John Cupis is in a very energetic mood as he sits down with Financial Adviser, despite suffering from jet lag, following a family trip to America.
The mortgage director at Openwork is keen to talk about the changes that are underway at the firm.
According to him, mortgage advisers apprehensive about the future of their business amid technological threats, can make their business more resilient by moving into wealth management. This is one of the main reasons Openwork has been pushing ahead with its ‘Route to Wealth’ programme.
Mr Cupis said: “There is a lot of talk about disruption in mortgages; that we are all going to be taken over by the machines. Where it may not be robo-advice, parts of the process will become streamlined and automated.
“For advisers thinking about their future, your mortgage customers of today will be your wealth customers of tomorrow as they reach later life and retirement. You have a good defence mechanism and business opportunity if you can think to move your practice to be in both.”
The Route to Wealth scheme, which was launched last September, helps mortgage advisers who want to move from level three to level four to become fully qualified investment advisers.
As the world of advice is changing, particularly for customers in retirement, there is a strong demand for investment advice.
Under the terms of the scheme, the adviser will fund the course. Then, after a certain amount of investment has been written, Openwork will refund all the money.
Mr Cupis added: “Customers who are in their late 40s, early 50s, post-pension freedoms have more options around how they choose to retire.
“Some may have interest-only mortgages or may be considering equity release. The world of pensions [and] investment planning is merging with mortgage advice. To have a fully grounded adviser that can offer holistic advice, we are seeing from adviser and customer research we have done, it will be a big part of our future.”
Openwork already has 30 advisers in the programme and is planning to put 100 through by the end of the year. The Route to Wealth project was started by Mr Cupis, who joined Openwork in early 2016 from Sesame Bankhall.
Having started his career at Natwest, Mr Cupis said he went from being a manufacturer at a lender, to working as a distributor for Legal & General. This has enabled him to gain knowledge about all parts of the mortgage transaction chain and an understanding about how customers need change.
Openwork has a little more than 2,500 advisers who can write mortgages and are part of the total 3,500 advisers, the remainder of whom write investment business. Mr Cupis expects this year the mortgage arm will grow to around £15bn in terms of written business – an annual growth of 20 per cent for the past five years.
As a result of Zurich selling its 25 per cent stake in Openwork in April, Mr Cupis said the company now offers an even more “attractive proposition” for businesses, as advisers now own 85 per cent of the business.