Did you know that many of United Trust Bank’s most productive brokers spend more time talking to our credit team than they do their BDMs? It’s not because our BDMs aren’t worth talking to, they’re all really good at what they do, it’s because they know that often a direct and frank conversation between the broker and the credit manager is the quickest route to a decision, particularly if it’s a tricky case or one where the story behind the deal can be the difference between a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Until joining UTB, I’d mostly worked at lenders where we tried to keep the underwriters well away from the people who know most about the case and the customer – the broker. That might work in a scenario where you’re only interested in the low-hanging fruit, but if you’re keen to do deals which don’t fit that ‘tick-box’ approach, I believe you need to trust your partners and really get to know them. I also think that having a strong broker/credit relationship is going to be even more important over the next 12 months, as the impact Covid has had on businesses is laid out in their 2020 accounts. For many, it’s not going to be a pretty sight.
Many companies’ returns are going to show a downturn in trading, negative trends which are usually a warning signal not to lend. It’s going to be extremely important for brokers and their customers that funders are set up to look past the headline financials and take the time to understand the story behind them. Lenders have to be working in partnership with brokers to do this. Brokers whose opinions you value and whose words you can take at face value. Credit teams must be encouraged to look deeper, ask questions and listen to the answers. And you must have an environment where people are empowered to find ways to say yes. That’s the environment we strive for at UTB.
Our credit team is twice the size of our sales team. They speak to brokers all the time. They are willing to listen, to dig and find solutions. We’ve hand-picked underwriters that are personable, approachable, well-connected in the broker market, and we’ve encouraged and empowered them to work in partnership with brokers. We’re about as far from automated underwriting as you can get, and that’s good, because automated underwriting isn’t going to work in many companies’ favour for a while. Funders will have to adapt or they will come unstuck. I’ve seen this happening since the start of the pandemic. Lenders claiming to be ‘open for business’, when in reality, their appetite is severely restricted.
UTB are probably best known for funding and refinancing a wide variety of vehicles from construction plant and agricultural machinery to vans and HGVs, and we do it very well. Our knowledge of the assets we fund is outstanding and our service is widely recognised as being a cut above many of our peers. Over the next 12 months we aim to continue doing what we do best and build on the success of the last few years – if it aint broke, don’t fix it!
However, as my task is to develop and grow UTB’s asset finance & SME lending business, I believe there are some sectors of the market offering excellent opportunities for UTB. For starters, there’s room for a funder like UTB in the mid-ticket, £250k to £2.5m deal size market. We’ll continue to lend to the same sectors on the same types of assets where we already have expertise, but to push the boundaries on deal sizes for really strong credits. We’ll look at cases from new customers and also increase exposure to existing customers. We’ve tested the water in Q1 with some success, completing more £1m+ deals in the last three months than UTB completed in the previous 3 years. It was never a question of capability, more a matter of appetite.
High value cars is a niche we’ve quietly served for several years but as we’ve developed our skills within the team it’s another sector we’re aiming to be more active in moving forward. Just recently we refinanced some of a HNW customer’s collection so that he could raise £750k to go and buy some more. With three Ferraris; a Dino, a 458 Speciale, an F430 Spider and an E-Type Jaguar already in the garage I’m keen to know what he’s buying next!
Our move into larger deals and high value car funding has not affected what you might describe as UTB’s ‘bread and butter’ business. We’ve developed the team further by bringing in experienced people like Jon Mote, Olly Hobday, Kerry Stuart and most recently Louise McIntosh. We have increased our appetite and ability to write more and larger deals and our investment in new technology and systems will ensure our service remains spot on. As a result we have just delivered record breaking results for the first 6 months of 2021, completing more new AF business in the first half of this year than we did in the whole of our previous record year.
At UTB we have the right approach, the right processes, and the right people to help brokers and their customers seize the opportunities a recovering economy can bring. We’re looking forward to working with all our established broker partners and forging lots of new relationships as we build on our success and accelerate our growth.
Article by Business Moneyfacts