Billy Holland: "High performance is still key to my new job, but not to the same extent as in rugby"

The Munster rugby stalwart is dominating a new field these days, as a Mortgage Master with EBS
Billy Holland: "High performance is still key to my new job, but not to the same extent as in rugby"

"I’m proud that everything we do at EBS is very much teamwork-oriented. Growing up in rugby, teamwork is all I've ever known," says Billy Holland.

After deciding to hang up his rugby boots last year, retiring from a prolific career that saw him play a whopping 247 times for his native Munster and earn an international cap for Ireland, nobody could have blamed Billy Holland if he’d been tempted to kick back and put his feet up at the time too.

Instead, however, Billy decided to hit the ground running straight away, kicking off his new career in financial services. Since 2021, he’s been tackling a new role as a Mortgage Master in EBS.

It’s been a huge change of pace, understandably, and in many ways things have slowed down and life has become calmer for Billy. He says working at EBS, however, still keeps him on his toes plenty!

“The thing about playing professional rugby for a living is that you get reviewed every day,” Billy explains. “Everything you do is under a microscope almost, so if you play a match at the weekend, it gets reviewed by your coaches, you get reviewed by your peers, sometimes your family, commentators and basically anybody who has a phone can say anything they want about you! While I miss it, I have to say that could be a very intense thing to experience every week and sometimes quite stressful. It was the same with every training session, just non-stop review, preview, analysis, all about trying to get better at every single thing you do. So I thought moving out of that high-performance world and into the world of banking and mortgages would be a bit of a let up. It’s not quite!” 

Billy played for Munster 247 times during his 14-year career.
Billy played for Munster 247 times during his 14-year career.

“It’s a bit of a hotspot at the moment — the whole topic of housing, mortgages and particularly young people trying to get on the property ladder. It can be quite difficult nowadays for people to get the house that they want. So most of what I’ve done personally at EBS is focus on how I can help customers by making things clear and simple for them right from day one. I’ve taken great pride in getting young people, including single applicants, their mortgage approved and I’ve helped people in their mid-20s become home owners with mortgages through EBS. There’s a great sense of pride from that.

"Unfortunately, there will also be couples or individuals that you need to sit down and break the bad news to. It’s hard to say that they’re not ready now but we always follow up with ‘these are the things you need in order to get ready’ but it’s a hard conversation to have. So there are highs and lows to the job, for sure.

“High performance and constant review, it’s there in EBS — but not to the same extent as in rugby. For me, most of the stress from the job is because I’m very invested in getting the best outcome for each customer. I get a sort of buzz that I used to get while playing, there’s a huge satisfaction from helping a customer get approved for their mortgage, but I always share their disappointment if they don’t get it too.” 

Billy isn’t alone in becoming invested in his customers’ journeys to securing their dream home. Across the board at EBS, every single Mortgage Master builds a personal connection with their customers and gets to know them throughout the mortgage process.

"We pride ourselves on being ready for you at a time and a place that suits you, no matter how big or small your case is. For example," Billy explains, "my customers get my own mobile number and they have direct contact with me specifically for any queries they need help with. We’re not about landlines, we realise that a mobile number for a customer goes a long way. As soon as a customer engages with EBS, they are linked with an individual Mortgage Master that they’ll have by their side for the entirety of their mortgage process. There’s a lot to be said for that level of customer service."

An added layer of special treatment that comes with going to EBS for your mortgage is the wealth of knowledge that each Mortgage Master brings to the table. A Mortgage Master knows your local area as well as the postman, and they recognise that no one buyer is ever quite the same as the next.

“As Mortgage Masters, we’re sharing information with customers on so much more than just their house and how to get it,” Billy says. “We talk to them about the whole area they’re hoping to buy or build in, which is great advice to have particularly if you’re relocating. I work at the EBS branch on Patrick’s Street in Cork city, and I know the place like the back of my hand. There’s a real sense of community in Cork, you’ll nearly always find somebody who knows somebody, and there’s always a connection somewhere. I think that’s a really nice quality about Cork, and something I always enjoy telling customers about. It also works nicely in terms of when I do a good job with somebody, they’re more likely to refer me on to their friends and family around my area, that’s the way it works.” 

Though he’s less than a year in the job, the number of cases and “good jobs” that Billy already has under his belt is hugely impressive. Each one, he says, teaches him something new; “I recently did a mortgage for a young family who were living in England and wanted to move back to Cork, but the dad was continuing to work a hybrid position. He works mostly from home, in Cork, then works a few days in London. So we’re able to facilitate these mortgages, and they’re ones I really enjoy. That couple have two young kids who now get to grow up near their grandparents in Cork. We’ve seen similar stories, say people who are contracted to work up in Dublin but they’ve moved back to their local village to continue working remotely and be close to family, and because they can’t afford to buy in the city.

"There's huge satisfaction in helping a customer get a mortgage approved for their dream home," says Billy.
"There's huge satisfaction in helping a customer get a mortgage approved for their dream home," says Billy.

“There certainly is a lot of that happening, and it seems that people are getting a better work life balance out of it. From the bank’s point of view, we need to ensure that the employment will continue to be remote as the bank needs to be satisfied that you’re going to be able to continue earning. Cases like that add some complexity to our job, but I like when something different comes along and we can figure out the best approach.” 

One of those areas that can frequently cause a bit of head-scratching took Billy by surprise when he first started at EBS. “What’s actually quite difficult, that I didn’t expect, are a lot of our second time buyers. I often meet people with young, expanding families who want a bigger home. They’ve bills, creche fees and a lot of expenses, so they’re not really building up the reserves they need. They’re looking to buy a bigger home but they don’t have the repayment capacity because they’re not saving money. It tends to be a more difficult mortgage to get, even for people who might have good incomes and good salaries. They’re not preparing like they would have the first time around, because I guess for lots of people first time buying is seen as a bigger deal. First time buyers are often very good, and spend months preparing for their mortgage and painting a good picture - making regular savings and not going out loads, until it reflects in their lifestyle. I think one of the pitfalls is people who are on a good salary just take it as a given that they can borrow 3.5 times their salary, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Interest rates can and do rise, so they need to think about exactly what they can afford to repay. We always stress that point to make sure that it’s sustainable for everyone.” 

Despite those pitfalls, however, Billy is confident that a solution can be found for anyone; “In EBS, we specialise in mortgages, it’s our whole game really. Our reputation as mortgage specialists means we tend to get a lot of complicated cases through to us. People will come to EBS with complex cases and we work with them to try and find solutions that work for everyone. We have a huge wealth of experience both as individual mortgage masters, and a shared knowledge as a network of branches.” 

That shared knowledge, and working together with the other Mortgage Masters is an important part of the job to Billy; “It’s the way I grew up with rugby, everything I know is about a team environment and my experience is that nothing works unless the team works. I’m proud that everything we do at EBS is very much teamwork-oriented and that just adds to the customer experience and the final result. Our Mortgage Masters are out helping people and are the direct client contact, but for every Mortgage Master there’s a whole team of other people in the office who are helping them, who are assisting with processing the mortgage and doing a lot of the hard work in the background. So within each branch there’s that team, but there’s also a network of all the individual branches where we link up with each other and assist each other. Sharing our experiences, ideas and support is vital to our work. We couldn’t do our best for our customers without it.” 

To see how EBS can do their best for you, Billy encourages anyone with mortgage queries to pop in to their local branch.

“Somebody will always have the answer for you, and we’ll offer unbeatable customer service,” he guarantees. “I personally don’t know why anyone would go elsewhere, though perhaps that’s just me being biased!”

For more information, see www.ebs.ie/mortgages.

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