"I’m looking forward to this year – there are challenges of course, but also lots of opportunity, and the ongoing rates war has reignited a lot of people’s interest in the market, which is great to see."
FR: To start with, tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in financial services.
I’ve worked in financial services for just under 37 years now, and absolutely love it. I quickly developed a strong interest in mortgages, and have made them my bread and butter ever since, working with so many talented people at different lenders over the last 30 years. I started to specialise in the intermediary side in 2011, before joining Saffron initially as head of mortgage sales in 2020, and progressing to head of business development two years later. I’ve very recently taken on an expanded role which includes development finance, giving me a full remit and oversight of the finance we provide for the whole mortgage industry.
FR: Can you describe your role at Saffron for Intermediaries, and how it differs from previous roles you have held in the industry?
As head of business development, my priorities lie in three key areas; product, criteria, and service. You need all three for a winning proposition, particularly service as the differentiator. As well as leading the business development team, I am also involved in risk management, policy, and advising on our overall proposition. I see myself as the eyes and ears for the intermediary market – helping and speaking to our fantastic business development team, and then working with other colleagues to ensure we evolve as a lender. Previously, I’ve held a range of roles, from sales and marketing director for mortgages to financial planning manager (much earlier in my career), all of which have given me the experience and skills needed to support those core three areas that now fall under my remit.
FR: Can you describe a typical customer for Saffron for Intermediaries?
It’s hard to pin down a typical customer, as we support borrowers with a wide range of needs and circumstances. Our specialism is making the complex easy, so that could mean helping someone who is very credit-worthy but has multiple income streams, or who is self-employed. It could also mean a borrower who is a contractor, with a quirky property type, or even someone who is looking to build their own home Grand Designs style!
FR: What misconceptions do you think brokers and their customers have about self-build and custom-build mortgages?
One of the biggest myths I hear about self-build and custom-build mortgages is that they are very difficult to access. People often think it’s a really complicated process, when in reality, it boils down to having a comprehensive plan for the build, including a detailed cash flow budget.
Another misconception is that it’s hard to get the kind of flexible mortgages needed for a self-build project, which requires funds to be available at different stages of the project. At Saffron, we offer exactly this, allowing borrowers to draw down the required amounts as needed throughout the build, with contingency funds also accounted for in the agreed cash flow budget.
The main challenge of self- and custom-build is really the planning regulation, which needs a lot of reform. It was reassuring to hear the Chancellor announce planning reform at both national and local levels in his Autumn Statement back in November, and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress.
FR: What are some of the key current priorities for Saffron for Intermediaries?
We’re really focused on engaging with intermediaries, so that they understand how Saffron can support them and their clients. Our team of business development managers is doing an amazing job of building relationships across the industry and raising awareness of how we can help.
By embracing complexity and offering a helping hand in some more challenging areas of market, we’re hoping to support intermediaries to diversify amidst this slightly depressed period for the mortgage sector. This might mean a first step into self-build mortgages for example. We’re all aware that the market is facing some challenges at the moment, and Saffron is committed to helping brokers to evolve their skillset to weather the storm.
FR: What is your key goal for the year ahead?
My goal for the year is to establish Saffron as the go-to lender for complex cases, and I see us achieving that by improving in three areas; products, criteria, and service. These are the three ingredients needed for a winning proposition, and while we have made huge strides in each over the past year, we need to continually evolve to meet the changing needs of the market. I’m looking forward to this year – there are challenges of course, but also lots of opportunity, and the ongoing rates war has reignited a lot of people’s interest in the market, which is great to see. Many borrowers’ situations are becoming more complex – in terms of credit history, income streams, or a whole host of other factors – but I want it to be known that Saffron is here to help.