Nathan Blissett, Founder and Director of Dwello Mortgages, talks to LIBF Insights about his move from professional football into mortgage broking, what motivates him in business, and what he expects to see in the mortgage market.
Changing careers: why choose mortgage advice?
Nathan Blissett had a job that a lot of men (and quite a few women) would be envious of – until May 2022, he was a professional footballer.
But in 2021, during lockdown, he decided to study for CeMAP qualification with LIBF and set up his own mortgage brokerage.
Because of his career in football, Blissett says, he was fortunate enough to be able to pick his next career. So why mortgage broking?
“It all started when I bought my first house with my wife, and the broker we dealt with was amazing. He really helped us along the way as first-time buyers. Leaving that interview I felt that was something I would get a lot of enjoyment from.”
Setting up a mortgage brokerage
Setting up in business, even if you can choose the direction you want to go in, isn’t easy. Fortunately, Blissett had some support along the way – largely thanks to his time as a sportsman.
“I leaned on my football connections to find somewhere to put myself,” says Blissett. “I even said I’d do it for free. All I wanted was the experience. I was at Maidenhead United at the time and one of the fans owned his own firm. He kindly introduced me to a connection who was based near the Midlands, which is where I’m from.”
The introduction was to Gary Harper, from AFP, a mortgage advice group based in Shrewsbury. “He was brilliant with me,” says Blissett. “He taught me the ropes – the ins and outs of the actual mortgage industry that you can’t get from books. He had quite a lot of faith in me and just gave me the chance.”
It proved to be a fateful move far beyond getting valuable experience. Blissett took on two clients at AFP. One needed a mortgage with a tie to agriculture that took 12 months to put in place. Happy with the support he was getting, he put Blissett in touch with a business partner who also had a gnarly mortgage to arrange. That one needed work on a lease agreement with a housing association.
After both mortgages were set up, the clients – Simon Lloydbottom and Oliver Wadlow – offered to become Blissett’s first business partners and they are now non-execs in Dwello.
What does it take to be a good mortgage broker?
“It’s about listening to the client and understanding where they’re coming from, [knowing] what their most pressing issue is and how to alleviate that pressure,” says Blissett.
He says that some of the qualities needed to be a professional footballer have proven valuable in his new career as a mortgage adviser. “[As a footballer] you’re proving yourself in front of up to 15,000 people…week in, week out. I love a challenge. I love teamwork… And you have to be able to communicate on a pitch, whether you’re under the cosh, or on top.”
How tough is the mortgage market?
There are storm clouds gathering over the mortgage market with increases in interest rates, and the cost-of-living crisis, which is likely to mean tough times for a lot of people. So, what is Blissett seeing in the market?
“There are cases where people are in tight situations,” says Blissett. “Some can’t remortgage because they don’t fit the affordability criteria under higher interest rates and some who are in fixed rate mortgages face problems ahead. We want to be there to try to help relieve that pressure for them,” says Blissett. “Remortgaging is the staple of the market at the minute. There are around 1.3m mortgages coming up for renewal this year.”
Blissett adds that buy-to-let lending “is on its knees” and that quite a few landlords have been selling or reducing their portfolios – which may help first time buyers.
But what about preparing for a future beyond the immediate squeeze, with a green mortgage?
“A lot of people don’t know about green mortgages,” says Blissett. “It’s not really advertised, but green mortgages would be great for people that actually qualify.” He says that the discounts available could help some borrowers.
“But again, it’s about weighing up the positives and the negatives. Is the lower price going to offset the cost of, say, solar panels? More than likely it’s not, or not in the short term anyway. And, at the minute, that’s all the short term is all people can really worry about, getting through this financial crisis.”
Making a small business work
What would Blissett say to young people who want to set up their own business?
“If it happens organically, you’re probably on the right trajectory. At the same time, if it’s something you’re passionate about, you just have to go all-in.” One thing that’s particularly important, Blissett says, is – as far as possible – to have the right structures and partners in place so that you can focus on what you’re best at.
“You’ve got to be mentally strong to ride the waves, but I can’t see myself doing it any other way.”
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