Wed, 23 Oct 2019
From Scotland, to Canada, and back to England, Carol Brown has enjoyed a varied career in a number of countries. But it wasn’t until she settled back in Newbury that she found what she really wanted to do.
Born in Hull, 56-year-old Carol says she “just desperately wanted to be a secretary” when she was younger.
But after her first year at secretarial college she decided to type up a CV and just go out and see what jobs were
She found one – as an office junior at a loss adjusters, where she spent the next two years until she was made redundant.
From there she moved to Barclays Bank in Hull, where she took a job as an accountant secretary in 1984 and says it was a job she really loved.
It was while she was there that she got married and the newly-weds moved to Scotland.
But, at that time, there were no Barclays Banks in Scotland, so she began working for Donald Storrie Estate Agency Ltd – opening a branch for the company in Stirling.
“I was working with a lady called Jane and we were given five properties on day one,” Carol explains.
“We had 372 a year later. It was here that I got my first experience of mortgages.
“But then a fear went through the industry as it was the time that Suzy Lamplugh went missing. My husband at the time used to sit outside viewings waiting for me.
“I was there for two years before I was head-hunted by a solicitors, Kerr & Co in Stirling. I worked there, as a legal secretary for 18 months before I left and had my daughter.”
The family then moved to Leamington Spa, where, three years later, Carol had a son.
Another move saw the family of four arrive in Newbury in 1993 and Carol started working in customer services at Barclays Bank in 1995.
“The bank then moved its customer services department to Reading and I didn’t want to move, as I was working school hours and it was really important to me to be able to pick the children up,” she adds.
“But back in the day of the estate agents, I had an 87 per cent success rate for cold calling, so I decided to set up a telesales business and gained a contract with Allied Dunbar.
“It was at Allied Dunbar I met Kevin Hopwood, who latterly set up Hopwood Ash Limited, the parent company of Your First Mortgage Co.
“I did cold calling for 12 advisers and although it was very hard work, it was very successful.”
Kevin Hopwood went on to become a mentor to her and shape her future career.
But first, there was another adventure on the cards. Carol moved to Vancouver, Canada.
“It was just an absolute fabulous year of playing really,” she admits.
“I did a sushi course, leant tole painting, learnt to snowshoe, learnt all about First Nations Indians, and went to baseball and ice hockey matches and got very involved at the school where my children attended.
“I also did a lot of cooking as I love cooking. I used to go to friends for breakfasts, which were just amazing out there, and do ‘bake swaps’ at Christmas, which is still something I’d love to start here.
“But then after a year, I got quite ill and so we came back to Newbury.”
When she was well enough, Carol got in touch with Kevin and started working back in telesales for his business, Hopwood Ash – an independent financial planning company.
“Kevin’s para-planner then left and so I asked if I could have the job,” she says.
“I was working for Kevin and three other advisers and then decided that I wanted to start training and take all of the financial planning exams myself.
“Kevin has been an incredible mentor for me and really taught me the ropes.”
In 2007 Carol set up Your First Mortgage Company – a subsidiary of Hopwood Ash – and the two companies work side by side at their Newbury offices.
“My USP at the time was to help people who were first time buyers, but now we work with everyone,” Carol explains.
“We have a very unique way of working here, spending a lot of time talking to clients in the beginning and creating a
feasibility report for them, which is always very in-depth.
“We also look at financial protection for them. One of the gaps in the industry is that some companies just don’t look at the protection, but that is very key for us and 95 per cent of my clients will take out protection too.”
Last year Carol was joined by mortgage broker Sofie Collins, an asset to the company that she describes as “fantastic”.
The company, which also offers a will-writing service, set up Your Equity Release Options in February 2018.
“I feel this is a very misunderstood area,” Carol explains. “It is a very vulnerable area and I believe the strength of the adviser is being able to tell the client to walk away, as it is certainly not for everybody.
“You have to be able to understand what it is to make a decision and we can help with that.”
Over the past decade Carol has won awards for her company, and is currently a nominee for Individual Adviser of the Year in the Equity Release Awards and has being shortlisted for Female Insurance Adviser of the Year.
Carol is the second highest Vouched For mortgage adviser in the UK and the highest in the South, as featured in The Sunday Times.
Your First Mortgage Company has also been shortlisted for the customer service award this year’s Newbury Weekly News Best in Business Awards. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner on November 1.
When she isn’t working, Carol loves spending time with her children and her two grandchildren, as well as indulging her passions of cooking and gardening.
She has a strong faith and is a member of the Christadelphian Church, which is involved with charities such as Mencap, as well as the local soup kitchen and food bank.
“I am always trying to work out different ways to take the business forward,” she adds.
“I have done things my way for 12 years and now I’ve brought Sofie in she has given us a new dynamic, which is a real
positive for the future.
“I really just love what I do.”