Networking opportunities

When we set up our network – Cotswold Mortgage Services Ltd – we had a vision of creating a family of 200 professional firms, and this vision has not changed.

I am often asked: “When you have achieved your closed group of 200, won’t you just carry on and recruit some more?”

Our answer always surprises, because we say we will not. The concept is unique among networks. Establish the vision of a consultative network and limit it to an operational size that allows directors to be available to the appointed representatives (ARs) for compliance, mortgage advising and financial matters.

Why 200 firms?

We think this size is the essence of what we are. With 200 firms, we can manage the relationships and all directors are involved day-to-day with each firm, their advisers and support staff.

But surely 200 firms means more than 200 advisers, you may ask?

Yes it does, probably about 250 or so. However, we think that varying the number of advisers allows the firms to develop. To put a limit on the advisers per firm would restrict the growth of our partner firms.

Another question may be, ‘You use the words ‘partner firms’, are they really partners?

We operate a consult and decide method for change. We do not make significant changes without consulting with all of our member firms. At the end of the consultation period, we are able to manage the correct decision. Because we have our most senior directors available to any of our ARs, we can make decisions quickly and we can take into account particular circumstances.

What makes a firm want to join your network?

We know the initial reasons for joining were to do with our low charge of 10 per cent of commission and fees (plus VAT), free personal indemnity insurance (PII) cover, free Trigold and the short notice period of one month on either side. We think firms stay with us because we provide friendly, efficient and professional services. Our ARs, almost without exception, want to become more professional; by qualification; by being trained in products and by treating their customers exceptionally fairly. We see our job as helping them realise these objectives.


We have found that the better trained and more competent an adviser is, the better the client is served. This has meant not only a better penetration of protection sales for the adviser, but also a larger number of personal referrals. We provide a comprehensive training and competence package.

On the mortgage side, we have a panel of over 70 lenders; all the usual suspects and those that specialise in most market niches. Our main protection panel offers market-leading products and is very rewarding for advisers.

Do you treat all of your ARs the same?

They are not the same as each other, so we don’t. ARs vary enormously. Some have established businesses and others are start-ups. Some specialise in mortgages, others in insurance. Some are good at compliance and others require more help and guidance. We give those members that show good selling practises, competent compliance with Financial Services Authority (FSA) rules and guidance and excellent customer service more latitude. Where we identify a training need, we ensure that proper monitoring takes place.

A good deal

That’s what we give them. Our variable charges are at the lower end of the scale among networks. We like to feel our service proposition ranks among the best offered. Where we are different is the access to our managing director and other directors. A member should know whether they can meet or speak to the managing director, compliance director or sales director when they want to. You can with us.

We think that we are building something special. We have not merged or acquired any of our members, yet we are one of the fastest growing networks. Word is getting around the industry that we are fair, helpful, good value and have services to help ARs grow their businesses.

So don’t wait too long as you will not be able to join once the book of 200 is complete.