Choosing a career isn’t always pre-planned. When I left school at 16 I knew I wanted to find a job I could progress in but wasn’t sure exactly what that would be.
I joined LIFT as an apprentice in the financial planning client support team and after completing my NVQ in Business Administration I moved into the Mortgage team. I liked the thought of working in a small team (there are seven of us) and felt that there was a real career path for me to follow. I also felt that I could learn a lot from the people already doing the job I was working towards – becoming a mortgage consultant.
Having spent 18 months working in mortgages administration, on the phones handling client cases on behalf of my frontline colleagues, I was keen to see the other side – meeting clients face to face at the first stage of the process.
Being invited to spend the day with LIFT-Mortgages Managing Director David Baker was a chance to watch and learn.
I left the familiarity of my desk in the Altrincham Head Office and headed to London to our City office. The first thing I noticed was how early everything starts in the City, and with our potential clients starting their work day at 7.30, we had to be available at that time too.
Lesson 1 – Be where your clients are and make it easy for them.
What followed was a day of pretty much back to back meetings. Dave has a large number of clients working in financial firms in the City and most of the day was spent in and around those offices.
What struck me was the variety of people we met, each with different needs.
- First time buyers – they needed much more advice, hand holding (not literally!) and explanation of the mortgage process;
- Clients who had taken mortgages via LIFT before and were looking to re-mortgage – they were confident that they were in safe hands having experienced our service already so they were interested in the details of which deal would suit their current situation best;
- A buy to let client – a much less frequent occurrence these days since the changes in tax rules and stamp duty but still a viable option for some people.
- A new client via recommendation. A large number of people find us by word of mouth and this particular person had a colleague who was a long-standing client.
Even those looking for the ‘same thing’ will have different levels of knowledge, financial positions, aims etc. For some first-time buyers, the mortgage adviser has to explain the different types of mortgage available, and may need to explain about things like repayments, before helping them with the application itself.
Lesson 2 – Communication has to be tailored for each client.
My usual day to day routine involves dealing with estate agents and mortgage lenders, chasing paperwork and updating clients. At the point I usually get involved, the advice and recommendations have been given.
What struck me on my day of client meetings was the knowledge that Dave has of the market. He had rates, terms and more in his head so that he could instantly tell clients which lenders might be a good fit for them. At LIFT-Mortgages we don’t manage applications via a tick box ‘computer says no’ approach. We have relationships with many bespoke lenders who will take a look at each application so having this knowledge of the market becomes much more important.
Lesson 3 – Keep up to date with all the mortgage products available to clients and make sure you know the detail behind each one.
Shadowing Dave in his meetings brought home to me how important setting clients at ease is.
Everyone has a different approach of course but building rapport with someone can make the difference between getting a client in the first instance and then having that client stay with you long term. One of our meetings was someone who had been a client for over five years and was on his third re-mortgage. He was extremely complimentary about Dave and his approachability and expertise. His loyalty had been earned by his experience over the years with Dave and the rest of the team.
Lesson 4 – Clients are not just numbers on a page. Take time to build rapport and understanding and you’ll be rewarded with their loyalty.
Having seen each client in person, I have a much better understanding of 1. The whole mortgage process and 2. How much value we can bring to people by reassurance and taking away the stress of mortgage applications.