FR: You have achieved tremendous growth in the past five years, going from a sole broker to a firm of more than 100 brokers, how have you done that?
By creating a business model that empowers self-employed brokers and offers them an exponential opportunity for personal growth.
Access Financial Services was born from frustration at the lack of support from networks. Networks are compliance focused but run it quite poorly which became an increasing source of frustration, so we wanted to do something different.
I decided to leverage the knowledge and skills I had developed, by helping newly qualified CeMAP advisers. I love helping and teaching people and identified a gap in the market for a model to go beyond compliance which offers business support, consultancy and mentoring. I work with each individual adviser to galvanise their skill set and help them grow their own business.
It’s about helping them become the best version of themselves, so they can provide the highest quality advice. Our aim has been to increase the value they add to a customer and we are successful because everyone has bought into this.
Mostly brokers have come through word of mouth. And the more people who joined spoke positively about Access and that draws more brokers in. It was this approach that provided a foundation for our reputation and helped us grow to the size we are today.
FR: What are the challenges and opportunities for brokers right now?
As I write this the biggest challenges are the rising cost of living and the fallout from Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget. With interest rates rising by the day and lenders pulling products with almost no notice, it’s an incredibly challenging market both for borrowers and the brokers advising them. As with all challenges there are also opportunities however.
The pandemic taught us we could adopt remote ways of working to interact with colleagues and consumers in any location in a way many wouldn’t have considered before. As a result, those who embrace technology will be more successful than those who don’t.
Data is the new gold. At the start of the customer journey, we enable our brokers to capture data to cross-sell holiday, personal, or commercial insurance. It means Access customers should no longer need to go to Compare the Market as we can fulfil all their financial needs.
For younger brokers there are opportunities too. Many are millennials who have proved they can use technology and have a real connection selling to fellow millennials which creates lots of opportunities.
Despite the recent tumultuous time, things will level off and there will still be opportunities for good brokers. Already lenders who pulled products have started to reintroduce them; it will be a challenging market for some time to come but will mean that, more than ever, people will need good mortgage advice.
With cost of living rising, many may well be put off moving, so it will be sensible to turn the focus to remortgage business, especially with over 1.7 million people due to come off fixed rates over the next year. The need for protection products has also never been greater.
FR: What are your ambitions for Access FS and what needs to be in place for you to get there?
There are a lot of projects in the pipeline with a focus on tech solutions to meet the demand of borrowers. This year, we are working on a B2C platform which will bring in thousands of new customers per month and subsequently provide quality leads for our advisers.
We want to become one of the biggest brokerages in the UK. It’s not just size but reputation; we want to be number one in the eyes of lenders, protection providers, and customers.
Access is also run-on strong ethics and values and it is important that this continues. I want the culture to stay the same, and continue to permeate down throughout the organisation. We then want to recruit the best brokers and advisers that share our mindset.
FR: If you could read one headline about the broker market in 2022, what would it be?
‘Karl Wilkinson becomes Prime Minister!’
In reality, I’d like to see the strength of the mortgage market continue, interest rates stabilise, lenders reintroduce all their products and both the cost of living and inflation reduce.