Now that the new year is well under way, we can take a look back at 2014 to see which networks were the biggest winners and losers in terms of recruitment and retention.
As always, these figures are taken from the FCA register and therefore may show slight variations because of occasional retrospective alterations by the regulator.
Further, introducer ARs are not included in the data because they are not business writers.
Note that these figures alone should not be used as the basis for a decision on whether to join or leave a particular network.
At Which Network, we use this data to inform our recommendations, but only alongside 128 other fields of data and feedback from the 500-plus AR firms we have helped to find new networks. That way, we get a more complete picture of what it is like to work within any given network.
So, the best performer last year, in terms of net difference, was Intrinsic with a net gain of 79 firms. It added 182 AR firms in 2014 although, paradoxically, it also has the second-worst record for lost ARs, at 103.
In terms of percentage gains, the strongest performer in 2014 was Stonebridge Mortgage Solutions with a gain of 22 per cent. The network came second in numerical terms.
Third place, numerically, goes to Mortgage Support Network with its increase of 10 ARs. In percentage terms it came second, with Intrinsic in third place with solid growth of 7.8 per cent.
At the other end of the table, the worst performer in numerical terms was Sesame, with a net loss of 203 ARs. Unfortunately, this was a continuation of the previous year’s performance.
Second from bottom was Financial with a net loss of 86 firms, followed by Openwork with a net loss of 44 firms.
With this year’s data, we have not included a column for the annual figures for 2013 because, at that time, our systems were not sophisticated enough to be able to eliminate introducer ARs, so a direct comparison would be misleading.
Tracking trends across the two years, however, I am pleased to say that, overall, the haemorrhaging of ARs from the industry seems to be slowing down. This is backed up with a fair amount of empirical evidence as we are now seeing a big increase in people who have gained their qualifications and competent adviser status with an existing firm, and who are ready to take advantage of the improving market by setting up their own business.
We have also noticed a marked rise in the average age of existing brokers, with many good business writers dropping out of investment and pension advice in their fifties and sixties and moving into mortgage and protection-only business.
This comes just in time to take advantage of intense competition among lenders, a potential boom in remortgage lending and an industry-wide shift in favour of intermediary distribution.
Overall, 2015 has the potential to be a good year for mortgage brokers.