Welcome to the inaugural blog of Altura Mortgage Finance! In future blogs we’ll cover mortgages, property, finance and the economy, along with guest blogs from key partners, advisers and employees, helping you get to know the mortgage market and Altura that bit better. In this first piece however I want to reflect on the last 10 months since launching Altura.
Starting a business is hard. Starting a regulated business even harder. Starting a regulated business on a ‘DA’ or Directly Authorised basis, rather than as part of a Network as most start-ups tend to do, harder still. And, while I have very supportive business partners in Hong Kong, they are in Hong Kong leaving the day to day slog down to yours truly (while I’m on the subject, starting a regulated business, on a DA basis, with business partners who give a Hong Kong address when registering with lenders…yup, even harder!). Hard work, somewhat lonely, often frustrating and above all very exciting!
To recap. Altura ‘soft launched’ with a marketing trip to Hong Kong in December. At the time our regulation was via an Appointed Representative arrangement with a friendly London broker (they know who they are, thanks again!). It was a whirlwind week with a first meeting two hours after landing. A huge stack of business cards and agreements to work together from Wealth Managers, property firms and other professional partners came back in my suitcase.
A full launch followed in early January, generating some press interest, especially around our proposition for expats. Enquiries quickly followed, mortgages were placed and applications submitted. Client and proc fees started coming in too which was certainly a milestone, our business was generating revenue! We built relationships with a host of lenders, including private banks and specialist lenders active in lending to expats and overseas residents.
A second Hong Kong trip followed in April which included a particularly proud moment, presenting to a room full of property investors at the top of a sky scraper in the city’s business district. The event was arranged by the British Chamber of Commerce and a well-known Wealth Management company. It was a quite a thrill seeing the Altura brand on display in such a venue, not to mention presenting on the company’s behalf to people who’d actually paid to be there. As well as interest in Altura, the presentation generated direct enquiries and new contacts, both of which led to new clients and what promise to be ongoing sources of business.
Another April milestone was Altura obtaining Directly Authorised status! While it wasn’t a short process and takes some effort to maintain, DA status is key to our business model, allowing Altura to develop our own tech-led sales process, and concentrate on areas of the market a Network might not support.
The last few months have seen us build our proposition, increase business levels and start to plan in earnest for the future, including new and improved technology, a new website, targeted marketing, new sources of business in the UK, Hong Kong and beyond. We’ve also taken on our first Altura Adviser, Peter Bennett who joined the team on October 1st. Welcome Pete!
We’ve achieved a lot in a few short months. While I’ve started a similar business before, last time round I did so alongside half a dozen talented, experienced and passionate mortgage people. This time it’s been largely down to me! That’s been hard but it’s also forced me to learn a huge amount and I’m better equipped for it.
One big lesson, probably the best one and possibly the most surprising, is how much other people will help if you just ask. Supposed competitors have offered everything from advice to regulation. Friends have been incredibly supportive, coming to me with their own mortgage needs but also getting out there amongst friends, colleagues, parents at the school gates, to help put new business my way. Clients old and new have wished me well, provided feedback, been guinea pigs for our systems and taken time to give us some lovely client reviews.
I read ‘Shoe Dog’ recently, the biography of the founder of Nike, Phil Knight. A great read, a reminder of why entrepreneurial types will always find themselves pushing forward, taking risks and be determined to forge their own destiny. And I love the story of how my favourite trainer the ‘Cortez’ got its name*. Sums up a rebellious spirit which fits most entrepreneurs I know perfectly. Long may the adventure continue!
*For the Mexico Olympics Nike wanted a shoe called Aztec, but Adidas, the biggest sports shoe company around, already had the name. Phil Knight and his Head Shoe Designer:
“Who was the guy who kicked the sh!t out of the Aztecs?”
“Okay. Let’s call it the Cortez.”