Bob Hunt is chief executive of Paradigm Mortgage Services

September is often a time of new beginnings. Pop onto social media over the next week or so and you’re likely to see friends and family posting numerous photos of their offspring all scrubbed up and ready for a new year of school.

Let’s hope it is a ‘normal’ one for them without the numerous interruptions that have blighted the last 18 months or so.

New beginnings are not just school-related of course. At the end of August we bid a fond farewell to our former of head of Paradigm Mortgage Services, John Coffield, who entered retirement and, from recent news stories, I see that John has not been alone in that regard.

There appear to have been a growing number of mortgage industry stalwarts hanging up their proverbial boots recently, and retiring. I have no doubt that many people, in a similar situation, will have worked through this COVID period and decided perhaps to bring forward their retirement plans. Life’s too short, being a commonly heard refrain.

Of course, when such individuals leave, they take with them a huge amount of experience and, in a way, it can feel like a kind of bereavement for those ‘left behind’.

Those who you have come to rely upon so heavily, who have been with you every step of the way, are no longer around to act in this way, to talk through the issues and problems you have, and to find solutions that may not have been as obvious to you.

I often see this as being one of the major issues for smaller firms, particularly in the mortgage advice sector where we have a preponderance of one-man/woman bands, all working on their own and potentially having to come up with all the answers on their own.

Of course, some individuals will have mentors, some will have peers in their own areas, some may be members of business clubs, and the like, but not always.

And while it is a huge positive for the mortgage market that it presents opportunities for individuals to so readily go out on their own and forge their own career path, it’s still a racing certainty that this really can’t be done all on their own.

The last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for many, many people. It still is. There has been a level of uncertainty and, despite a very positive year for the housing/mortgage markets, I suspect that being busy doesn’t necessarily translate into happiness, but what can help in that regard is being able to share both the positives and the burdens.

When John told me of his plans to retire, I knew that it was going to make him and his family happy but, somewhat selfishly, I also knew I (and the rest of the Paradigm team) were going to miss him both personally and what he uniquely did for the business, and our partner and member firms.

For one-man/woman bands, you might think that you can’t miss what you’ve never had, but to my mind, that makes it all the more important to have support right across the piece.

To be able to tap into a helpdesk to discuss products, to utilise compliance help to ensure you’re fully covered, and in a wider sense, to be able to talk to people who have grown businesses and those going through similar situations and problems. I hope that’s what we can offer smaller firms as a distributor in this space.

It’s also about bringing people together. It’s why I’m delighted to see the return of physical events again because, when you are ploughing a lone furrow, having the opportunity to meet with other advisers/firm owners/partners/providers/lenders, etc, can allow you to discuss any issues, get a different perspective and potentially access an opportunity, or solve a problem, that you might not have been able to get to yourself.

We often talk about the mortgage market being a people business, and that’s absolutely right. Putting people in contact with others is what we try to do as a business, and firms should not be shy in seeking out those partners that can provide them with the regular advice and support they need.

If you’re not currently getting this then other propositions are available to lean on and to get the most out of this fantastic industry.