Advisor Journey and Experience

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Advisor Journey and Experience

Advisor Journey and Experience at Grand Union Financial

Adam Riches talks all about his advisor experience and journey with the company so far.

Tell us about your journey into the financial services industry?

I was previously a trainee underwriter at Lloyds of London insurance market. Prior to the pandemic I decided that I was looking for a change of career and after a chance meeting at the golf club, I decided it would be a wonderful idea to retrain and become a mortgage adviser.

Why did you decide to join Grand Union Financial?

I was introduced to Michael O’Brien via a golfing acquaintance – he assists in the running of Grand Union Financial with Kal Woodley. I was midway through my CeMAP (mortgage advice) training and starting to look at my work options. I spoke to Mike, got a good vibe and  decided to enrol with Grand Union Financial.

What was the process of joining Grand Union like?

I didn’t have an interview as such, because we are all self-employed underneath the Grand Union banner. But Kal Woodley has responsibility as the company principal to make sure that those he is taking on are suitable. So there is an element of due diligence that he has to perform. 

I had to provide a CV and references for background checks – which is important when you work in financial services. It probably took about six to eight weeks for all the searches to come back which was a bit tense, but I managed to pass and I’m in the door!

How are you finding your role so far?

I’ve been with the company now for just under two years. What I most enjoy about the job is helping people get their first mortgage. I get real satisfaction working with First Time Buyers.

When I purchased my first property I had a bad experience with a mortgage adviser. I always thought that once I was trading I would do the absolute best I could to help people get on the ladder – because it’s very daunting. 

There isn’t much help out there from government organisations or charities etc., and people usually only buy perhaps three or four houses in their entire life. Even purchasing your second property can still be a stressful experience. So I always want to do the best I can for my clients.

Is training and support provided even once you’re qualified?

Most definitely. Once you’ve got your CeMAP qualification, that’s only half the battle. The rest of it you have to learn on the job. 

It’s a bit like driving a car. You get your driving licence but you don’t actually learn to drive until you’re out on the roads on your own, navigating your way through 5pm traffic. Whilst I had my CeMAP I didn’t have a clue how to approach lenders or use the systems. 

But Kal was exceptionally patient and helpful in getting me up to speed. I’ll be totally honest, if you are newly qualified and you don’t have that level of support from someone, you wouldn’t stand a chance. The support that Kal has given me in training, and ever since, has been fantastic.

When I joined I didn’t understand how many different products were available out there –  many of which Grand Union has the facility to provide. Kal provided me with that training which has been exceptionally useful.

Is there help to market yourself as a financial advisor? 

The company is undergoing a rebrand at present with a new website due to launch in the next couple of weeks. That’s very exciting. The new site will enable all the individual brokers under the Grand Union Financial banner to market ourselves better.

Kal and Mike have really taken it on board and implemented change – I’m excited to see where it takes us.

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Does Grand Union supply leads and give you access to products and lenders?

Yes, we are supplied with some leads, although we do have to go out and self-generate the majority of these, which I enjoy. If you’re hoping to survive as a mortgage adviser just being given leads you will struggle.

You might be looking to enter financial services on the premise of having your CeMAP, thinking you’ll get loads of leads, but unless you’ve got a very good network behind you, you will find it very hard. 

Nothing comes easy in life, but if you put the hours in you don’t need to rely upon leads landing on your doorstep. Grand Union Financial will give you a handful of prospects as they come available. They are distributed on a round-robin basis amongst all the advisers. 

With regards to lenders, we are whole-of-market which means we’ve got access to the vast majority of lenders across the country. There’s one lender we don’t have yet but negotiations are ongoing.

In terms of products, I predominantly do residential and Buy to Let mortgages, but other advisers do more property finance or business finance related lending, which can include asset finance and luxury asset finance as well. Kal is heavily involved in that and gets stuck into the big ticket items. 

Are there opportunities for progression into different areas of financial services?

The options are there. What it boils down to is developing contacts within that world. Some of my clients have asked me if I do other forms of lending and I’ve been totally honest with them. I’ve never done it, but I do have the facility to do it. Kal has shadowed me on sorting those areas of finance – we all have to learn somewhere. 

So I’m never afraid to say that to a client that I’ve never done this before, but I can assist you with the guidance of my company principal. I’d rather just be totally transparent than hack my way through a case. 

There’s plenty that we offer within the company, including various insurance policies as well. That means life insurance, critical illness cover, income protection and general insurance as well as buildings and contents.

Is there a minimum volume of business you need to write each month?

Not that I’m aware of, no. But we are all self-employed, so ultimately if we don’t produce any work, we’re not going to eat! And we like eating. 

I’ve never been under pressure to deliver anything specific and there’s no need to work six or seven days a week. If anything, Kal has actively encouraged all of us to take breaks and not burn ourselves out. He’s quite partial to a holiday himself. There’s a very relaxed atmosphere and I enjoy working here.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in financial services?

Don’t do it – because then you’ll become my competition!

When I was training I remember people saying to me that mortgage advice is very cutthroat, it’s sink or swim. You’ll either last six months or a lifetime. 

Well, I’ve lasted my six months and in year one I surpassed the targets I set for myself. Year two’s been a bit of a struggle but that’s partly to do with the economy and the state of the property market at present. 

When you are thrown in at the deep end, you’ve got two choices. You can sit around feeling sorry for yourself and moaning that things aren’t going well, or you can get out there and find opportunities – because there are plenty out there. If you do a good job, you easily get referred by clients. It’s a human trait, isn’t it, wanting to assist other people. 

So in terms of the advice I was given, if anything, people tried to put me off doing it – but I’m glad I didn’t listen. It’s going well so far.

Anything else to add for people thinking about becoming a mortgage adviser?

My advice to anyone considering joining the industry is to do it, and put 110 percent in. It’s a cliche but it’s true. If you think that just by getting your CeMAP you’re going to make a success of it, you’re deluded. You need to work exceptionally hard. But what you put in in the early years is laying foundations for the future. So give it 100 per cent or more!