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Tuesday, 23rd April 2024
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A Day in the Life - navigating the mortgage maze Back  
As managing director of Simply Mortgages, the specialist mortgage and personal finance broker which was set up five years ago, Peter Bastable, has a keen eye on the Irish property market, which he says, is showing no sign, yet, of slowing down. 'At any one time the market floats about 100 variations of mortgage products and we are always trying to match the best product to each client and guide them through the maze'.
7.00 am Up and at it, quick breakfast and out the door. Summer months at least mean Dublin traffic is a bit more manageable. Morning Ireland is the staple diet, with a quick flick through the other talk channels from time to time for anything which takes my fancy.
Peter Bastable, managing director of Simply Mortgages

8.30 am Into the Simply Mortgages offices on Baggot Street and I usually have a quick flick through the papers before turning on the computer and starting the day.

I keep an eye on the financial pages and business news and am always interested in the economic forecasts and trends in interest rates which are regularly produced. We are at the coalface of personal lending in terms of the lending market in Ireland and are not seeing any sign yet of the slowdown in the housing market. We are still seeing very strong house sales – both new and second hand.

I look through my email inbox for anything madly urgent requiring my attention and start to plan the day ahead. I review updates from our offices around the country. We have regional offices in Cork , Galway, Limerick, Kilkenny and Waterford, with a new Midlands office to open shortly, as well as two in Dublin. This national network gives us a very good feel for what is happening across the country.

9.30 am My first meeting of the day is with my colleague David Crimmins about a number of new product initiatives which we will be launching on the market shortly. We have developed relationships with all of the main providers of financial services into the Irish market so that we can continually offer better deals for our customers.

We talk through the details of the launch of these products, with the emphasis always on making the proposition attractive, easy to understand and simple to execute.

We also talk about how we can roll out more products and services via our website – www.simplymortgages.ie. Some customers are happy to research and process as much as they can online while others will want to talk it through at every stage. We are set up to offer both, and a growing percentage of our business now comes through the website. The web is a great tool for providing the general information that people need to help them make financial decisions and we try to keep the site up to date on any issue we think customers will be interested in.

At any one time the market floats about 100 variations of mortgage products and we are always trying to match the best product to each client and guide them through the maze of interest rates, APRs and terms and conditions which can baffle and confuse.

11.00am I have a series of short meetings with the heads of each of our four divisions – mortgages, direct business, life & pensions and our affinity business.

Personal finance is a fast moving business and we all are constantly looking at new products, innovations and ways of selling which makes for a dynamic atmosphere. Part of my job is to make sure people are channelling all of that energy into solutions for our customers which give them what they need and allow us to grow the business.

Simply Mortgages has grown from when we set it up in June 2000 to now employing over 60 people across the country, so we are celebrating five years in business this summer. The trick from my point of view has always been to put the best people into the businesses and then encourage, direct and guide them.

12.30 pm I catch up with telephone messages and check in on my email, before heading out to nearby Doheny Nesbitt’s for lunch.

I am not sure if the business lunch is in or out of fashion at the moment but I try and make time each week to go out and spend a bit of time with people, away from the hum of the phones and the distractions of the office.

Today I am meeting Billy Kane, former chief executive of Irish Permanent, who is a shareholder in Simply Mortgages, and a great source of guidance and advice on strategic issues. One of the key issues we discuss is about building the scale of the business and how best to achieve that. Organic growth, acquisitions and a combination of both prompt a lively discussion over lunch.

Acquisitions and co-branding partnerships with compatible businesses which to date include Sherry FitzGerald Group, Hamilton Osborne King, McInerney Construction and eircom PhoneWatch have provided the impetus for strong and sustainable growth and we are always looking at opportunities for more.

The conversation covers a wide range of non business topics too – from the great weather we have just been having, the usual sporting topics and so on.

2.30 pm I am back in the office and return calls and emails. Running any business means managing your time effectively. Before setting up Simply Mortgages I was managing director of IFG Mortgages but there is a huge difference from running an existing business to taking the risk of setting one up – and all that that brings.

3.15 pm I head out of the office for a meeting with one of the larger lending institutions – who for the purposes of this article shall remain nameless. One of the issues we have to deal with on the mortgage side is the amount of paper work involved in processing loans. We have a technology driven system in place which makes life easier for all concerned when it is implemented but not all of the lenders we deal with actually use the system.

I attend the meeting with my colleague Barry Sheridan, finance and operations director, and we reiterate the benefits to all parties of using the technology and receive assurances that we are making progress.

4.45 pm I am back at the desk and review the diary for the rest of the week. I am on countdown now to an upcoming family holiday in Spain. My wife and I and our two kids will be heading off for a couple of weeks to the sun and while I enjoy the buzz of the business, tapas and a nice glass of wine are starting to occupy some of my mind as the trip gets closer.

I wrap up the day with a walk around the office, chatting to some of the people on the phones, dealing with customers to see what kind of issues are coming up. We are a customer driven business and it is vital that we react and respond to what they are saying to us.

5.45 pm I sign-off on a few documents that require my attention and make some notes in advance of a meeting with another lending institution with whom we are trying to negotiate a favourable deal which we can then offer our customers. I have an early start for that meeting so by 6.15 I am out the door and on the road home.

7.00 pm Catch up with the day’s happenings, dinner, a walk of the dog and a bit of TV wraps up the day.

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