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Retitrement is not an option

The spectator sees more of the game than the players and that has certainly been my experience over the last month or two. Following the sale of Charcol, for the first time in 15 years, I had time to sit back before deciding what direction I wanted my career to take.

Retirement was not an option. I do not play golf well enough to retire and I enjoy working too much to devote the time it would take to improve my handicap. So, I took a deeper look at how intermediaries were adapting to the regulation of mortgages and protection. I also examined how providers in the intermediary market were behaving in this brave new world.

I had been a customer of Abbey for Intermediaries during my time at Charcol, so I know the people who set up the operation and they have made it a highly respected player in the intermediary market. What stood out was that Abbey for Intermediaries was ahead of the curve in adapting its business model and the structure of its sales teams to serve its intermediary customers better. Added to that, the acquisition by Santander has further energised the business to be at the forefront of intermediary sales and service.

N3 and N4 were two of the biggest events in the financial services market in the last year, and on both sides of the sales process many people breathed a sigh of relief that they passed off relatively peacefully.

KFIs lie at the heart of mortgage regulation, designed for transparency and openness with their penny perfect accuracy. The principle is absol-utely right but the practical implementation will take some time to get used to. It may be some time before we get feedback from customers what, if any difference the new regulation made to them.

With protection regulation, the benefits to consumers are more obvious and immediate. Regulation benefits those who seek protection advice before buying insurance, rather than settling for an off the shelf product which is also good news for advisers. For our part, pro-viders must also work hard to drive home the message that selling protection products is not about price, it’s about advice. Intermediaries are now duty bound to recommend solutions taking into account three factors: value for money, the providers’ financial strength, and claims record.

Overall, I expect that this year will be one of stability, as the housing market cools, interest rates peak and brokers and lenders settle into the new regulated world. Regulation has brought with it a number of practical constraints which has forced a degree of simplicity into mortgage product structures and procuration fees. Most of this is good news but communicating with customers about the products remains a challenge.

So what do I bring to the already strong management team that Ambrose McGinn has built? I want to be part of a team that puts Abbey for Intermediaries at the cutting-edge of product distribution. We want to be the best in our chosen markets and like intermediaries we will look to make strategic partnerships and tie ups to make that happen.

Ricky Okey is Abbey for Intermediaries’ director, mortgages and protection

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