For any seasoned adviser, it has also been the guidance, achievements and mistakes along the way which have helped them get to where they are in their career.
So this week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: If you could give your younger self any advice about getting into the mortgage industry, what would it be? And what were the defining moments of your career?
My own entry into the industry was straight from school and via the Halifax Building Society as it was then.
Their structured training gave me a thorough insight into various aspects of mortgages that an adviser in a small firm might never come across, such as arrears management, death claims, title deeds, the law and practice side from a lender’s point of view.
I think an entry route with a bank or building society gives you solid and rounded training. I don’t regret it, but it would be a slow process for those keen to be set loose as mortgage advisers. These lenders also now recruit far fewer advisers.
If I were starting out with a broker firm, I would welcome mentoring from a colleague. Formal training is useful, but experienced advisers know more about the real world and how to get things done.
Choose a firm with a demonstrated culture of doing the right thing by the client, every time. It will tend to mean your own training will be sound and ethical.
My biggest defining moment was when I started my own business after 31 years as an employed adviser. This was a steep learning curve, as all of a sudden I had to do everything – marketing, prospecting, accounting and sales, regulatory matters.
If I had to do it all again, I would never use print marketing or buying leads. Instead, I would get out to see potential introducers. Networking becomes very important; otherwise, you can be invisible to potential referrers.
The best advice I ever got was from an old boss, who told me ‘never put the phone down first’ and ‘never be afraid of exposing yourself in front of clients’.
I think he meant ‘open up the real you to clients and be honest’ – at least, I always hoped so. (We hope so too! Ed.)
I did not have any formal mentoring at the start of my career, although I have no doubt it could’ve been very useful.
Despite this, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some great brokers throughout my career. I learnt alongside some of the very best and continue to learn from other brokers now.
Over the last three to four years, I have mentored a variety of young people, both inside and outside the mortgage industry, and have had some great feedback on how valuable it can be.
I switched careers in my early 30s, quitting my job as a city trader to learn a new one as a mortgage broker. I went from running a multi-billion pound trading book to acting as paraplanner for any broker who’d have me.
My advice to any trainee mortgage broker, no matter where you’ve come from, would be to be humble and work alongside as many experienced brokers as you can on even the most menial jobs. Completing 10 applications for 10 clients with 10 different lenders will teach you an awful lot.
One moment which defined my career was definitely the credit crisis in 2009/10. It reshaped the industry and was a huge learning curve which presented big opportunities.
If I could, I would tell myself to worry about money less. It will follow with enough patience and hard work and it’s certainly no way to measure your success.
The best, most important, first, second and last piece of advice I’ve been given is: Look after your clients, look after your clients, look after your clients.
The worst advice has come from the brokers and perhaps the industry who I think are far too hung up on ‘developing a brand’. Outside of the very biggest firms, the only brand a broker should be interested in is their own and how they’re viewed by their clients.
I jumped from corporate stability in banking straight into starting up a mortgage business, so I’d say there are probably a thousand things I’d do differently.
The list is longer than I can remember but these are the main takeaways.
Firstly, I would have saved much more cash before starting out. No matter how meticulous the business plan, there will always be unexpected costs.
Another big lesson was, we would have applied for direct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority far sooner. Networks have many benefits and can be highly successful but in hindsight, it wasn’t ideal for us. Once we had full control we could achieve our goals.
In terms of mentorship, I should have reached out much earlier for advice. It took five years, which is telling given that Mesa Financial has been trading for six. There’s a wealth of talent in this industry so we really shouldn’t hesitate to seek advice.
A career-defining moment was when we stopped trying to fit our high net worth entrepreneurial clients into the square box at the bank. I spent a long time having to say ‘no’ to my clients when I worked for the bank which was extremely frustrating.
Looking after entrepreneurs’ financial affairs is an honour because they trust you. This is what led us to start Mesa Financial. The freedom to find solutions for this type of client, even in the most complex scenario, is what we are passionate about.
I would tell my younger self that some anxiety is unavoidable and losing sleep won’t help. Every business faces hurdles.
One of the best bits of advice came from my good friend Martin Stewart at The Money Group when he persuaded me to join Twitter. I made some great friends there from the industry and it has been pretty lucrative from a business perspective.
The worst advice was that it was crazy to leave banking to start a business. I can’t imagine returning to a corporate structure.
I am probably unemployable now so here’s to a long and successful future for Mesa Financial – otherwise I could be in trouble.