Stairway to mortgage heaven?

Easy-going, rock n' roll image belies a serious philosophy

Stairway to mortgage heaven?

The likelihood of meeting a mortgage broker with a brightly coloured mohawk seems next to non-existent.

For one thing, who would take them seriously, right?

Wrong, according to Graham Taylor (pictured), MD and founder of mortgage and insurance brokerage, Hudson Rose.

“I always say that it doesn’t matter how you look - we are judged by our results,” he told Mortgage Introducer during a video call.

Much like his Gloucestershire-based firm, Taylor has a distinctly edgy and, some would say, refreshing look that’s far removed from what you would expect a broker to look like.

It’s no accident, either. The company’s website proudly announces that clients won’t be met by staff in “stuffy suits or ties”, or walk into a drab, sanitised office with neat rows of Ikea desks. Instead, they’ll be welcomed by bright colours, a de rigueur indoor neon sign and a comfy sofa - not unlike the décor you might expect to find at a hipster’s home.

“For me and for the guys who work here, it is 100% about service, so we live and die by our reviews, essentially. Clients can walk in, sit down and have a coffee, and that’s fine because people can’t make decisions unless they know what the parameters are.”

As far as Taylor is concerned, footfall is not important but standing out from the crowd is. The fact is that Hudson Rose was never going to compete ‘mano a mano’ with the big boys, but that was never the point.

“You always worry that your industry looks at you like you’re the daft one in the corner with the silly haircut. But so what? I’m not here to please our peers, as long as the clients are happy,” he said disarmingly. “We deal with people that want something different. People come to us because they like the authenticity.”

A calculated risk, perhaps, but there’s also the fact that the firm is expanding, despite the downturn in the market. Hudson Rose (Taylor came up with the name in tribute to US rockers Guns N’ Roses) recently opened its third branch, this time in Cheltenham, to add to the ones in Nailsworth and Cirencester.

“The offices are basically part of the marketing budget. We’re not in expensive locations because we don’t need footfall - we don’t necessarily have to do everybody’s mortgage in Cheltenham,” he added.

If you need confidence to expand, particularly at a time when the economy is looking decidedly weak, Taylor appears to have it by the bucket load, and talk of the major tremors caused by September’s infamous mini budget leaves him cold.

“That was just a bump,” he said. “House prices are suffering, so a 10% (drop) is going to be fairly acceptable over the next 12 months or so. They need to soften a bit because it was getting a bit ridiculous, and hopefully that will allow us to buy affordability.

“Having said that, we’ve still got low unemployment, so people feel secure and of course the economy works on people’s feelings. You can measure everything, but it’s feelings in the end, and if people feel secure in their jobs, then they’re still going to make that purchase, but they might be a bit more considered with how much they borrow.”

Despite the carefree image, Taylor has extensive industry knowledge. He first trod the mortgage boards in 2007 for L&C Mortgages, shortly before the financial crash and the worst crisis he has seen to date.

After a year-long stint at HSBC, he reached an impasse, unsure what to do next. “I had a crisis of confidence about 2015. I was thinking I should probably go into wealth and pensions because mortgage advice is always seen as the poor brother to investments and pensions. But this is an industry in itself; this is something that I know and I’m good at.”

Having overcome the existential hurdle, he planned his next move, founding Hudson Rose in 2018. The company reflects his own philosophy about how a mortgage business should be run and which, in one clear respect, other brokers could do well to emulate.

“Be authentic, be yourself. I’m not about to go out and smash the system and spray an anarchy logo on the town hall because that’s of no use whatsoever,” he said.

“The message from us has always been that how you look and being professional don’t go hand in hand. To assume that we’re all comfortable going in to speak to people in suits in banks in a very formal setting is wrong. Homeownership is massive in the UK, and everyone should be able to feel comfortable getting a mortgage. For the borrowers that come to us, they say ‘as soon as I saw you guys, I knew you were the ones’. That’s nice because it shows you’re talking to the right people.”