Lee Flavin, Founder of free online mortgage support tool, RateSwitch, talks to Business News Wales. He gives us the background on the business and talks about plans for the future and the digital development of the finance industry.
Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within RateSwitch?
I’m Lee Flavin and I’m the founder of RateSwitch, a free online tool that uses a three-step process to help homeowners reduce their mortgage payments. I have ten years’ experience as a senior mortgage advisor and I believed that it was time to set up my own company to prevent mortgage prisoners from being stuck on standard variable rates. My role is to lead the company as we establish ourselves, promoting the RateSwitch messages whilst also delivering a quality service to our customers.
What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
RateSwitch is a new company with our official launch occurring in 2017. However, the company has currently been valued at £1 million so my hope is to grow the business and provide customers with expert mortgage advice. We’re unlike any other comparison sites as we deal with the mortgage switch for you with minimal hassle and switching works with your current mortgage provider. I think this is a great opportunity for us as there isn’t anything similar on the market. As we’re a new company, one of the major challenges will be to get our message out there and ensure that homeowners know who we are and what we can do for them.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
I would have loved to have set up my own business earlier. However, timing is everything and I feel like now was the right time to set up RateSwitch as I have gained enough industry knowledge and I have the right tools now that I would not have had previously.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
I believe that organisation is crucial for success in any business. By being organised and putting a plan in place, it can put you on a path to success. I also believe in being open-minded. There’s so many others out there who can offer you expert advice and can give you the knowledge to improve in business – it’s key to be constantly developing whether you run your own business or work within another organisation. The things you learn from others will also contribute to your innovative qualities.
What are your top three tips for success?
Know your industry well, make strong business connections and never undervalue experience.
Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?
The finance sector is becoming increasingly more digitised, with technological improvements being made all of the time. RateSwitch is heavily reliant on online technologies and although many other industries have made developments in helping more businesses to become more digitally focused, there is still room for innovation and improvement. I believe that we are one of the industries leading the way in this particular area.
Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?
I believe that funding could become an issue in coming years following our exit of the European union. Much of our export trade is reliant on EU countries therefore if our relationship with Europe breaks down, businesses could potentially lose out on export profits. However, I believe we are in a period of uncertainty so I cannot wholeheartedly state what issues I think will arise. Our business relies on legislation so we need to wait to see if any of this is impacted.
Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?
As Article 50 has not yet been invoked, it’s difficult to understand how much of an impact Brexit can really have on the finance sector. However, if the deals are not negotiated correctly, we could potentially risk losing mortgage lenders in the long run. For the sake of my business, I hope that we can reach an agreement that will benefit all parties involved.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
For us, funding is definitely one of the strengths of conducting business in Wales. We have had a great amount of support from Finance Wales which we are extremely grateful for. It has allowed us to get the business off the ground and provided us with business advice overall. In terms of weakness, I think infrastructure can be a major issue for some Welsh businesses. Much of traffic coming into Wales has to travel across the Severn bridge which is regularly congested, making journeys take long inevitably costing businesses more money over time.
What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
Wales is a fantastic location to conduct business and that’s why I chose to base my business here. I realise that we had a record amount of business investment in 2016, attracting businesses like Aston Martin. I believe that the biggest thing we can do to encourage investment is to be cooperative with these businesses, with the Welsh Government continuing to give support to those who wish to base their businesses here. The easier we can make this process, the more likely it is that we’ll have more high profile investment in Wales.
What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?
Having core skills like English, Maths and Science remain of the utmost importance, especially in traditional industries like finance. Despite negative stories emerging about lack of employment after higher education, I still believe that the future of the next generation revolves around their education. Qualifications have been essential to me throughout my career therefore I believe this should remain a priority.
How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?
It’s incredibly important. Those that are in education currently are our future. They’re the ones who will be setting up businesses, becoming essential to already established companies and will be building upon the progress we’ve already made. The education system needs to show the younger generation that they can achieve great things if they put their mind to it. I believe that by working closely with local businesses, young people can get an early insight into how business actually works.