Lucy Barrett, Managing Director of Aria Finance
What has changed in your role since the merger of Vantage and Enterprise Finance into Aria Finance?
My role hasn't changed much, although I have spent the past five months ensuring the merger went as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
The big task for me and my senior team now will be to continue to build the brand and ensure that Aria becomes as reserved in the market as both Vantage and Enterprise were. In the past, there were brokers who worked with Vantgage and not Enterprise, and vice versa.
The exciting thing is that we have all the expertise from both brands under one roof, which is great for clients.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your role?
Merging two firms is always a challenge, especially when both have been highly successful. There are often different processes and work cultures to take into account, and compromises must be made to ensure it is a success.
However, I'm delighted with how everyone has bought into the idea of Aria and everything we stand for.
What is the highlight of your career to date?
I am incredibly proud of what I achieved as managing director of Vantage Finance. I started the business from scratch and recall feeling quite overwhelmed when we made it to our 10th birthday.
We subsequently sold a minority stake to a private equity firm and were later acquired by the ENRA Group, so there have been plenty of highlights.
The journey that my staff have been on has been very rewarding to watch. Many joined with little to no industry experience and they have developed into hugely successful property finance experts.
Is there anything you would change about the mortgage market?
There is still a perception outside the industry that the market lags behind other sectors when it comes to the use of digital technology and modernising the customer experience.
However, we've seen a huge amount of change in recent years with lenders and brokers investing in new IT systems and digital infrastructure.
Regulation can sometimes hold back technological progress. But these safeguards are important, so it's about finding creative solutions within the parameters of the regulatory regime to produce smoother ways of working and to enhance the customer journey.
What are some of Aria's plans for the next 12 months?
We have our sights firmly set on growing the business and continuing to build Aria's profile and reputation as the leading specialist brokerage. We have all the foundations in place and look forward to the next phase in this journey.
It's going to be a tough year for the market but in difficult conditions such as these the need for specialist lending solutions becomes more important than ever.
Brokers' residential business is likely to be impacted by challenges around affordability, so if we can help them place cases in other areas then we can ease some of the strain. Ultimately, we're here to make their lives simpler.
Do you think much progress has been made in terms of gender equality in the finance sector?
A lot of progress has been made but there's still more to be done. We need to change people's views of the perceived limitations women face and encourage them to open up their minds to new ways of thinking.
The barriers often are not at an entry level. They tend to kick in later for a lot of women; when they start a family, for example. This is where much of the inequality lies and it's a problem not just for the finance sector but across all industries. It is a challenge for society to face and we must think about how the workplace can help address the issue.
If you didn't work in finance, what other career would appeal?
I'd probably work somewhere in the property market, perhaps refurb and development. It's an industry I know, understand and love.
What's the best advice you have received?
It's simple but important: don't sweat the small stuff.
Published in Mortgage Strategy | March 2023 p.23