Back to World Class Belfast

Siobhan McAleer, The Mortgage Shop

It’s clear from the off that Siobhan McAleer is both charming and runs a tight ship. She has that way of getting straight to the point with a smile on her face that comes from being both an entrepreneur and someone who works in the mortgage industry. Time is quite literally money.

It’s clear from the off that Siobhan McAleer is both charming and runs a tight ship. She has that way of getting straight to the point with a smile on her face that comes from being both an entrepreneur and someone who works in the mortgage industry. Time is quite literally money.

Given the strength of the Mortgage Shop brand and the business being firmly forged in her image, how has she found the talent that’s made the business successful?

“Success breeds success,” she explains. “If you invest in the right people and don’t compromise your standards, it might take a bit longer getting there but you will attract like minded people to work with and who are keen to push the business forward. Our recent successes have very much been around the bank closures. We’ve taken on 15 advisors from banking institutions over the last few years, and they are the best advisors we have ever had. Incredibly well trained, attention to customer service and hardworking.

“Because most people have previously been employed we bring them in on that basis for the first year. But we then make self-employed options so attractive that many jump on it. A lot of them are women, and I’m a big fan of females in this industry (sorry, guys!). A lot of them are young women with young families and they find our job can actually facilitate their lifestyle really well. They can work in the evenings when the kids are in bed, or leave if they need to do school runs. It’s a job with a great deal of flexibility, but it just means you need to be really organised. And, I think that’s something we all do really well.”

What can we expect the future to look like for the Mortgage Shop?

She laughs, ironically, then says: “I’m wary of making any predictions on the future of our business. The expectations of Northern Ireland people is very much you do what you say you’re going to do, and you do it in the timescale you say you’re going to do it. If you do that, they’re happy to refer. And our geography makes referrals really, really effective. Referrals are probably the biggest part of our success.

“Trying to replicate that across the water will be a little bit more difficult, in my view. So I think there’s different challenges there. But if my deal with the investor comes off, I would genuinely be expecting us to be the size we are in Northern Ireland in GB within two years. But it all hinges on that investment. But with the closures of banks branches and High Street businesses, all that’s doing is just pushing business our way.”

She recounts the confidence of her younger self in asking the bank for a £60,000 loan to get the business going. Hence the question if somebody came to her with a business plan, and they want £60,000, what’s going to pique your interest?

She doesn’t miss a beat: “There is no substitute for hard work. I mean, I don’t care what business you’re in. To me, that’s the ingredient that, combined with a passion for doing the right thing, is what puts the customer at the centre. Hard work to me is key.

“Something else I really value is loyalty. I put great stock in relationships at work and accept that mistakes happen, which can be useful through bad periods. I’ve been using my accountant for 30 years. To the outsider, his business looks like a small town accountants, but he employs ten accountants and his advice is excellent so that relationship is solid. I stick with people that are understanding of our mistakes and we’re understanding of theirs. I’m very loyal.”

Download Interview