“I followed my heart, not my head”

When the recession hit, just hanging in there was the only option for TMP The Mortgage People’s Owner and CEO, Kelly McCabe. Happily, it paid off.

As the boss of a UK-based mortgage brokerage, Kelly McCabe knows that targeting high net-worth individuals is where the easy money lies. She chose, however, to help people who find it difficult to get approved for conventional mortgages, and steered TMP The Mortgage People towards a market that has “no money in it” and is difficult to process. And, while her contemporaries were writing her off, the business has become one of the UK’s leading Shared Ownership specialists, employing close to 40 people.

I didn’t exactly choose this path. At 18, I worked in a call centre booking car-park spaces, but the company started making people redundant. To cut a long story short, I got a job on a help desk for a national mortgage company, assisting the brokers and, within a year, I had become a broker myself.

It was a scarily easy thing to do back then. There was no regulation or recognised qualifications and I was just given a laptop, a pad and a pen, and told to get on with it. I had no idea about advising people on mortgages. I should point out that I retrospectively got all my accreditations.

Pretty soon, I had my own thoughts about the way the business was being run and that I could do better – standard behaviour for someone in their 20s, I guess. So I left and started my own business, which sounds quite grand, but it was just me in a shared office.

I took on my first member of staff, then we became five, and then disaster struck. We hit the recession and the network that we would write business through went down. That swallowed my sales pipeline and I didn’t know how to pay the staff. It was very, very difficult for a while, but I had staff and I knew I had to hang in there.

I have never had a plan. You know when you’re walking and you start to trip, but you stumble and there’s that moment when you’re in control, but not in control? That’s my entire business life. Challenges crop up, opportunities come along, and you just deal with them and keep moving forward.

My passion has always been people; getting into the nitty gritty of helping them. I love that feeling of solving things for them. My biggest wins were always helping people struggling to get a mortgage, helping those who didn’t think they could get help.

Then Shared Ownership came along. It was created to help people get on the property ladder, but there wasn’t any money in it and banks weren’t interested. Even mortgage brokers couldn’t be bothered with it. Yet, for me, it felt like what we should be doing.

People were saying that I was daft to go down this road, but I just really wanted us to continue to help people. So, while other brokers were driving flash cars, we began to plough our own furrow in Shared Ownership, which I found very satisfying, personally.

But, it was very tough going from a business perspective. After a couple of years we were just about breaking even and then an opportunity to buy one of our competitors came along. I bought it, but soon realised that it was losing money. There were a lot of issues to do with bringing both teams in line with each other, but it doubled our head count to 22 overnight.

As we began to gain traction we decided to rebrand, so we rolled out this fun, lively, bold look and feel that no one else was doing. People in the industry were so surprised, but by and large everyone loved it. We became recognisable. Since then, we’ve never looked back.

At the same time, Shared Ownership took off and became a shinier, more desirable product. Soon we were flying. There are now 38 of us in the office – and I still don’t have a plan.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/