Any new year brings new plans, fresh ambitions and a host of additional opportunities. Although, it’s clear that challenges remain which a host of intermediary firms can’t get away from. This isn’t restricted to the mortgage market, businesses across a variety of sectors are facing testing times as heightened levels of inflation, extortionate energy prices and rising borrowing costs are squeezing profit margins and tempering some expansion strategies.

As a network, we are in the midst of a period where we are really looking to push on and have ambitious growth plans in place following our rebrand from the F4B Network to the Envelop Network in September 2022. Having said that, there remains a balance to be found when it comes to quality over quantity. This is both from an AR recruitment perspective and in an overall business sense in terms of the partners we work with and the strategic affiliations we are looking to put into place. Style over substance doesn’t cut it in many sectors and certainly not within the modern-day intermediary mortgage market.

Looking ahead, I’m sure that all businesses will have their own set of aspirations for 2023 and key metrics in place for how they measure them. Metrics which need to be tempered or scalable depending on a variety of market and economic conditions, if lessons of the past few years are to be successfully learnt.

Thankfully, from a mortgage market perspective, we are operating from highly robust and resilient foundations. This was evident in the fact that almost four in 10 (38%) mortgage intermediary firms are planning to expand this year as confidence in the sector defies broader economic challenges.

This survey from Paragon Bank also found only 3% are looking to reduce in size, with 30% expecting to take on additional experienced advisers and 19% hiring trainees. Over one in five firms (22%) anticipate bolstering their headcount by recruiting paraplanners to assist with paperwork and other tasks to help free-up adviser capacity. In addition to workforce enhancements, around one in five firms plan to reinforce their activity through investment in additional technology (25%) or with new or additional marketing (24%).

These expansion plans reflect strong broker optimism, with more than eight in 10 (85%) stating that they are either ‘very confident’ or ‘fairly confident’ about the future of their company, while two thirds (66%) feel this way about the outlook for the intermediary sector of the mortgage industry.

What is interesting is how broker firms will be implement any expansion plans and what resources they have lined up to support them on this journey. From an appointed representative perspective, I wonder how many firms who are looking to actively invest in their growth have spoken to their principals about where they might be able to help them in this process and, importantly, if their future ambitions match those of their business.

With a swathe of adviser firms carefully evaluating ways in which to evolve their offerings, networks need to constantly demonstrate how they can not only support them through any transitional period but also have the scalability and ambition to match any future aspirations. And this needs to be visible throughout the recruitment and delivery process.

So, if you are an AR firm looking to expand your business, make sure you are asking the right questions of your principal and ensure that their answers match your own aspirations.

Donna Wells, Director at Envelop