The Man Behind The Mortgage Mum
A very warm welcome to today’s episode of The Mortgage Mum podcast, and this is a unique one.
Today, I’m joined by one of my closest friends and business partner, Jamie Lewis.
Many people don’t realise that there are two of us behind the Mortgage Mum brand, Jamie and myself.
And I feel December is a time of reflection, to look at where you are in your life right now and be grateful for those people around you. I’m incredibly grateful to Jamie for giving me the opportunity to be a mortgage broker around my own children in the first place back in 2017, because he didn’t have to, and The Mortgage Mum may not have been here now without that first opportunity.
Today, The Mortgage Mum gives opportunities to women all across the UK, allowing them to work flexibly around their families and carve a career for themselves that’s as ambitious as they want it to be. We don’t have to hide our children. They are fully welcome on one-to-ones, probation meetings or group meetings; and no-one ever says “sorry” for being a parent here.
Our whole team is not made up of mums, but it is made up of women.
But… this isn’t a female-only club. And there is a man behind the scenes (maybe more soon…. Watch this space!), and without this man none of it would have been possible.
So, today we’re going to talk about the story behind the Mortgage Mum, with the man behind the scenes of it all – Mr Jamie Lewis.
How long have you been in this industry, Jamie?
A long time! I started in the industry when I was 17 years old. I was an estate agent to start with, 26 years ago, and by the age of 22, I was working in the mortgage side of the industry.
So you’ve seen a lot of change?
Around the time of the credit crunch there was a lot of angst and worry. We’re recording this in November 2022 and the feeling for a lot of brokers is that this is the worst they may have seen. It was definitely worse back in 2008.
And I went out on my own just before that! Brilliant timing. I thought it was really smart. My daughter Ella, who’s now 15, had just been born, and I remember her sitting on a bouncer on my dining room table next to me as I was writing my first mortgage.
I first worked with you back then, and they were really good times. That’s what made me come back all those years later. Just before we came on air, I decided to actually look back at how we reconnected. It took me a while to find it. I’d got qualified in the summer, had just started working and you messaged to ask me what I was up to.
And then a year later, almost to the day, I’d had my son in July and I was at a point in my life where I wanted to leave London. So I reached out to you and said, are you looking for a part time mortgage broker by any chance? And you replied almost immediately and suggested we go for a coffee.
Can you remember what happened that day?
We’d been friends on Facebook for a long time anyway, so I was excited to see where you’d got to and where you wanted to go. At the time we were a small firm and looking to grow, but staying local.
All through my career, I’ve always worked with really strong women. So my first job in an estate agency was with a manager who was just this powerhouse: a fierce, incredible woman.
I’d gone on to employ some ladies at my company and what I noticed was their supreme organisation. Their empathy, the way that they could conduct themselves, have very direct conversations without it almost becoming too emotive. Just a skill that some men have and some men don’t.
So for me, I was sure it would have worked out well – you’d have those skills. But in true Jamie fashion, I turned up late. You were there, sitting with a notepad open, a drink on the side, having eaten your breakfast, feeding a child… and I couldn’t even bring myself to this place on time. That says basically everything you need to know about me!
Meanwhile, I was on the other side of the table and I was breastfeeding Joshua. I was so hoping he wouldn’t need feeding at the exact moment you arrived. So within minutes of you arriving, I’m thinking, this guy is not going to take me seriously no matter how many good questions I ask. He’s just going to see ‘baggage’.
But you didn’t. You carried on as normal and were keen to meet with me again after, which surprised me even more!
As your children grew up, it was really important to you that Alison, your wife and the mother of your children was at home? Why was that?
I’m the product of a broken home. My mum and dad split up when I was very young and I stayed with my mum. My dad lived quite a lavish lifestyle, whilst my mum and I had a fairly meagre lifestyle.
She wanted me to have a really good education. She’d been privately educated and wanted the same for me. But my dad wasn’t brilliant at supporting my mum financially so she was working two jobs to afford it. It was always tough for her.
Seeing you that day, the questions you were asking, what you were looking for… it just felt so natural for me to offer you a job. In terms of Alison and myself, I always marked my success not on the stuff we had, but on the ability for her not to be working. I just felt like my path would have been different if my mum had been around, if she’d have been there to meet me from school, to make sure I did my homework, to do all this stuff that I should have probably done.
My schooling was really good up to the age of 13. I was reasonably compliant and I did my homework and all the stuff you’re supposed to do. But no one was watching me, so I probably could have been better. I just stopped doing certain things and did what I wanted to do, play football, not really concentrate on schoolwork.
So where I can I want to provide the ability for a mum – or a dad – to be there for their child. That’s probably the mark of success that I always had for myself.
In that moment, neither of us knew the other’s back story. We were just two people that met up and it just worked out well. But it’s only in working together very closely over the last few years and building a business that you have those tough conversations. There have been many moments where we asked ourselves, “Why are we doing this? This is really hard.”
For me, it’s really important that people understand that there’s a man behind the mortgage mum. And back then it was almost your child self resonating with something that you as an adult, maybe didn’t even understand, necessarily. You just knew you wanted to support this.
It was never going to be a get rich quick scheme. I want to enjoy my life as well and know that I did good when I look back. Ultimately that’s my main driver. If I can’t have that, then I’m really not interested.
How The Voice helped form the company
Sarah: I remember you asking me, okay, now you’re on “The Voice UK”, what do you want to do with your mortgage business?
I wish I had a recording of that meeting. I don’t remember how it came to be.
By then we were doing live videos, talking about mortgages online, and that was kind of new and fresh and people liked it, so we were kind of building the Mortgage Mum brand. But I certainly wasn’t looking to make it a business.
And you said “If you keep getting on TV, we should be making this into its own company.”
I thought that sounded exciting. And you said that if I won my battle on The Voice, we’d do it. So I had double the reason to win. And when I did, you were one of the first people I called.
Because The Voice was about to air in January 2019 they’d given me the platform. So we had two weeks to get a website done, have a photoshoot, logo, colour schemes and everything, which is actually really hard to achieve. And we’ve never changed it since! I still love it to this day.
In October 2019, The Mortgage Mum was born!
We took on our first Mortgage Mums at this time of year, three years ago. It quickly became clear to us how needed it was in the industry, and how many women actually get mistreated at work.
So many women from so many different industries were attracted to this space because it was more welcoming to them. Particularly with flexible working. COVID helped with that for lots of businesses and we felt that we lost our USP really quickly – we wanted to trade online so that people could be flexible. But all of a sudden everyone was using this Zoom.
But we still get contacted by women who are being treated unfairly, especially mothers that need to look after their children without the additional load of guilt if the child is ill or they haven’t slept properly…. or even later in life with menopause.
We’re seeing more companies come up with similar lines now, to bring more women in, make it more flexible. That’s good because we can’t have everybody here!
But the truth is, it’s still a massive issue and with the changes in the property market, we’re going to start to see it even more. Businesses will make people redundant and want to be as productive as possible with the staff they have. That will put even more pressure on them, with even less understanding, plus extra financial pressure.
How did people react when you talked about starting The Mortgage Mum?
Jamie: I’ve talked to you about this because it irritated me, but it excited me all at the same time. What always came up was: “Part-time mortgage mums? What are you thinking?” People said they would never have that in their business, they’d never have people working from home.
I remember I was at a golf event and I’d spoken about it because I was passionate about bringing this thing to life. I got the usual pushback. And I said to this guy: “You thinking like that is great for me, because those women will have no option than to come to us – because you’re never going to offer it.” Thankfully, he didn’t take my advice and set something up himself!
Even with networks, we had to work hard to get people to believe in what we were doing. Women, working part time and online… the combination of all three was a little bit too much for people. It was too radical and too risky.
I still get comments today asking “Are you just arranging mortgages for mums?” But in fact, almost 50% of our clients are male. They often have a backstory and love what we’re doing. They say that they wish their own wife had something like this when their kids were growing up.
Yes, we are called The Mortgage Mum. But clearly, mortgages are unisex. For a start, anyone can get a mortgage – as long as you’re old enough and your credit is all ok. But what you do get at the Mortgage Mum is that level of service; with empathy, total organisation and a fierce will to help. Because if you can run kids and a business all at the same time, that is literally what you’re going to get.
Making it acceptable to be a working mum
I remember somebody saying to me, do you want to tell people you’re a mum? They might think you’re too busy with your kids to do a mortgage properly.
When I started doing live video content I made the early ones so clean and professional. There was no trace of ‘mum’ or kids anywhere.
Then a couple of times I got interrupted on a ‘live’ – the Amazon man would turn up, or the school would call. I’d have to say “Guys, I’m going to have to go, the school’s ringing. It was those videos that built the audience. People said “I love how real you are” and wanted more.
So then I would do it pushing Joshua on the swing. I realised that you can be professional and human at the same time. That’s really the ethos here, it’s not apologising for having a life outside of your business.
During lockdown, we said, “We’re never going to apologise for having kids. We’re humans, we’ve got kids and we’re all at home and we’re not going to apologise.” We’d introduce a child on a call, talk to them during a meeting, and get back to business.
I let my son answer the phone at work, took a photo and it had more than eight million views on LinkedIn.
Why do you think The Mortgage Mum has been so successful so quickly?
I think it’s because it was absolutely needed. Talking about mortgages and finance is almost something you don’t do. We’re very British and we don’t talk about what we’re earning and how we do things and what type of mortgage we’ve got.
But the Mortgage Mum has made it so normal. We’ve normalised it, we give information and help you achieve your goals.
One of our ladies, Claire, was a lawyer, she had a fantastic job. We had a huge responsibility with Claire, it felt. She was this incredible woman, so intelligent, a great human being, who lived miles away from us. We didn’t meet her for months and months. I remember her showing us a photo of a climbing frame she’d bought her kids for the garden, and I remember sitting back and realising how big it is to start a company and have such an influence over people’s lives.
Recently, we’ve achieved some real milestones we’ve been working towards. Behind the scenes, we develop vision boards and manifest and put a lot of energy into wellbeing and self development.
We were working towards getting the brand national, to become bigger than industry-wide, to get people in the UK to know who we are and become a known female brand like Sheila’s Wheels.
The negative side of success
I’ve read so many books, and listened to talks over the years before The Voice. And one I love the most is the Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Roosevelt that says, it’s not the critic that counts, not the people watching on the sidelines throwing stuff at the people in the arena. You can only worry about the other people in the arena with you, because those people are the ones who are striving to be better.
We’re fighting to do something great and it’s messy, it’s not easy, it’s really bloody hard. When you realise success, it’s because of all of that. And if you fail, you fail while daring to do it. That was always my motivation: worst case, you’re going to fail while doing the really scary thing.
We’ve had some of that recently, where people want to tear us down. They’ve jumped on the fact we’re a female brand, and asked if it’s equal rights? Is it fair? What if a man did what we are doing?
We always come back to the same answer. There are lots of places out there for men. And if there weren’t we’d probably be the ones to create it for them. But the whole reason we’re here is because there wasn’t a space for women and they were being under-represented.
Jamie: We’ve interviewed men to join the Mortgage Mum. And the question we always ask in that interview process is how are you going to use this brand effectively? And up until now we’ve had very limited space to bring people in because we’re still a small company.
So far we haven’t had a confident enough answer from any man who has applied to come here. But do I think there’s space in the future for men at the Mortgage Mum? 100%.
The reason that it’s working so well for women is that it’s predominantly women who want the flexibility to be able to pick their kids up or just have a more flexible working life.
So when this stuff is getting levelled at you without any substance it’s just pure spite. We’re just a little company. We’re just trying to do something different. And this is the part of the journey. I don’t think it’s the end destination. I think we’re part of the change.
The Mortgage Mum as a brand
Jamie: People love it. When we’ve done the TV stuff, the name is what drew them in. For the last three years, my LinkedIn has said Jamie, Managing Director and Unique Mortgage Mum.
I am unique because I am the only one. But we would hire a man if they had the right attitude and the right values? Just wanting to work from home isn’t enough.
We’re not just working with an individual, we’re working with their partner. This is about a family unit. What we’re trying to do is stop those awful conversations about who has to be the lead earner, who has to go to London three days a week or Manchester or wherever. If your child is ill, who’s going to go to work today?
Sarah: I don’t know who created the template, but the template given to us is that the man provides, the woman bears the children and stays with them and has to compromise somewhere for the rest of the family. The man might not want to work full time. They might actually love being at home. Or the woman might feel guilty but love working and coming home and being the fun one. Not enough of us are allowed the transition to work that out for themselves and be given the freedom to go.
Jamie: I’ve definitely done mortgages over the years for people where the guy stays home, looks after the kids, does the dinner. The wife is a lawyer, and flies to New York all the time.
Changing the world of work
It’s so good to get a different tone of voice. The team loves Jamie’s input and we do manage people very differently here compared to other businesses, because everything is geared up for the modern woman and we’re constantly evolving.
We learn a lot from you and you learn a lot from us, and we’re always all constantly evolving, And I think the industry is following suit. I mean, the AMI Group, the Diversity and Inclusion programme, there’s so much good happening now.
What’s brilliant is that they’re leaning on people like us, to really drive that message forward, because we’ve got to change some of that old demographic quickly.
Jamie, if people want to get in touch with you, where can they find you?
Jamie: LinkedIn is probably the best place, that’d be great, it would be lovely to talk to you.