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Gareth Davies

Gareth Davies on modernising mortgage advice

By Gareth Davies

Director, South Coast Mortgage Services Ltd

When Gareth Davies went along to a group interview to help out a friend in 2006, he was unexpectedly offered a job in the financial sector inadvertently launching a 16-year career in the industry. After a stint learning the ropes in an employed role, Gareth launched his own business, South Coast Mortgage Services, building a loyal customer following through honest and outstanding customer service.

With approachability and relatability, the father-of-two is defying the stuffy stereotypes of his industry as a modern-day mortgage advisor striking the balance of work and life for his family, his team, and his clients.

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What do you like the most about what you do?

I’m a people person: I enjoy speaking to people and I enjoy helping people out. I like to think I’m approachable and it seems to do the trick. I’ve got clients that I've dealt with now for well over 10 years, and they always come back (thankfully).

It's also nice having the responsibility that the business is yours. The pressure and the responsibility of having your own business is arguably much more than when in an employed role, but it's pressure you put on yourself, and so I think you deal with it in a different way to being set targets by managers etc.

Can you talk us through your services?

We look at all aspects of mortgage advice from lenders across the market. Everything from first-time buyers through to experienced portfolio landlords, to business owners needing to maximise their borrowing potential using business profits.

Personally, I also specialise in later life lending for the over 55s, such as retirement interest-only mortgages, equity release, and lifetime mortgages. A fast-growing sector within the industry.

We look at all associated insurances to ensure our clients have provisions in place should life not quite go to plan: life insurance, critical illness cover, income protection, group employer schemes etc.

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What advice would you give to first-time house buyers?

I think the reason we get referrals is because we keep things simple, and we keep things real. We appreciate the fact that it’s difficult to get your first property, but there is more to life than owning a house and having a mortgage. You have to be realistic too! There is no point in paying the mortgage off as quickly as possible if it’s going to mean you’re not able to enjoy life as well; we’re quite open with people about that. It’s about striking a balance.

Sometimes people can overthink a mortgage. It’s incredibly important to make the right decision, but we’re here to help make that right decision.

What are your current observations of the UK housing market?

For the first time in a long time, we’re in a rising rate environment.

No one knew what was going to happen when the pandemic hit in 2020, we all worried, but the market went crazy. The Stamp Duty holiday especially kicked the market into life and prices went wild. Lenders were happy to lend, and they were offering incredibly low rates. It wasn’t too long ago in mid-2021 when you could get fixed rates at less than 1%. Unfortunately, something that was never going to last though.

What we’ve seen this year is things flip on their head and rates are now going up consistently. Getting advice in this climate is arguably more important than it has been for a long, long time. It’s important to make the right decision because people are probably going to be paying more than they’ve been used to for the last couple of years.

A lot of homeowners will have never been in a rising rate environment and will worry. Get advice from someone who knows the market and isn’t restricted to a handful of lenders. We have what’s called a ‘Whole of Market’ proposition, so we’re not restricted with what we can look at for our clients.

"Sometimes people can overthink a mortgage. It's incredibly important to make the right decision, but we’re here to help make that right decision."

How do you stay ahead of what’s happening in the market?

Right now it’s tough! It’s a fast-paced market and changes happen daily. We’ve got Business Development Managers at each lender who keep us in touch with any changes in lending criteria and any significant changes in products/rates. We liaise with them on a regular basis, and they give us great industry insight. If there’s a problem or if we need to do something that’s slightly ‘outside of the box’, we’ve got people who can get things over the line when working with those more bespoke cases.

How do you maintain your relationships with your customers and how do new customers find you?

We retain close to 90% of our client base. If we deal with them today, and they’re due to re-mortgage in two years’ time, the vast majority will come back to us, and I think the reason for that is the service we provide. We keep in contact with them, we send out reminders, we have social media, we make it easy – client retention is very good for us.

One of our biggest sources of business is referrals from those clients. We have entire families that we deal with, parents, siblings, cousins etc. That word of mouth and referral is massive for us and for me it’s a testament to the fact that we provide a fantastic service.

"What we've seen this year is things flip on their head and rates are now going up consistently. Getting advice in this climate is arguably more important than it has been for a long, long time."

Gareth Davies - Director, South Coast Mortgage Services Ltd

Who do you follow for inspiration?

There’s a guy called James Smith who I’ve followed on social media for several years. He works in the fitness industry and has gone from doing online personal training to selling out big events across the world and becoming a number one Sunday Times bestselling author. I’ve watched him grow and he has his opinions, but he’s not wavered. I like his tunnel vision when it comes to his views and methods of getting those across.

I also like Joe Wicks, because family for him is a massive thing which is very similar to myself. They are the reason I do anything in life.

More recently, I’ve got into listening to podcasts, especially The Diary Of A CEO with Steven Bartlett. I like the way he can put things across with the people that he speaks to, and he is majorly successful but also completely relatable with it.

For me, these people are the ‘new generation’. Less suits and ties than the Alan Sugar and Richard Branson days that’s for sure.

Where is your favourite place to go when you need to switch off?

The golf course. In today’s world, being accessible 24/7 is key. Certainly, post-pandemic we have people contacting us at all manner of times, and it’s good to be that accessible. But on those occasions when I want to get away and switch the phone off, being on the golf course is what I enjoy the most. Probably a little too much if you ask my wife!