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My claim change

Jeremy Noble, a mortgage packager and master agent for claim management company Credit Issues, explains how, with mortgages lending at record low levels, many mortgage brokers are looking at other areas to supplement their income. He recounts his experience of finding a new source of work as mortgage lending dried up

The packaging sector has been one of the hardest-hit areas of the mortgage market during the credit crunch.

The economic climate means it is difficult to continue trading as a packager and with lenders continuing to reduce their panels a number of firms have had to stop packaging altogether.

There is no getting away from the fact that the market is tough but we all need to try to incorporate a bit of foresight and flexibility into our models to find the great opportunities that are still out there.

We have to work hard to retain clients, develop new skills and extend our expertise because if we don’t, then we are in danger of being left behind. The market has changed and smart brokers need to change with it.

Noble Mortgages Ltd was, and to a certain extent still is, a very successful packaging business model in its own right. The business has been going for 10 years, based in Kent, but I knew it was time to look further afield at additional opportunities outside the packaging and mortgage market as difficulties with mortgage funding were plain to see.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept of packaging is still viable but as the market changes, we need to see new lenders entering to create competition in lending and increased choice for the consumer.

When the market returns, packagers will be as necessary as ever to deliver controlled quality distribution and Noble Mortgages will mould to the emerging mortgage market as it comes back.

However, realising that the packaging market was dwindling, I looked at other areas, initially to supplement this lost income, with an open mind about what the next step may be.

Relationships are an important aspect of any business and, through my packaging dealings with High Street Home Loans, I soon came across Credit Issues.

The nature of the business interested me and as I delved deeper into the business and its potential, I became more intrigued by the proposition.

I also looked at many other businesses operating in this area but the simple fact was that the Credit Issues’ business model seemed far more robust and further advanced than the other firms I looked at.

Combined with the fact that I knew the history of the directors and senior management from my days dealing with High Street Home Loans and trusted them, this accelerated the decision to take a new direction professionally. After a number of meetings and discussions, I signed as a Credit Issues’ master agent in December 2008.

There are perceptions to overcome in this sector and that is why it is important to get to the heart of the business.

Brokers are having to explore other areas of the market, such as debt solutions, secured loans and insolvency services, but none seems to have caused more raised eyebrows than affiliations with claim management firms. It is important to clarify that not all claims management companies are the same.

As I have said, many of the senior management team at Credit Issues are experienced in the lending market and have a great deal of experience dealing directly with the intermediary market.

It was important for me that they understood the relationships that take place within the industry and, as a firm, it positions itself to try to strengthen broker propositions, not to try to weaken them.

For this reason, it does not look to challenge mortgage agreements. It looks at card and loan agreements, which would not have been business written by a broker.

I soon realised that being a master agent was not too far removed from the infrastructure required to operate as a successful packager. A good master agent will develop their own business by building rela-tionships with brokers who will operate as a sub-agent under the master agent.

The main role of the job is to develop, maintain support, audit and drive business from the brokers, so the simi-larities with being a mortgage packager are pretty clear. The only real difference is the fact that the claim management sector is booming whereas the packager/ lending market is falling.

New business is built on the back of existing broker relations that have been carefully crafted over 25 years. The qualities needed to succeed in this area are on par with those required in the packaging arena which has made the transition pretty seamless.

My next challenge is to add debt management and corporate solutions to my suite of products as I believe these are also growth areas and, with the support and experience of the Guardian Financial Group – of which Credit Issues, Guardian Debt Management and Guardian Corporate Solutions are part, I can only see the business going from strength to strength.

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