Andrew was recently interviewed by Craig Elvin of Career Force on his podcast. Craig is an ex-soldier and currently the director of an Executive Search business. His podcast, Career Force is for serving or ex-military personnel and offers up to date, relevant career coaching to help individuals secure the career they are looking for post their military service. He recently interviewed, Andrew Johnson the Director of Yes Mortgage Services Limited asking all sorts of questions, which led to Andrew sharing a warts and all view of his career transition from the military to heading up the team. He provided some fantastic insights about the “Help to buy” scheme, how and where to buy a property, and other finance orientated advice that may well help military personnel transition to civilian life.
You can listen to the interview here or you can read a transcript of the podcast below.
Craig Hello, and welcome to the Career Force Podcast. I’m Craig Elvin, I’m an ex-soldier and currently the Director of an executive search business. I’m on a mission to help serving and ex-military personnel secure the careers that they deserve. On this podcast, I’ll interview a mixture of veterans that have made successful transitions as well as industry leaders and service providers who will share with you their insights and advice to help you on your journey.
This week I interviewed Andy Johnson, an ex-soldier, musician, and Army ladies rugby coach that pursued his interests and went into mortgage broking as a career. After 18 months, frustrated by civilian leadership, he sets up his own successful brokerage that employs several ex-military personnel
As well as giving a warts and all view of his career transition and details about how to move into the mortgage broking industry. Andy provided some fantastic insights about the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, how and where to buy your property, and other financially orientated advice that may help you with your career transition. So as always, stand at ease, stand easy and enjoy the Career Force Podcast.
Craig: Andy, thanks very much for being a guest on the Career Force Podcast, welcome to the show.
Andy: Hi, it’s all good to be here.
Craig: Good man. I always do this. I always put some details about my guests in the show notes. Inevitably people do a much better job talking about themselves. So, can you tell everybody a bit about who you and what it is that you do at the moment?
Andy: Sure. I’m Andy Johnson, I’m the Director and owner of YES Mortgage Services, which I set up back in 2014 and I’ve now got five other guys that work under me on a self-employed basis.
Craig: Fantastic, so pretty different from my memory about your last role in the Army. What was that? What was it you did in your last role?
Andy: So, in the Army, I joined the Army at the age of 16 and I joined as a musician. I spent the next 25 years going from different Regiments from either the Royal Hussars where I started to the REME where I ended. Being a musician and going around the world, play music to multiple Units or civilians, and although it was fantastic, and I wouldn’t change a second of it, there comes a stage where you do have to go and think about the next stage.
Craig: Yeah, sure and, and you will also, if my memory serves me correctly, you did quite a bit of other work in terms of coaching and on the sports scene.
Andy: Yeah, sure. So, I was a rugby referee for a long time since 2012 I think I started. No, sorry 2004 I started refereeing rugby, and it got to the stage where I was used to quite highest level and ended up being the referee advisor to the Army girls rugby team, and then become the forwards coach for the Army girls rugby team and did that role for about six years before I left the Army in 2012.
Craig: Brilliant, so coaching is something that comes quite naturally to you then.
Andy : I think it’s…. I coach probably differently to other people. Being a musician in the Army, I’m not ‘Army barmy’ like some I suppose so I do maybe slightly coach to different degrees of maybe what the screaming shouting, Sgt Major’s may expect but I do tend to get results and that’s what matters for me.
Craig: Good man. And what, what was it you started to sort of suggest perhaps there. But what was it then that sort of finally made you start to think right now is the time for me to start stepping away from the military?
Andy: Me and the wife we had a big life event in 2008. We lost twins, which made us really think about our lives. Now the wife was a serving Officer in the Royal Navy, and both of us had been in a very long time at that point. And it was a case of we thought, actually, there’s more to life than this. So that was the point that we went, we’ve got to change our life somehow. Although that was in 2008, I didn’t leave until four years later, as it was, my wife also got made redundant in that year from the Royal Navy, which was brilliant. So, we both started a scary time of being military for a very long time both being civilians in the same year, which, yeah, that was challenging.
Craig: I’m sorry to hear about your event, as you put it, and I think, I think interestingly, that will resonate for a lot of people because I think some of those bigger events, be it in the military or outside, other things that trigger people to start leaving, but from that perspective there with two of you doing it, I mean, it’s often hard enough with one person transitioning in a family. What was it like with two of you transition and at the same time?
Andy: I think because we’re both ex-military, we sort of bounced off it, maybe a little easier than say some that only one of them are in the military. We knew that obviously everything’s going to change. But you also have the military of just like, let’s get on with it and there’s no point in moping around. Yes, it was difficult. Yes, it wasn’t the easiest. But you’ve just got to get on and make these decisions make it work. And it is a case of go for it because after a couple of years, you won’t regret it.
Craig: Yeah, sure. So, I suppose one of the things that fascinates me about you and your sort of background as well, is what you’re doing now is so very different from what you did within the military. You said you sort of started thinking about it four years out. Did you plan…. did you always plan to do this? How did that sort of thought process go in your mind?
Andy: No, I never ever entered this and I remember doing my CLM course back in 2000, one of the Captain’s on there at the time said “so you really need to start thinking about your next move now. You’re 10 years away, you really got to think of that and start thinking about it”. I went “Yeah, yeah, yeah”. And then I was on my ‘Career Transition Partnership’ going, what the hell am I going to do next? Which I’m sure everybody else has done.
Craig: I think we all have…. I think everybody in the military has a bit of Peter Pan syndrome, don’t they?
Craig: They don’t think they’re every going to grow up, and it’s never going to happen to them.
Andy: No. And so I’ve always been one of those. I’ve always owned my own property. And I thought at that point, my current role is not something you can earn decent money out in civilian Street. So, it’s a case of, let’s do something different. So, without even any real knowledge of it, I thought, let’s try being a mortgage broker. Careers Transition Partnership had never had anybody do that before. So, I have to go and find my own courses and everything else but yeah, so when trained to become a mortgage broker
Craig: Wow. Okay. And, and what was it like then in terms of….so you were the first for CTP, so you weren’t getting a huge amount of support or advice around that. How hard was it for you then to get that first elusive job on civvy street?
Andy: Yeah, it’s not easy. It’s the biggest thing that I think everybody will find when they leave the military. Yes, we have lots and lots and lots of skills, whether it’s management or qualifications, depending on which department of the military you come from. The hardest bit is 1: Telling civilian companies that we have these skills because a lot of our qualifications are all wrapped up in military jargon, but also, we have no life skills in that current role and so, trying to get out there and get that first break is absolute the hardest. So, I did my CeMAP, which is Certificate of mortgage in practice, back in 2012. I knew I didn’t have the skills to go and set up a company on my own at that time and so fired out my CV to as many people that was looking to employ at the time. And I got a break, complete break by the fact that one of the persons who ended up in taking me on through ‘Connells’, his father was Ex-Royal Navy and it was just that little break that I needed to go and have somebody invest in me and give me the chance.
Craig: Yeah, I think that’s…. there’s a couple of things that you kind of picked up on there. I think, first of all, the military jargon piece.
Craig: People have to make sure, in my experience with the coaching that I’ve been doing, I’ve really seen this, that they’re CV’s are “de-jargoned”. Yeah, the litmus test for me is give it to somebody who, you know that isn’t in the military, and has never been in the military and if they can tell you what you do, well done, you’ve done better than most and that’ll help you. So I think that’s really important and I think the second piece is trying to influence, if you know you want to go into an industry, start to build up your network now within that industry, LinkedIn is a very easy tool for doing that and try and seek out those military people within that industry because it’s my experience that they will give you extra time, they will help out a brother or a sister from the from the forces and help them out. Is that sort of what you found?
Andy: Without a shadow of a doubt and one of the key things I suppose is I was very, very lucky in the military, I did a job that I thoroughly enjoyed. But when you do 25 years as I did, in one career and you’re going to your next one, finding enjoyment in your next one, it is absolutely vital. So the more information you can get about the new role your thinking of taking on, the better or more enjoyment you going to get out of your next career because let’s not forget, if you leave the military or 40/42/43 whatever it is, you’ve still got 20 odd years in that next career. So if you’re doing a job that you absolutely hate, or you do just because you think that’s enough money for me to live, then that’s not really going to make you want to get up in the morning.
Craig: Yeah, that’s another very good point Andy because, and I know we’ve had this conversation before, we see a lot of people coming out at sort of senior levels and settling for a job because they think, you know, they’ve done that trade and they just settled for a role because they were a driver, so they’re gonna go do a driving role or they were in, you know, finance. They’ll just take it and I think there should be more than that. I think they should want more out of their career and deserve more out of their career than just settling for something.
Andy: Absolutely. There’s a whole varied stuff that, obviously in civvy street that we don’t do in the military. Just because you haven’t done that career before in the past doesn’t mean you can’t do it going forward. We all have skills that we probably didn’t know we had and it’s just a case of finding them. Now it could be that that first job you go into civvy street and do you absolutely hate but once you’ve got a job. It’s a lot easier to find another one.
Craig: Yeah, I think that’s quite a common phenomenon that people go out and actually their first choice isn’t it so they shouldn’t be worried or disillusioned by that. But if they could do some work up front, it’s less likely to happen to them. So, getting back to you, what was it then that made you start to or make you want to start your own business and YES mortgages. What was what was the theory?
Andy: So, I think anybody who’s been in the military and think that our administration and management is pants, go to a corporate and find out that it is no better. Maybe slightly worse, and so you go out and you go to a big corporation like ‘Connells’ the estate agents as I did, and after 18 months, I just could not…. I thought I just can’t do this. There’s no way I can carry on doing this, I’m not happy. I’m not enjoying it. Thankfully, they gave me the skills to allow me to go on to make my own business, without that I’d have been absolutely useless. But their training was fantastic, and I can never thank them enough for that. But it was a place where I wasn’t happy and I just had to do so, luckily, I then went okay, let’s see what we can do. Let’s go and see if I can set up my own. What’s the pitfalls and everything else. The bonus of being ex-military of having a military pension means that at least, if you’re not earning a great deal in the first year, you’ve still got money and food to put on the table. And that was absolutely vital. But yeah, they were great, but it was time to move on and once I become my own boss, I absolutely loved it.
Craig: Yeah, so tell us a bit…. stop being so shy, I know you’re not really…. tell us a bit more about YES mortgages…. what do you do?
Andy: So we are what they class as a whole of market broker, which means basically, we use every lender out there with the exception of a couple; Lloyds and Yorkshire Building Society but we have access to over 121 members. We can do residential mortgages, buys to let mortgages, self-build, bridging loans, commercial… near enough anything on that kind of finance on. If it’s got a property involved, we can sort it out. We do not charge broker fees, whatsoever. So, we have got one arm on our commercial side that does charge fees. But on our main part we do not charge fees. We specialise in the forces ‘help to buy’. We know exactly which lenders and how to put that forward and obviously being ex-military we can talk to everybody in the same language and explain to them in the lowest common denominator to make sure they fully understand what they’re going forward with. So, we can help them out and go “look you can get this amount from the military, there is no interest on it. You should be buying as soon as you can”.
Craig: And so I’d like to touch on that because I think for a lot of people when you come out, people certainly have been married for several years they’ve been used to living on the patch. They’ve had that relative security and ease. What should people know and understand about the ‘help to buy’? I mean, first of all, what is it and what are the benefits?
Andy: So that ‘help to buy’ is an interest free loan that’s from the government, sorry, from the military, which is up to a maximum of 25,000 or 50% of your income. It’s paid over a 10-year period and it’s taken direct from your pay. It can be used as a deposit or help towards fees. As long as this is the only property you’ve owned, and you can only use it once. It is a fantastic tool to use at any stage in your career. The biggest, I think issue we see and we see it a lot, is that people get to three years off the end of their career and go actually I need to find somewhere else to live. If they’d have used that forces ‘help to buy’ early in their career. They could have had a property that maybe somebody would have rented for them. There’s a lot of lenders out there that will not change the rates because your military. So, Halifax, Nationwide whatever loved the military so much that you could rent the property out and they won’t change the rate. Which means that when you get to the age of 40, whatever it is, when you retire, you could have a property that not maybe fully repaid, but it could have a lot of that mortgage cleared down for you. So, you’ve actually got somewhere to live. But depending on your lump sum could actually clear or help you, maybe not be your forever home, buy a new home that you want to live in.
Craig: Oh wow. So, people can use it earlier in their career…. I always thought that was a towards the last couple of years or whatever…
Andy: No, you can use it from near enough the start, I think you have to be in about three years. Now, the intention of the ‘help to buy’ is that you shouldn’t go and rent your property out you should be living in it. There are circumstances that if you get posted they will allow you to do that, they will then start charging an interest rate on the forces ‘help to buy’. But if you’ve got a property that’s…. bearing in mind, most units now don’t move around like they used to. But if you’re based in Tidworth, you’re expected to be there for 10 years, you use forces ‘help to buy’, you then change location, you can then rent your property out, the lenders going to be happy with that. It just gives you so much more of a difference when you come to leaving the military and you’ve got maybe fifty/ hundred grand, whatever it is now in equity, you’re in a lot stronger place.
Craig: Great advice. Thanks for your help on that. In terms of your visit again, I know we’ve spoken before and I know that several of the people that you employ in the business are ex-forces.
Craig: You know, you said guys coming out the forces don’t have that, you know, experience mortgage brokerage experience. What is it that makes you employ them? What do you like about it? What are the benefits?
Andy: The benefits are: …All my guys have learned from me. So, they’ve not had to go through the route I did by going through an estate agent. They’ve all come to me with literally no knowledge of the finance industry whatsoever. We’ve gone and got them the qualifications they need, and then they’ve sat with me and we’ve gone out, seen people we’ve gone through the cases and explained everything else and the bonus of being military is you tell them once and it gets done. The other bonuses are they learn quickly, obviously, but they’re not scared to ask what civilians would think are stupid questions. It’s a question; if you don’t know the answer, then ask the question. But we don’t do, as a lot of civilian companies can tend to do, is make it so difficult and so entangled in jargon, again, that it just confuses the people that they’re talking to. What we want to do is be plain speak, get exactly what the client wants or explain exactly so that they know that when they’re moving into that property, they’ve got what they wanted for the time they wanted, and they know that their plan going forward. So, we try and plant as many seeds as we can to give them the best going forward as possible. And us as military, we just tend to react off that we just tend to learn quicker. We explain better possibly, but it also is great to work with. So, in the office, the banter, well, when were allowed in the office. The banter is very, very strong and it is just good natured, is really good fun.
Craig: Yeah, I like that it’s…..and I’m imagining as well in your line of work, you need quite strong resilience. So again, that’s probably something else that you see in employing ex-military.
Andy: It is yeah, definitely. It’s being able to think on your feet because basically, as mortgage brokers, all we’re doing is problem solving. That’s all we’re doing. We’ve been given a problem of this is how much income or whatever it is. How do we get to the end result? and that’s all we’ve ever done in the military is problems solve and we’re very good with it.
Craig: Yeah. Yeah. Good stuff. We’ve covered housing Andy, I think, because one of the other reasons I was interested to get you on apart from your story is, I think, how finance/housing is a significant for worry when people leave the military. What would…..
Andy: I think it is. I don’t think people really consider it enough in lots of ways and I’m sure it may have been the same year as it is for most, it comes up on you very, very quickly. For me, it’s a case of put yourself in the strongest position you can. So, if you haven’t got a property or you have got a property, if you’ve got any loans, credit cards, let’s get them clear. Let’s make sure that when the monthly check stops, and your pension starts a lot lower rate, that you’re not worrying about not only finding housing for yourself, but making sure you haven’t got all those loans, credit cards to worry about as well. So, let’s get all that cleared out of the way. The next one for me is, and this happens a heck of a lot is people will go Okay, I’ve left buying a house to very, very late. I’m going to go and buy in South Wales or whatever it is, and because the housings cheap. For me, it shouldn’t be about where the housing cheap is. It should be about where there’s work, because you’ve got a career for the next 20 years. You need to be where there’s a lot of work and so think and consider where those places are. For example, currently Swindon is quite a strong place but if Honda pull out of Swindon is not going to be a strong place, so you’ve got to really consider where you’re going to move next, because you’ve got to work.
Craig: And I think, again, I think from when I put my recruiting hat on, very often there is a worry that people would need to get over in an interview if they say they’re going to commute excessive amounts because employers worry about burnout. You know, as a result of that, and whilst we as military are used to living, you know, I saw a lot of senior ranks when I was leaving, they spent the last couple of years living back in the mess because they set up their civilian homes. That I think is a lot easier than having to live out of a hotel or several hotels or you know, when you go into your first civilian job, because you don’t have that mess, camaraderie and several people in the same situation as you, it’s a little bit more lonely. So, I think, a great piece of advice there in terms of trying to get housing where the jobs are.
Andy: Well, I mean, this comes back to the conversation we had earlier where we said about prepping and getting to know military people in civvy street to find out what role you’re going to do next. Because that then gives you the insight of where you’re going to live. So, for example, Amazon may not be a great employer in America, but it’s not bad over here and they’ve loved the military. So, if that’s a role that you’re thinking, there’s no point in living in Devon where they haven’t got any plants. You’ve got to be going towards…there’s a new one and Southampton coming in or Staffordshire or wherever it is, because commuting is just not fun. And you’ve got to be….and there’s extra costs as well. Don’t forget, you’ve got to pay for fuel. So those are all considerations you really really got to think about.
Craig: Good stuff. Anything else about in terms of in terms of finances and things that people need to plan for or be aware of Andy?
Andy: No, I think it’s just prep as good as you can. You’re never going to be able to prep for everything. But if you can…. If you can’t buy a house earlier in your military career, and you are going to do it later on in your military career, the location is everything. Make sure it fits everything you need for work, family, and that kind of stuff because you’re going to be away from your military family. You may need your actual family to look after you and support you in that time. But you also, like I say, work is key. It is absolutely where you’ve got to consider. Yeah, but try and get yourself in the financial the best way you can. So, when that monthly wage stops your in a strong position.
Craig: Sure, you mentioned earlier on that you were one of the first to go through the sort of CTP and wanting to go into that sort of mortgage broker world from the best of your knowledge, do you know if there are more people doing that or going into financial services straight from the military, etc?
Andy: No, not really, not at all. And weirdly, I was talking to a client I picked up this morning who is ex Royal Military Police, we won’t hold that against him but….
Craig: Well we probably should…
Andy: He now works for ‘JP Morgan’ and ‘JP Morgan’s’ another employer that literally loved the ex-military and they’ve got a huge, huge, wanting to get more military into them. So yeah, it’s CTP was OK. I think CTP transit…CTP wants you to go into an employee role, I sort of get that. But we also have all the skills we need to be self-employed. And we are motivated, were disciplined, we will work like a dog, everything you need to be self-employed; I wouldn’t be scared of it. Do your research, make sure you’re going into an area that, if you are going to go self-employed, go and pick my brains, your brains, whatever it is. There’s lots of things you can do that can help you going forward. I mean, one of the nuggets if you’ve done it long enough, and you’ve now got your military pension is don’t go as a sole trader, it goes a limited company Director because if anything goes south, they can’t take your pension off you.
Andy: So, it’s just little things like that, again, try and do as much research as you can.
Craig: Yeah. And I suppose as another plug for you and start to wrap this up. And if anybody….do people have to be local to you to use you or if…. could people….
Andy: Not at all
Craig: So, what’s the best way to get in contact?
Andy: So, we will do mortgages anywhere in the country, even in Scotland if we have to, we’ve got guys all over the place as well. So although we’ve got most of our guys in Dorset and Hampshire, we have got one of my guys down in Devon, we used to have other guys up in Gloucestershire who’ve since now moved on but we can be contacted through our web page. So just go to www.Yesmortgageservices.co.uk. You can find us through that, or find us through LinkedIn, Facebook, we’re on both of them platforms.
Andy: If you want advice about something that’s not even yet, so you’re thinking about buying something in two years’ time, we can put you on the right street to make sure that perhaps your credit file isn’t where it needs to be or something like that. I mean, one of the biggest issues if you’re living in camp, your credit…your registered to the camp, is trying to get a credit score against you. So it could be that you move yourself electronically to your parents address, then we can get a credit score against you and we can do things and work with you to make sure that even if it’s not now he’s in two or three years’ time to put you in the strongest position we can.
Craig: Brilliant. Look Andy, I think I could probably keep trying to draw some of these nuggets out of you all day but we’ll let you crack on what I will do for everybody is put your website, your LinkedIn profile and stuff on the show notes and I think you’re one of those guys who wants to help people out. So, I’m sure if anybody wanted to move into that mortgage broking world, you’d be happy to hear from them as well.
Andy: Absolutely. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I mean, whether you go in under our banner and I can train you or you want to go out on your own completely on your own, or go…..or just thinking about it as a career, more than happy to get anybody, military, serving or Ex to have a chat and see if it suits them.
Craig: That’s a very generous offer off you that for now, Andy, thank you ever so much for being a guest on the career force podcast.
Andy: A pleasure. Thank you.
Craig: I hope that you found the insights and advice in this podcast useful for your transition. If you want to hear more episodes, you can subscribe both on Apple podcasts and Spotify. And you’ll find more information on Career Force LinkedIn page by following me, Craig Elvin on LinkedIn. For now, this call sign is over and out.
Be sure to check out both Craig himself on LinkedIn and both the Career Force LinkedIn page and the Facebook page. At Yes Mortgage Services Limited, our team are made up of military veterans, spouses and siblings, we understand the pressures military personnel face when trying to secure their first home, relocate or transition from the military – if you have questions, then we would rather you ask us than sit worrying about something.
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