‘I was told to get a trade – I took a risk’
By Laura Miller -
Ian Miller-Hawes worked through a lot of jobs in finance – from a ‘wholesale discrepancy clerk’ at Travelex to a series of sales support roles in insurance and mortgages – before making the jump to bridging. But none of that was supposed to happen.
“When I was growing up I was told to get a trade and follow the family, but this never truly interested me,” says Market Financial Solutions’s head of sales. Instead he went and got a job at a firm of independent financial advisers – I guess rebellion comes in many forms.
Constructing a fully fledged financial plan is a bit like plumbing anyway, and Miller-Hawes liked fixing clients’ leaky life pipes. “Complex circumstances with pensions, mortgages and life insurance, I really enjoyed helping people, from purchasing their homes to obtaining the right annuity,” he remembers.
The jump from poacher to gamekeeper came in 2015, a big year for surprising hires – Britain got its first female bishop, Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, and Miller-Hawes joined Fleet Mortgages’s sales team.
“I was working for a commercial insurance underwriting firm when I got a call from a recruiter about an opportunity,” says Miller-Hawes, “it was a huge risk, I had just bought a house with my wife, but it was the best decision I could have made and I’ve not looked back since”. A sentiment Mr Corbyn is unlikely to share.
From Fleet to Castle Trust in 2017, Miller-Hawes isn’t one to let the grass grow under his feet, joining his current home of MFS a year later in 2018. Bridging is a small world and making your mark as a relative newbie among older, more experienced rivals can be tricky.
“The biggest hurdle to building a network of brokers that come to you, is trust,” he says. “You can speak to hundreds of people but until you can prove what you can deliver and show what you can do, it doesn’t matter.”
For the man who defied family and friends to enter finance instead of a ‘proper job’, that’s no great shakes. “It’s hard when you are new or joining from another sector, but that shouldn’t put you off. It is do-able, it just takes work,” he says.
With new bridging lenders entering the market and firing up price competition, managing squeezed margins is a bigger problem right now for Miller-Hawes. He bemoans the expectation lenders “should take more and more risk and charge less and less”.
And that, of course, is before we even mention the Big C, and at some point, who knows when, please god let it be soon, a resolution to the four year national saga that is Brexit.
“I think the solution will be to ensure you’re doing expectation management with clients as early as possible into their enquiry,” he says, “and help them to understand cheaper and cheaper funding is not always possible”.
Miller-Hawes is an old hand at crisis management. Working through the last recession taught him valuable lessons about protecting and performing for clients he plans to leverage to the hilt for the current recession.
“I really like that working within specialist lending means you are always needed. I find it very rewarding when I’ve been able to assist a client, maybe by purchasing a business, or stopping a repossession,” he says.
His advice to those looking to join bridging at its current crossroads is much the same advice he gave himself to get to where he is today – and to be honest that seems to have worked out pretty well.
“Do not be afraid to take calculated risks, the payoff can be well worth the initial worry and discomfort,” says Miller-Hawes. “Also, put yourself out there, which links with the first bit really it comes down to nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Laura Miller is a freelance journalist who writes about money and business. She regularly appears in UK national and trade newspapers and magazines, and has previously worked for ITV News and the Telegraph among others. Find her on twitter @thatlaurawrites