Who would be a mortgage broker? The challenges and joys of working in this industry
Andrew Montlake, Managing Director and brand guru at Coreco
Do you remember that iconic opening line in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, when Henry Hill – played by the brilliant and much-missed Ray Liotta – says, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster?” Well, you are unlikely to hear many people say that about being a mortgage broker! It’s something most people fall into. I know I did.
I always wanted to work in PR and marketing. But when I graduated, it was a difficult time for the advertising industry. After spending several months in the postroom as a graduate, earning a measly seven grand a year, I knew that I had to make a change. I saw an advert for John Charcol and thought it sounded interesting. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The beautiful thing about this line of work is that, once you’re in it, you realise that it is full of good people, which makes you fall in love with the industry and become passionate about it. That is why I’m still in it. And if a schmuck like me can make it in the mortgage-brokering business, anyone can.
In some ways, the market now is similar to the one I started out in – that is to say, bloody difficult. Mortgage brokers are having a tough old time of it right now: the purchase market is down, and the mortgage market is dominated by product transfers and by lenders who are not paying brokers sufficiently on the product transfer side for the amount of work they do and the advice they provide.
And make no mistake, in this ever-changing environment we are currently witnessing, brokers are doing more work than ever, often having to re-broker the same deal two or three times because the rates keep changing. Overall, brokers have been very flexible and good at supporting lenders through some of these challenging times. We respect lenders’ requests for restraint in our criticism of them, which we have heeded because we understand the challenges they face.
But brokers need some love back, mainly in the form of systemic change. What do I mean? Well, for one thing, it would be great if rate-setting meetings could be held in the morning rather than mid-afternoon so that everyone knows early doors that rates will be changing. A midday-latest rule to announce changes would mean that brokers can reclaim precious family time and not suffer burnout, as is currently happening due to rate changes still being announced later in the evening with deadlines of 10 pm, or weekends, and brokers having to scramble to react and update their clients.
If this was an occasional event, we could roll with the punches. But it’s a constant thing right now, and brokers feel like hamsters on a wheel, forever running in place and getting nowhere – I can personally attest that it’s taking a real toll on people’s mental health. The same goes for the lender staff, by the way, and I really feel for them too. You shouldn’t be tempted to vent your spleen at them, as they do their best to help. The person you want to shout at down the phone is probably the CEO of the respective lender, rather than those who are really trying to help.
That being said, there are some great tools out there to help deal with the mental health impact of the current situation. The Mortgage Industry Mental Health Charter, which Coreco and many other organisations have signed up to, is an example that springs to mind and is a fantastic resource. More firms should engage with this and get involved in using tools to help their employees and be kinder to the people they deal with on the other side of the table.
My advice to anyone joining this industry is that there’s no easy fix. The work you put in now will stand you in really good stead later on down the road. And if you are a new starter, don’t be disheartened: it won’t always be like this, and now is actually a really good time to learn and to earn your spurs.
To be good and do good in this industry, you need to talk to as many people as possible: don’t be stuffy about who you speak to, and do try and help everyone, no matter the loan size or the need. In this job, it’s all about human connection, so go and seek it out: even if you speak to ten people and don’t get a deal at the end of it, you will be amazed by how many of them come back to you eventually – and also by how big your referral chain soon becomes, just through trying to help people. And that is ultimately what our industry is all about; helping people.