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Broker Focus: James Chisnall, director, City Finance Brokers

We aim to amplify the voices of all intermediaries, up and down the country. This month, we profile City Finance Brokers director James Chisnall

Please describe your firm in a few sentences

City Finance Brokers is a specialist mortgage brokerage based in Tower 42 in the heart of the City of London. We are directly authorised, whole of market and currently have nine advisers with more than 200 years’ experience between us.

We specialise in all aspects of funding, ranging from helping first-time buyers get a foot on the ladder all the way through to equity release, complex bridging and high-end development deals. Our mantra is summed up in our strapline ‘Tailored Property Finance’ and we pride ourselves on being able to find solutions to even the most complex of cases.

What led you to become a broker?

I started in the financial services sector in 1996 as I was attracted to the meritocracy of sales, but wanted a regulated environment so that I could be proud to be part of a true profession. Having made my way to senior management in a high street bank giving full financial advice, I had an opportunity to work at John Charcol, so I joined them in 2003 to focus on one specialist area: mortgages.

It was immediately apparent that this was the correct move for me as there is a real sense of satisfaction in successfully helping somebody achieve their goals.

Clients do not come to me for a mortgage: they come to me for the acquisition of their home or an investment opportunity and I help them achieve those goals with finance. After all these years, I can still say with confidence that I really do love what I do.

What are the biggest issues facing you as a broker?

Currently, I would say the impact the changes in tax regulation has had on the ability of landlords to refinance or acquire a buy-to-let property.

The added effect of the stamp duty surcharge really does appear to be killing off entrepreneurial spirit and removing the opportunity for younger generations to create wealth from property. I understand that lenders have to follow strict rules – however, how can forcing a client to remain with the same lender, either on SVR or for product switch after product switch, be seen as treating customers fairly?

It is still possible to help clients grow into serious portfolio landlords, but the current restrictions are creating fewer and fewer opportunities for our clients.

What one thing could lenders do to improve brokers’ lives the most?

This varies from lender to lender. The best lenders treat brokers as valued clients, encouraging us to speak directly to the decision makers rather than hiding them away behind several gatekeepers. So often a question on a case can be resolved in a two-minute telephone call from the underwriter, which is surely more efficient for all involved than sending a query via a back office system for us to answer before going to the back of another queue.

What plans do you have for the future of your firm?

Considered and measured growth. The recent appointment of our sales director, Andrew Gillon, has excited us no end as our goal is to triple in size with the right brokers over the next three years. If you look at the career of a typical broker, they move from one company to another, building contacts and experience, before ultimately becoming a specialist in the one particular area that excites them.

City Finance Brokers feels that this is a missed opportunity. Why not keep this all under one roof and save the pain of having to move multiple times throughout your career? We are a close-knit team and the collective experience and contacts we have as a group of like-minded individuals means that as a company we are greater than the sum of our parts.

This can only mean greater levels of success for all of us.

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