Sum up your firm in three sentences.
Release My Equity Ltd is an award-winning business that has been trading for five years as a 100 per cent equity release specialist.
We are a directly authorised firm offering independent equity release advice, working predominately with clients in the north of England.
All advice is carried out face to face, which I believe is the best way to operate in the later-life market.
What led you to become a broker?
I had a long career in the corporate sector leading sales teams and, in the mid-2000s, I decided I wanted to branch out to run my own company.
I have always had a strong interest in financial services, so I decided to join this sector. In 2006 I qualified and joined the industry as a mortgage broker.
One of my strengths is working with people and I enjoy the daily interaction with individuals from all walks of life, helping with their different financial needs and requirements.
I started to explore the equity release market in 2008 and, following the financial crash, I decided I would focus on this sector of financial services.
I qualified and slowly moved my business from residential mortgages to equity release over the next five years. Early on I could see the long-term potential of this sector but it has still taken a long time to mature to where we are today.
What are the biggest issues facing you as a broker?
Addressing the negative image that my sector faces, which is historically based on some of the products on offer in the late Eighties and early Nineties. People have long memories. Shared appreciation mortgages always get a mention!
Additionally, there is little repeat business within equity release, so you have to have a strong marketing strategy in order to constantly find new clients in this sector.
Keeping up to speed with new lenders and types of plan is also important as the business continues its rapid growth.
Which one thing could lenders do to improve brokers’ lives the most?
More automation! To be fair, this is being embraced by most lenders and we are slowly moving away from paper applications to online platforms where we can instruct valuations and monitor ongoing cases.
This has been easier for new entrants to the market starting up but much harder for some of the bigger firms that had to justify a big spend to upgrade their IT systems.
Last year alone, three more lenders switched to an online system, which both speeds up the process for brokers and leads to faster case completions for customers as well.
What plans do you have for the future of your firm?
I plan to develop and grow the business and expand to provide advice nationally.
To do this, I’m looking to bring in experienced and established ARs who are currently working in the equity release market, while still allowing them to develop their own business brand. This is a new model of business that enables advisers to both run their own firm and work collectively, so we will have greater gravitas when dealing with lenders.
I’ve already started on this path as I have recently been joined by Simon Chalk of Laterliving Now! and we have agreed some big plans for 2018 and beyond.
If you would like your firm to be featured in Broker Focus, please email Mortgage Strategy deputy editor Sam Barker at email@example.com or call 020 7970 4425