Twenty years ago, islanders didn’t tend to shop around for mortgages. Buyers would most likely talk to their banks in the absence of independent mortgage advice. Now, of course, it’s considered prudent to seek professional advice and research the best deals on offer.
Guernsey’s mortgage industry has come a long way since 1997, when SPF Private Clients (CI) Ltd. started life as its first incarnation, Goldridge Stone. But as Guernsey’s first real mortgage broker, the company led the way in establishing independent mortgage advice in the island.
In addition to a couple of name changes, the company has also seen enormous shifts in Guernsey’s housing market in the last 20 years and has evolved to meet these challenges, while expanding its range of financial services.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, SPF Private Clients is not only Guernsey’s longest running and most experienced mortgage adviser but is its most highly regarded, with a reputation for exceptional service and expertise.
‘I think right now we have the strongest and most talented team we’ve ever had. Our financial planning business has grown to be very strong, thanks to our head of financial planning, Mark Chipperfield. We’ve taken on Moira Sermon as a director, and to have someone of her calibre join us reflects extremely well on our reputation,’ said managing director Pierre Blampied, who has been with the company since joining Goldridge Stone as a mortgage and financial adviser when the business launched in 1997.
‘When we started, Guernsey was very much behind the curve. In those days the UK had a broker-led market, whereas over here people tended to go straight to their bank. We set up the business in response to that gap in the market. We’ve since seen a major shift in how mortgages are obtained, with buyers now approaching mortgage products in a different way, and we were a primary driver of that change.’
When Goldridge Stone was established, the average local house price was £127,560 (this year it was £432,341 in the first quarter). In 2004, it combined forces with de Beauvoir, which was the second biggest broker in the island at that time.
Goldridge de Beauvoir Ltd, as the business then became known, was able to offer more choice to customers seeking mortgages; the merger also allowed the expansion of financial planning services, including dedicated pension planning, investments and family protection. The company also created a separate division for general insurance such as buildings/contents, health insurance, professional indemnity and commercial.
‘We’ve seen some big changes in the Guernsey pension market as it’s moved away from the typical insurance model towards RATS schemes,’ said Pierre.
Pierre believes that joining the largest independent mortgage brokers in the UK, Savills Private Finance as it was then known, in 2006 took the company to a new level. At that time, the Group was 100% owned by the highly regarded estate agency Savills PLC.
‘This has helped broaden our appeal to enable us to work with a wider scope of clients. Having the brand recognition has been hugely beneficial, but also having that network and the resources in place has allowed us to expand our services even more. For example, working on a loan for a client purchasing a commercial property in Central London for £100m – little old Goldridge de Beauvoir wouldn’t have had access to opportunities like that,’ said Pierre.
However, helping local people onto the property ladder or move within the mortgage market remains SPF Private Clients’ core business, and they treat each transaction with the same level of service, no matter how big or small.
‘However big the deals we now work on, we remain committed to the relationships we have built up over the years and still work closely with Nigel Pascoe, who initially gave us an attractive exclusive mortgage product when we commenced trading. In those days, Nigel was running Standard Chartered with Bev Mella; now Nigel is at Skipton International and Bev is a valued employee of SPF Private Clients.’
Using the support from its parent company, SPF Private Clients (CI) Ltd hopes to grow all areas of the business going forward and it plans to take a proactive approach to the challenges posed by the ever changing economic and regulatory conditions.
‘Since the credit crunch, there’s no doubt that we’ve seen lenders become more conservative and, as a result, the mortgage products on offer have changed. Deposits, more than ever, are the biggest obstacle for buyers looking to get on the property ladder,’ said Pierre.
‘Which is why I have, and continue to, lobby the States of Guernsey to introduce a first time buyers deposit scheme. It’s important to us to see Guernsey’s property market thrive and we want to take a hands-on approach to helping make that happen. In the past 20 years we’ve built a reputation as Guernsey’s go-to place for mortgages and lending. We want to keep up that reputation going forward.’