She’s been in finance for 20 years and she’s worked her way up from junior cashier with several high street banks, through to a private bank manager for high net worth individuals. Now as the director of Real Financial Advice, Cath Humphreys is the Lancashire businesswoman ringing the changes in the personal finance sector.

We met up with her to ask how she’s managed it. The answer was simple: the right people, determination, and an unshakable will to do some good in her corner of the world.

Build a Team

The financial advice market is as much about people as it is about money. With Real Financial Advice, Cath has built a team of people who understand the twists and turns of life because they’ve been there before.

“Having the right people with good experience and local knowledge is really important” says Cath. “Personal finance is exactly that: it’s personal. There are some jobs that a computer just can’t do as well as a Human being and understanding the complexities of an individual’s financial situation and mortgage requirements is one of them.”

“I don’t like to think of people being pushed online to do their banking. With important financial decisions, people should sit down and talk to an advisor, have some proper human contact, face to face. That’s why we’ve put together a friendly, approachable team who are here all the time” says Cath.

Real Financial Advice is a team of people working towards a common goal, but they themselves are part of an even more prestigious team. They actually have the honour of being an appointed representative of the award-winning Quilter Financial Planning. When you look at Quilter’s core beliefs it’s easy to see the how the relationship came about. The two have a great deal in common: the importance of face to face advice, providing a better choice, making things simple where possible, and perhaps most importantly, that a company’s value goes beyond making a profit.

“People buy from people”

“People buy from people” is Cath’s motto, and that probably has a good deal to do with her success in the world of business. All too often companies automate the sales process and it’s not always the best way to do business. For Real Financial Advice to be a success they need to listen to people and understand where they’re coming from. Fortunately, that’s exactly what they are doing.

Cath has her finger on the pulse of society in a way that most other businesspeople do not. People come to her to talk about their money, their commitments, and their future plans. There can’t be many other professions where people open up about such private issues.

Cath represents a new type of financial advisor, the sort that you actually want to talk to. She’s smart, friendly, approachable, and driven. She’s also got a very clear idea about Real Financial Advice’s mission:

“We are here to help people get a better mortgage and to take the stress out of the process” she says, “with the banks, if you don’t fit a particular profile you’ll get turned away, especially if you’re self-employed, or have bad credit. The great thing about Real Financial Advice is that we look to help everybody from all walks of life. Whoever you are, if you’re in the market for a mortgage you’d be better off coming to us.”

The biggest mistake people make when buying financial products

The biggest mistake people make when looking at financial products is not shopping around, and that’s what Real Financial Advice can do on your behalf.

Cath explains “You wouldn’t just settle for the first insurance quote you’re offered. But with Mortgages, most people just go to their bank, the same bank that they’ve always dealt with, perhaps even their parents used the same bank.”

“The problem is that banks offer just one or two products, they’re limited in what they can offer. But not being tied to any one provider of mortgages, Real Financial Advice isn’t restricted in the same way. We can search the whole market and that means we can assess your needs and find the right mortgage for you.”

A presence in the high street is vital

Cath sees a town centre office as vital to the future of Real Financial Advice, and she’s very optimistic about the future high street shopping.

“I come from a banking background, and I know that those companies are very impersonal. I want people to see that we’ve got a nice office where you’ll always get a warm welcome, and there’ll be someone available to speak to you right away.”

The long-term vision is to create a one-stop shop. They want to be known in the community for the great services they offer and with the planned redevelopment of Burnley’s Red Lion building, they will soon all be housed under one roof.

Cath predicts strong growth for the local area she is very enthusiastic about the future of Lancashire and the wider North West:

“We’re lucky to live in an area with so much potential, we’ve got a bit of everything here, towns and cities with great architecture, countryside, and some really beautiful seaside resorts too. Lancashire’s lovely, it’s thriving, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”