as green and since then another 10% have been found to have hit the same standard. Is 100% possible, I ask?
“That would be a lovely moment. I think it would be very ambitious to be 100% green. We have the risk appetite for some amber members and a small number of red members. The key to it is that those members need to be working with us to become green,” she adds.
The network’s plans include using technology to ‘enhance members lives in a post-MMR world’ says Cross, which is basically about buying time back for members.
PTFS agreed a deal with MortgageSource from Twenty7Tec Group to integrate its sourcing system into Toolbox, PTFS’ bespoke adviser technology by the end of quarter two.
Cross has passed her third anniversary with Personal Touch and has already navigated some choppy seas to make her mark. The journey to calmer waters, marked out by safe growth, will be undoubtedly well-received by the majority of network members.