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In the press – ‘Education is a two-way street.’

Brian West looks to highlight the value of an interactive learning process between lenders, brokers, and professional partners in the specialist finance market.

As we gear up for a General Election it seems hard to believe that it’s over 25 years since a new political rallying cry was enthusiastically adopted by New Labour. Of course, this famous slogan was “Education, Education, Education” and by the late 1990’s it was being repeated ad-nauseum. In truth, the first Blair government was less radical in education than other areas, but politicians rarely let the truth get in the way of a good slogan and this short phrase attained almost trademark status!


Today, education seems to have slipped down the political pecking order at a national level with issues such as the cost-of-living crisis gaining far more attention but, by contrast, in the specialist lending sector it’s hard to recall a time when there has been a stronger focus on this vital area. Last year saw the long-awaited launch of a tailored qualification for the sector; the Certified Practitioner in Specialist Finance (CPSP), which focusses predominantly on bridging, development finance and buy-to-let.


Driven by the Financial Intermediary & Broker Association (FIBA) and the Association of Short-Term Lenders (ASTL) and backed by the London Institute of Banking & Finance (LIBF) this new qualification will hopefully improve standards, increase professionalism, and enhance the reputation of the industry.


Crucially, official regulators will always prefer to work with those sectors and trade bodies that pro-actively seek to improve their own standards and indeed self-regulate themselves.


Alongside this formal manifestation of the specialist finance industry’s desire to improve, sits a plethora of initiatives by individual lenders, packagers, and brokers with a huge range of people working incredibly hard to raise standards. In doing so they have made the sector accessible to literally tens of thousands of new customers, but it is fair to say that not everybody gets it right...


Good educational marketing can position a brand as an industry authority, build trust with potential customers and over time lead to stronger relationships and increased loyalty. By offering educational content that addresses the needs and interests of potential clients the quality of leads should improve, and good content will of course have a longer shelf-life than adverts and other forms of marketing.


An interactive learning process is key.


The flip side to the above is a growing number of organisations and teams who have become so focussed on the very ideal of education that they lose sight of what actually works. They devote huge amounts of time and effort into researching, writing, editing, and filming content which sadly misses the point. To be truly engaging, education must be a two-way street rather than a lecture. It needs to be an interactive learning process where both the teacher and the pupil become smarter thanks to mutual exploration and exchange.  


In a world driven by multiple channels and interfaces there has been a proliferation of content online, but it’s important to avoid getting caught up in the race to deliver content for the sake of delivering content. The danger in doing so is that it becomes prescriptive, unhelpful, and worst of all, disengaging.


Ensuring that content remains interesting to the reader, listener or viewer can be a huge challenge given that social media algorithms encourage such frequent and regular posts. Quantity often triumphs over quality with the authors remaining blissfully ignorant that their content is poor thanks to a raft of “likes” from people who sometimes haven’t even viewed or read the material posted!


The pace of technological change in recent years has been staggering but the key to delivering good educational marketing still boils down to one fundamental skill that all good BDM’s, brokers, and lenders have always possessed – the ability to listen as well speak articulately. If you preach to potential clients, you won’t win them, if you preach to existing clients, you will lose them but if you engage in conversation, listen, learn, and work together you will build lasting and successful relationships.


In his book, The Cycle of Leadership, Noel Tichy wrote:


“The company that fields the better team with the smarter people and has them working most often on the things that create the most value will win out over its competitors.”


What a great quote to keep close to hand if you are actively engaged in producing educational marketing material. Done well, educational content can be a powerful tool for driving engagement but ultimately, to drive sales and revenue, it’s just one element of a multi-layered strategy that delivers results for the most successful sales teams.



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