When the Charles team first launched their independent mortgages brokerage, they were determined to structure their business around customer satisfaction rather than meeting sales quotas.
Having worked in the mortgage and finance industry for over twenty years, Ruth and Simon Charles became disillusioned with the demanding schedule of large retail bank and their often-mediocre customer service. Ruth established RA Mortgages in in 2006, resolute in her vision of a service that offers mortgages to clients based on their specific needs, prioritising excellent customer service above financial goals.
What makes the husband-wife team so unique in the lending sphere is their customer satisfaction driven service. The RA Mortgages business model works on fee-only transactions. This makes any commission the team receive from lenders irrelevant in their financial planning. By making any potential commission a null factor in how they conduct business, RA can reassure clients that they are dedicated to finding them the best mortgages for them. While this may not be an entirely new model, the Charles’ go one step further; commission they do earn is reimbursed to their clients.
Ruth and Simon are committed to delivering a stress-free, transparent service.
“We want our clients to feel that they are at the centre of buying or re-mortgaging a property, the mortgage is literally just a by-product to help them achieve what they want to do in life and is not the most important thing in their lives. We try to take the stress and pressure of the whole process away from them so they can enjoy the experience of being a homeowner or landlord or both, from a mortgages finance perspective without having to worry about the mechanics of it.”
With a customer retention rate of 85% and an active client based of some 1200 clients, some of which boast extensive property portfolios, the couple are leaving their mark on the industry.
However, starting from scratch was not easy. After working incredibly hard to build a client base and industry connections for mutual referrals, the business had to endure the market crash in 2008. The challenging period of uncertainty for many businesses and banks pushed Ruth back to work for her previous employer while Simon continued to build the business. However, after the birth of their son in 2010, Ruth found she could not keep working for a company whose practise did not align with her own values and re-joined the business, working with Simon to cultivate new customer relationships and joining a well-renowned business network referral group. Like many small businesses, the team have to endure an ever-changing market but are confident that the next 12 months will see the sector grow considerably.
The change to a fee-only brokerage has brought the business significant success, with a growth of over 225% in turnover since the new structure was implemented. However, when we asked Simon what success he was most proud of, he said:
“What gives me the most satisfaction is the growth in our retention of clients. Our clients really appreciate the service element of what we do, and we have grown with some of them over many years. I still have a lot of clients from 2010, that I communicate with on a regular basis, and they rely on me to provide them not only with the right mortgage but sometimes helping with life choices they make along the way. I’ve helped clients through marriage, divorce, raising families, growing their own businesses, lifestyle planning, and retirement planning. All of these things make me feel like I have helped to contribute to them achieving what they want from life.”
For Ruth and Simon, their success is measured by the people they have helped secure a home and by the lifestyle it helps them provide for their family. Over the next five years, the couple hope, through their existing clientele, the business will be able to produce a passive income they are able to live off, and they are currently on target to hit this goal.
As independent business owners, what have Ruth and Simon Charles learned about leadership?
The most important thing they’ve learned in terms of leadership is that you have to treat people as you would wish to be treated yourself and this applies to all facets of life. Everyone needs to be committed to the end goals of a project, in order to achieve the desired result. So, a good leader needs to make sure everyone is on board and supported along the journey.
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