Interview with Gopher Money's Chris Birks
Gopher Money Ltd
financial advice, Home Loans, debt management
In the Spotlight with Chris Birks of Gopher Money
We sat down with the face of secured loans packager Gopher Money, Chris Birks, to talk about falling into the secured sector, having a drink or two and the changing public perception of the industry...
Could you tell us a bit about Gopher Money and your role there?
At Gopher Money we specialise in finding the best financial solution for our clients. In a tough marketplace being able to offer multi products is essential. We pride ourselves on being forward thinking and always prepared to take a risk to stay one step ahead of the market. My role is all encompassing – mainly I’m out and about seeing partners, be it lenders, brokers or service providers. I’m the face of Gopher Money!
What is your background and how did you get into the secured loan market?
I fell into the secured loan market way back in 2001. After a misspent youth following the dream of being a professional tennis player, a couple of major back operations caused me to rethink my options. It all started at First National Bank in Manchester. Keeping a long story short my journey was: First National, Loanmakers, Optimum Surveyor Network, Creditflex Loans & Mortgages and now Gopher Money Ltd.
In light of the ongoing financial crisis, what do you think has been the biggest challenge the company has faced since it began?
As we formed Gopher Money in August 2010, we were well aware of the challenges that we were going to face, the toughest of which was finding and retaining the best staff. Since 2010 we have grown from a team of 12 to 56, and recruitment is still going strong. The time and energy spent finding, training and rewarding our staff is worth every single penny and ounce of sweat.
If you could have any super-power in the world what would it be?
I’d probably have a bulletproof liver. I’m fed up of hangovers!
In your experience, what are the most common reasons people want to take out a secured loan for?
People take secured loans for many reasons; the most common two being consolidation and home improvements. Secured loans are realistically one of the cheapest ways to borrow money right now. Both Shawbrook and Nemo are driving down the annual rates; we now need to see the market broadening.
If you could only take one thing on a desert island with you, what would it be?
It would have to be my Leatherman. It got me round Australia in one piece, I’m sure I’d survive a desert island!
What is the perception of secured lending as portrayed in the mainstream press; do you think more needs to be done to change the stereotypical view of the industry?
I think the image of secured lending is better than it has been for a long time. Since the sale of PPI has stopped, the cost of borrowing has dropped dramatically and early redemptions are clear and simple. I believe secured loans are now seen as a real and viable alternative to remortgaging.
If you weren’t working at Gopher, what would be your ideal job?
Friends and family mean everything to me. If I wasn’t working at Gopher Money, I would probably own a little bar somewhere. I’m sure there wouldn’t be much profit in it – but my friends’ glasses would always be full!
What significant changes do you think will come into play in the secured lending market over the next 12 months?
This is the million dollar question. One thing I have learnt since the Credit Crunch is never to try to second guess what’s round the corner. Rather than wasting time planning for events which may not happen – I’m focused on being ready to react to changes as and when they DO happen.
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