February 2024

One to One with Sirius Finance William Lloyd-Hayward

Each month, Mortgage Solutions and Specialist Lending Solutions sits down with a key intermediary industry figure to discuss strategy, opportunity for brokers and the mortgage marketplace.

This month, we are sitting down with William Lloyd-Hayward (pictured). He joined Brightstar Financial in 2012 as office manager and worked his way up to become group chief operating officer (COO) in 2021.

He has also worked at Sirius Finance since 2016 – which returned to Brightstar ownership in November – initially working as director of operations, then group COO, and was appointed managing director at the tail end of last year.

Lloyd-Hayward has been a councillor in Brentwood and is a campaigner for LGBTQ rights within the industry, as well as an advocate for more mental health initiatives in his role on the steering committees in both the Mortgage Industry Mental Health Charter (MIMHC) and the Working In Mortgages project by the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI).

How did you get into the mortgage sector?

It was a chance viewing of a tweet by Rob Jupp in 2011 advertising for a sales consultant role at Brightstar. I wasn’t interested in that job, but sent him a message to ask if they had any support roles available. He posted a job soon after on social media, and the rest is history.

Sirius recently returned to being a wholly owned subsidiary of Brightstar, and you took on the role of managing director near the end of last year. How have the last few months been, and how does being a wholly owned subsidiary of Brightstar influence the business?

From our perspective, the change has been very positive, meaning there is now a management team overseeing the whole of the Brightstar Group and this gives us greater cohesion, opening up more opportunities. We are fitter, leaner and stronger, and looking forward to building for the future. But it’s going to be an evolution rather than a revolution.

Looking at the specialist lending sector, where will the most significant headwinds come from and where are the biggest opportunities?

We obviously have a general election coming up this year and, as I spoke about at the recent Specialist Lending Event, this can cause uncertainty with regards to specific policy as well as the wider economic impact. Housing is always a key issue when it comes to manifestos and we may well see some policy announcements within the upcoming Budget. It’s often the case that any incentives that are introduced to stimulate activity also come with many considerations – you only have to look at the reduced stamp duty after Covid to see the impact that policy can make. So, there is uncertainty there as well as potential opportunity.

In terms of opportunities, customers have had a huge amount thrown at them in recent years, with Covid, the impact of the mini Budget and the Ukraine war all creating economic waves. Many people have found themselves drawn into financial difficulty through no fault of their own and may not be able to access a mortgage from a high street lender and will require a specialist approach to help them, based on their credit profile or affordability. Brokers have a great opportunity here to add value and really make a difference to people’s lives.

With the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, are you seeing an increase in adverse credit customers? What advice would you give to brokers who are seeing more of this customer type?

Mortgage brokers are having to do a huge amount more work nowadays on every application and many will find they are at capacity even if they are writing fewer cases than previously. My tip would be, if you don’t work with specialist cases on a regular basis, don’t tie up your time in a sector with which you are unfamiliar. If you work with a specialist partner, you can leverage their expertise and experience, be confident you are securing the best solution for your clients and earn a fee in the process. At Brightstar, we have been arranging specialist finance for more than a decade. This is our area of expertise and you can make it available to your clients.

What is the headcount for Sirius Property Finance at the moment, and are there any recruitment plans for the business?

We’re currently at 24 and we have new recruits joining in the coming weeks. We are always looking for specialists who want to develop their careers and feel they would be able to add value to our clients. For anyone interested in working for the Brightstar Group, I would say just get in touch. That’s what I did!

What would you like to see from specialist lenders in the coming year, in terms of innovation?

Affordability is clearly a key issue. We have seen some lenders come out with ways to overcome the affordability hurdle in the way they look at self-employed income, for example, or consider income from additional employment sources, but there is always room for more innovation.

Other than that, I would say embrace technology integrations with third-party partners. Good technology integrations can help lenders get a stronger, better-quality pipeline and make the process easier for pricing changes.

Product transfers are a hot topic in the specialist lending space. Is this becoming a more important part of the specialist advice process? Is it becoming more commonplace?

Product transfers have become a bigger part of the advice process and brokers need to think about how they approach them. Sometimes a product transfer will be the best choice for a customer, but often there may be a better alternative available in the market, and so everyone has a job to do to ensure the best outcome for the customer.

Do you think there will be consolidation in the market for both brokers and lenders? Will high street lenders increasingly target specialist lending?

With the overall market reducing in size and the specialist sector growing, there may well be mainstream players that look at specialist lenders with a view to increasing volumes and margins.

It’s worth remembering that most brokers and lenders today have weathered a number of economic storms and are still here today, so they have developed resilience. If we do see consolidation, it will be for positive reasons where a business is looking to achieve growth through acquisition rather than a distressed sale.

Brightstar recently committed to supporting employees in getting the Certified Practitioner of Specialist Property Finance (CPSP) accreditation. Can you explain that a bit more, and do you think this should be more widely adopted?

It was never really ever in question that we would be involved in this. Clare Jupp has created a culture of continuous learning within Brightstar and we are committed to upskilling people to enable better adviser decisions and customer outcomes. CPSP is the first accreditation for specialist finance and an important step in the progress of the sector. I think it’s important that as many people take it as possible. Our first cohort of 20 are already underway, with our first team member passing this week. Further cohorts will follow as we continue our long and successful partnership working with the LIBF.

You are a big supporter of Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF), having spoken on one of our podcasts and having been named a Change Maker. Do you think the sector is making enough progress on diversity and inclusion (D&I), and what would you like to see?

Doing something is the first step and so is clearly positive. At the recent Specialist Lending Event, I sat on a speaker panel made up of four women and me. This would not have happened a few years ago, but we can’t afford to ease off the throttle when it comes to diversity.

There are elements where we are seeing progress, but more can be done in every area and we need to think more broadly. It’s not just about gender or race, but background, education, sexuality and neurodiversity, to name but a few.

For intermediaries only.

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