We aim to amplify the voices of all intermediaries, up and down the country. This month we profile Stuart Phillips director of BrokerSense.
Sum up your firm in a few sentences.
AALTO Mortgages really specialises in the buy-to-let market. Having worked for an estate agent and a large independent firm, I was always drawn to the more commercial end of the marketplace. I enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of buy-to-let. I also got a lot of satisfaction building a longer-term relationship with clients as opposed to the catch-ups every two or five years. When I got the opportunity to establish my own firm, I knew I would focus on this niche.
I also wanted to break away from the closed-minded approach of the big firms by being much more open and transparent. I believe that people buy into people first, and that if you instil trust and confidence, then you don’t need to be coy about disclosing lenders, and by passing on as much advice and information as possible.
My clients benefit from the experiences of the hundreds of clients before them. So far, this has proven to be a winning strategy with a healthy and growing client bank, some of whom I’ve been working with for over five years.
What led you to become a broker?
It was purely accidental. I’d always been interested in managing money, economics and the incredible complexity financial services offered. Pre-credit crunch, I was working for a large bank as a banking advisor, selling loans and accounts and I really didn’t enjoy it, but I wasn’t terribly sure what else I might enjoy.
When I saw the role of the financial planners, the deep relationships they developed and the complexity of the role, I knew that was the path I wanted to take.
Unfortunately, the credit crunch halted any chance of being hired as the bank ceased all recruitment and started lay-offs. I was offered a trainee mortgage broker role at an estate agent and the rest is history.
What are the biggest issues facing you as a broker?
Regulatory changes really affect me and my clients, and this past year has been a
rollercoaster in that regard. It seemed relentless and frustrating, but it’s bittersweet. The harder it is to source lending, the more clients needed my assistance; so, while deals have become harder to place, the demand from new and older clients has increased significantly.
My other ongoing frustration is technology. No other industry seems to be so slow to adopt new methods of working and we have a very archaic system for buying property in the UK. The fact that it takes two to three months to buy a property seems mind boggling when we live in an age where you can have almost anything delivered to you in two hours, or you can tap an app and a car arrives in minutes. Brokers need to spend their time advising, not on data entry, or waiting on a phone for 30 minutes just to get an update.
What one thing could lenders do to improve brokers’ lives the most?
Alluding to the above, lenders need to invest in their technology to hasten the rollout of mortgage application APIs and improve communication systems and the way mortgage offers are delivered.
Really, a broker should be able to tap into a lender’s criteria, affordability calculators and credit score cards so that we can get real-time information about a client’s suitability for a loan.
What plans do you have for the future of your firm?
AALTO continues to work closely with its bank of portfolio landlords and residential customers and business is good. I would like to expand and bring in a team of perhaps two to three brokers, but with things changing so quickly I want to wait and see how things pan out. We have launched a new application that hopes to address some of the gaps mentioned above while we wait for lenders to catch up.
We have developed BrokerSense, which can acquire lender affordability figures across 50+ lenders almost instantly. We also have an API so that CRM developers and the like can incorporate this into their own systems. Along with progressive companies like Knowledge Bank and Twenty7Tec, we hope we can make some inroads into the difficulties brokers face in matching clients to suitable lenders.
If you would like your firm to be featured in Broker Focus, please email Mortgage Strategy editor Rebekah Commane at firstname.lastname@example.org