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Female advisers are much in demand

Female Independent, a mortgage advisory service set up by women for women, has received a huge amount of interest and is helping to plug a gap in the industry, say Carol Begbie and Susan Young

The word female does not strike people as unusual. Nor does the word independent cause much of a stir. But put the two together and you get some strange reactions – people begin to wonder if it’s a new feminist grouping. Then go on to add the two extra words mortgage advisers and you will be very surprised by the reaction you get.

We have our own mortgage advisory business called Female Independent which predominantly offers advice to women. We have been surprised and delighted at the overwhelming response to our business since we set up in April 2003, and in the interest that it has generated.
So why did we go into business? Between us we have more than 40 years’ experience in the financial services sector and have worked in a number of roles for various employers. We found ourselves at a crossroads in our careers and felt the time was right to take the plunge and set up the type of business we had always believed in.

We know from experience that there are many women who prefer to visit a female mortgage adviser and wanted to fill this void in the industry. And we have been proved right, with many of our clients attracted to us initially on name alone.

This has undoubtedly been for many reasons. But one that we have found to be typical is that many women nowadays find themselves on their own with children after years of being the wife, mother and housekeeper, and find dealing with the financial side of their lives a veritable minefield of problems while, at the same time, trying to pull themselves out of an emotional quagmire.

The fact that we create an environment of trust and support enables them to be honest about their personal life even when the subject matter can be traumatic. However, having the full facts enables us to give the correct advice and we endeavour to help these women by giving them the knowledge, confidence and assistance they need to take control of their finances and mortgage requirements.

On the other hand, there are many women who are financially astute but simply feel more at ease talking to a woman. In our opinion, women have intuition and natural ability when offering both practical and emotional support.

We feel that we fall into the role of agony aunts but are aware that encouraging clients to give us a background to both their financial and personal circumstances allows us to get a picture of their lifestyle which forms an excellent basis for the correct advice to be given. A fly on the wall in our office would hear some interesting stories. There are tears and laughter and maybe the sound of children – we have a children’s area to keep the kids occupied while the adult business is being taken care of. Ultimately, customers are happy with the professional service they receive from us.

Before any of the men reading this article feel positively discriminated against, we must explain that of course we also welcome male clients. One day, on answering the telephone, a male voice was heard: “D’yooz only deal wi’ wummin?” For colleagues south of the border this loosely translates as: “Do you only deal with females?” This caused much laughter in the office and we were happy to reassure the gentleman that we would be happy to deal with him.

Because of the company logo, which features male and female gender signs, single men, couples and same sex couples have all been intrigued and have subsequently become our clients. We have a great deal of male clients and we have found that they respond to the feminine touch in the same way as our female clients – offering us the details of their personal circumstances so that we can give them the best possible advice.

We are always reading in one publication or another that psychologists deem women to be able to multitask, a fact that we can confirm is true as we both run a full-time business and have families, complete with children, to look after at home. A good balance between work and family life is paramount to both of us in order to create a working environment, which is focussed and enjoyable. We hope that this in turn is radiated to our staff and clients alike.

Our excellent customer service, honesty and our genuine protective attitude towards our clients ensures that they return to us and in turn they generate referrals. We are always eager to hear what our clients have to say about our service and regularly send out feedback questionnaires. The response to these has so far been extremely positive and it a great way of helping us to improve on our service.

It sounds simplistic to say that our success is built on excellent communication but in a world where calls are answered by automated services and faceless voices we believe our customers enjoy the working relationship we cultivate with them.

Our aim is first and foremost to create an environment where clients feel at ease. Most of us have experienced the dread (as bad as the feeling you get while waiting to see the dentist) of having to sort out our finances and we strive to destroy this image from the outset. We treat our clients as individuals and are always aware of the importance of making the correct decisions when buying a property.

Although our business is still relatively new we feel that we have accomplished a great deal in a short space of time. We started on this journey because we had a strong belief in providing excellent mortgage advice mixed with outstanding customer service. We are aware that offering a service mainly aimed at women by women might well be seen as a rather risky venture in the financial sector. However, we have been delighted at the feedback from both clients and colleagues in the industry.

The satisfaction of knowing that clients have been delighted with our service has been the ultimate accolade for us and the inspiration to build on what we have accomplished so far. We have certainly found that the words female and independent go nicely hand in hand with the words mortgage and advisers.

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