"With the mortgage market flooded with a tidal-wave of clients looking to buy or remortgage, brokers have very little time to take a breath and consider the bigger picture."
Ben Allkins is regional director for the Midlands and South West at Just Mortgages. He explains his role and how the pandemic has changed it.
With the mortgage market flooded with a tidal-wave of clients looking to buy or remortgage, brokers have very little time to take a breath and consider the bigger picture. That is why my role as a regional manager at Just Mortgages has become even more crucial than usual recently.
What does a regional manager do?
The life of a regional manager can be incredibly varied. You are required to wear many different hats. From professional discussions as a business mentor offering advice on how to progress towards targets, to more personal conversations around the best way to manage work-life balance. My role is to ensure our brokers receive all the support they need.
To oversimplify my main responsibilities, I am responsible for recruiting new self-employed brokers, supporting the existing self-employed brokers and working with the area managers to co-ordinate our work.
What’s the most crucial part of being a regional manager?
Support is the most important word in my job. Whether that is professional development or personal advice, my task is to give our team of self-employed brokers everything they need to thrive. Since the pandemic hit, the latter has taken on more emphasis.
Virtually everyone has had to adapt to new circumstances and challenges. My role has therefore had to evolve to give advice on how to manage working from the kitchen table, or while looking after young kids.
One of the key areas I look to support brokers is through professional development. We are incredibly lucky at Just Mortgages as we have an extremely comprehensive range of training and support programmes.
The training goes beyond just compliance and provides what a broker needs to succeed. One example is our principal training programme. This gives brokers the skills to manage and grow their own teams, from recruitment, through to crafting a business proposal and crucially, staying on track.
Over 90% of the self-employed brokers I work with have taken at least one additional learning course since joining, and become better brokers as a result.
Has your role changed since the pandemic hit?
Being a regional manager involves a lot of communication. Pre-pandemic it involved travelling all over my region – which is quite large! While I certainly miss getting to meet people face-to-face and shake people’s hands, what the pandemic has revealed is how we can be more efficient. Not every meeting needs to be face-to-face and once we are free from the pandemic, this is certainly a learning I will take with me in the future.
How do you convince brokers to join your team?
When I’m talking to employed brokers looking to join us, some can be hesitant to give up the stability of a steady pay cheque. While I totally understand these fears, myself and my area director team supports self-employed brokers with a huge level of advice and expertise to make sure they have all the tools to succeed.
One of the key pillars of our proposition as mentioned earlier is the word support. Staying true to our values we ensure that each area director has no more than 30 advisers to look after ensuring that when we say support, we actually mean it.
When a broker joins the self-employed team, we sit down together and create a business plan. This will act as a roadmap for the future, however these plans are only useful if we track progress against them. That’s why a big part of my job and that of my area directors, is to stay in touch with the brokers, discuss how they are getting on, if they have any issues and what we can help with to ensure they achieve their goals.
This past year has certainly been a different one. The way we work has been turned upside down and while it has been a challenge, there are certainly lessons to take away from the pandemic. My role has never been more important as our team adapted to the ‘new normal’, and I’m proud of the brilliant work the brokers and my area director team have accomplished over the past year.