Broker Focus aims to amplify the voices of intermediaries up and down the country.
Profiling a different mortgage broker every month, the column will ask a mix of light-hearted and professional questions about the individual, their firms and their take on the mortgage market.
This month is the turn of We Know Mortgages principal Ansar Afsar.
Sum up your firm in three sentences.
We Know Mortgages Ltd is a whole-of-market mortgage broker based in Manchester city centre.
We have been organically growing since 2008, advising on residential and buy-to-let mortgages.
We are a young energetic enthusiastic team based in Manchester that are seeking to grow and be better.
What led you to become a broker?
By luck…. Like many graduates applying for jobs across industries after university, I fortunately got offered a graduate trainee advisor role within a local firm. I worked my way up and in 2008 I jumped right into the deep end and set up my own mortgage brokerage company.
From day one, I have always enjoyed working in the industry and continue to do so. Yes, I set up the company in the midst of a financial crisis but for me I thought it was a good time to start.
What are the biggest issues facing you as a broker?
I don’t think there are any major issues with lenders. But I do believe that later down the line brokers like ourselves will have difficulties in regards to recruitment. Finding the right staff is a challenge given the time and effort that goes into training and putting trainees through the CeMap qualification.
The constant changes to the industry and keeping up to date with criteria change is a challenge, especially with buy-to-let.
What could lenders do to improve brokers’ lives the most?
I would like to see lenders doing more with brokers i.e. roadshows, training centres, local events and workshops. Lenders need to be far more proactive and invest more in the broker community. There seems to be far too much focus on hitting targets and not enough on building relationships further.
In Manchester very little happens in this respect. Yes, some networks have a couple of roadshows a year here, and there is an Expo annually but that is about it. Given that there is a minefield of criteria out there, more events and workshops would be helpful for new starters and experienced advisers, especially when it comes to keeping up with all the changes with residential and buy-to-let lending.
It all comes down to the powers above business development managers and I think they need more support. There is a great range of products out there, and intermediaries have such important roles. With the help of BDMs the intermediary market will grow stronger, handle more business and strengthen relationships.
Turnaround times do need to improve among certain lenders. Speed of service is an important part of the application. At certain points this year some lenders have been taking far too long, and this needs to get better. One of my pet hates is for some lenders to take 10, 20 or 30 minutes to pick up the phone. No need to mention names, but I’ll guess most brokers know who they are.
I think product transfers should be implemented among ALL lenders as soon as possible. Some lenders are just not acting quickly enough and they need to take a leaf out of the book of the ones that are doing it correctly.
What plans do you have for the future of your firm?
Our business model is to continue to bring new blood into the industry (which it needs). We will continue to organically grow our client bank in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire area. We are happy with our city centre office in Manchester Piccadilly and will expand accordingly.
Ideally we would also like to take on a further two graduates next year and build on our insurance arm.
If you would like your firm to be featured in Broker Focus, please email Mortgage Strategy deputy editor Sam Barker at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7970 4425.