“Everyone needs to listen to the ethos and obligations behind Consumer Duty to truly help clients”: Karl Wilkinson, Access FS

We spoke to Karl Wilkinson, chief executive at Access Financial Services, about what makes a great brokerage, the changes he’d like to see to the industry, and what financial advisers need to be doing more of – hint, it’s listening.

Related topics:  In The Spotlight,  Mortgages
Rozi Jones | Editor, Barcadia Media Limited
22nd March 2024
Karl Wilkinson Access Financial Services
"We need to actively listen to our clients so we fully grasp their situation and requirements, before we hastily jump to suggest a solution for them."

FR: Tell us a bit about yourself and your company – what makes it great?

We are a bright-eyed brokerage of 275 employed and self-employed advisers on mortgage, protection and specialist lending. I set up Access FS in April 2017 and we’ve been growing consistently and vigorously ever since - despite the jolt that was 2023. And in a way, because of it.

We’re an agile business, so while the economy and mortgage industry took a battering in 2023, we galvanised our learning and development opportunities. Training is a big thing at Access FS, and it works - in 2023, we increased turnover by 126% and still have our amazing, hard-earned Trust pilot score of 5.0/5.0.

We amped up the Access Academy so advisers with no experience outside mortgages didn’t have to rely on mortgage sales; they could diversify into selling protection products, for example.

In addition, we educate all of our advisers who are new to the industry and pre-CeMAP on selling protection policies. They can then go on to graduate to CeMAP 1, 2 and 3 and become mortgage advisers.

FR: What differentiates Access FS from other brokerages?

We’re a highly diverse, inclusive and highly collaborative bunch of advisers. We have a really strong support network of people, technology and marketing tools. Our broker WhatsApp channel is on fire with messages of praise, support and encouragement.

Our advisers are from some 20 different countries across Africa, Asia, South America, the Caribbean, Eastern and Western Europe, 40% of whom are female, compared to the national average of 16%. We live and breathe diversity. In fact, if 'Diversity and Inclusion' was a financial services firm, it would probably be Access FS.

We reach into our diverse, local communities to actively recruit mortgage and protection advisers from many different backgrounds. Our new recruits then reach into their communities and do the same, and so the cycle continues. So we become increasingly diverse while providing a critical service to traditionally underserved communities.

In 2023, we partnered with Nomo Bank and were one of the first to offer access to Sharia-compliant digital property finance for UK rental and residential properties, for customers who don’t want to compromise on their beliefs.

FR: What changes would you like to see to the industry?

There are three changes I’d like to see. These are my bugbears.

Firstly, the mortgage industry needs to address the small but significant number of rogue estate agents who are flouting the Estate Agents Act of 1979 by pressurising buyers into using their mortgage service providers. This is happening more and more often with our clients, who feel threatened that if they don’t go the way of the estate agent, they’ll lose the sale. It’s appalling behaviour and there’s a reason conditional selling is illegal.

Secondly, protection commission clawback. Together, we must come up with a way to stop unethical practices around protection commission clawback. It doesn’t make sense that commission has been paid, and yet the customer could easily cancel their policy within that timeframe. Perhaps something in the middle of non-indemnity and indemnity could work. But we need to do something. Some financial services firms are sinking in debt because of their inability to manage this issue.

Lastly, I would love to see the return of 0% deposit mortgages. After all, if a tenant can afford the exorbitant cost of rent, surely they can afford the cost of a lower mortgage payment – even at 0% deposit.

FR: What should financial advisers be doing to achieve more in 2024?

Everyone needs to take advantage of the ethos and obligations behind Consumer Duty to truly help clients. We need to actively listen to our clients so we fully grasp their situation and requirements, before we hastily jump to suggest a solution for them. Care for your clients’ needs and understand their goals and objectives. Do that, and the chances are they’ll end up eternally grateful and refer their friends to you.

FR: What’s the most important thing about your role at Access FS?

It’s definitely listening to my advisers. It’s easy to think that you understand the challenges they face but, without keeping in touch and listening on a daily basis, I wouldn’t fully understand what I should be doing to help and support them. It’s important to me that they feel they are reaching their potential for success every day and in the long term.

More like this
Latest from Property Reporter
Latest from Protection Reporter
to our newsletter

Join a community of over 30,000 intermediaries and keep up-to-date with industry news and upcoming events via our newsletter.