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One to One: Jeff Knight, head of marketing, Pepper Homeloans

Jeff Knight

Building up a young business, the importance of listening to brokers and a stash of song compositions just waiting for an international audience

What are your plans for Pepper this year?
The lending part of the UK business is still young, having launched in 2015. I joined in January 2016 with a view that much of this year would be about putting in place the foundations to support the ongoing growth of the business, including continued investment in quality people.

We will aim to strengthen our overall proposition, including the product range, systems and infrastructure, so that we can continue to deliver a high-quality and reliable service to intermediaries and offer products that meet the needs of their clients. To do this requires a lot of thinking and planning. Moreover, it means listening to intermediaries because, for me, insight is the brains of marketing.

What can brokers expect from Pepper during the year?
The intermediary mortgage market is becoming increasingly ‘noisy’ as more lenders vie for brokers’ attention. One of our primary objectives, as mentioned, is to really understand the needs and motivations of intermediaries. We will also focus on raising Pepper’s profile and ensuring brokers are aware of what we have to offer and why they should consider recommending us.

What is your take on the health of the specialist lending market?
It is in excellent health with a growing range of products and lenders. Specialist lending is becoming increasingly important as more brokers recognise that it offers a significant opportunity to boost their income by placing non-standard applications. It also plays to brokers’ strengths because most borrowers with specialist needs require the expertise and advice of knowledgeable brokers to find a suitable deal.

There has been a suggestion that the buy-to-let sector will see a decline in lending this year as a result of legislative changes. I do not agree.

I expect a slowdown in growth but the buy-to-let market will continue to grow.

Where the industry needs to improve is in how it views the specialist market. In marketing terms, I think the winners will be those that are able to segment and re-segment the market and provide offerings for these, rather than view the market as homogenous.

As a child, what was your dream job?
Before my teens I dreamed of captaining the England football team. As my interest in music grew, my next dream was to become some sort of songwriter, and I really did think that the songs I crafted would be international best-sellers. Those songs are still in my loft, if anyone is interested.

Do you have any secret talents?
Play me a song from the early 1980s and I will probably tell you the title and artist in just a few seconds. I can also tell you all the number ones, in order, from 1983.

Now that I am saying this out loud, I have to question whether it really constitutes a talent.

What is the best advice you have received?
It was when Capita Mortgage Services director Godfrey Blight suggested I spend time with an executive coach. I was very sceptical at first but it was the best thing I have ever done and I received a huge amount of insight and advice to do with leadership in particular.

Through the coaching I became obsessed with the power of creative thinking and discovered a quote by Albert Einstein, who said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” That is the best advice I have ever read because it taught me to trust my instincts and ideas in all walks of life.

Who is your all-time hero, and why?
My first hero was Kenny Dalglish – not because he is probably one of the greatest footballers I have seen but because he always had a big smile and a great sense of humour. He showed that you can be successful and also enjoy yourself.

As an adult, I do not have a hero in the conventional way. However, I come across lots of ‘heroes’: people I respect, who do good things for society and their community.

If you were not in your current role, what would you like to be doing?
Climbing into my loft to dig out my old songs.

COMPANY PROFILE:

Year established: 2001 in Australia and 2013 in the UK
Headcount: 302 for Pepper (UK) Limited
Address:
Harman House
1 George Street
Uxbridge
Tel: 0333 370 5555
Web: www.peppergroup.co.uk

HISTORY
Pepper is an end-to-end mortgage originator, third-party loan servicer and asset manager that has operated in Australia since 2001. In 2013 Oakwood Global Finance was acquired by Pepper Group to become Pepper (UK) Limited. In 2015 Pepper Homeloans, a trading style of Pepper (UK) Limited, began lending, on specialist residential and buy-to-let mortgages.

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