Marginal Gains

It’s a shame that Sir Dave Brailsford is more likely to be remembered for the mystery contents of a small, brown jiffy bag than the implementation of a theory which transformed the performance of British Cycling from ‘also rode’ to world domination.

His belief, in a nutshell, was that by making even just a 1% improvement, a marginal gain, in every aspect of the team’s performance and behaviours, the cumulative effect of those small changes would contribute to a substantial difference in their results. Whilst this included analysis of the
more obvious elements; diet, physical exercise, the ergonomics of the bike, the weight of the tyres etc, he also instructed the team to look at the smallest details. For example, they tested the pillows which gave the riders the best night’s sleep and took them everywhere.

The team found the most effective massage gel to use in the warm down and they installed antibacterial hand cleaner around the training camp to lower their risk of picking up viruses. It wasn’t a seismic shift in one element of the cycling programme, but an aggregation of many small improvements. Prior to Brailsford taking over the Performance Director role in 2003, Olympic Gold medals in British cycling had been few and far between. One in Barcelona in 1992 and another in Sydney in 2000. At the last Games under his management, London 2012, Team GB won 8 golds in road and track cycling and a further 17 in the Paralympics. And let’s not forget his parallel successes with Team Sky.

Ok. So a velodrome is a world away from a busy bridging department in a specialist bank. However, the theory and value of marginal gains isn’t exclusive to competitive cycling.

UTB has had a strong reputation as a dependable, knowledgeable and competitive bridging lender for many years. While we’ve won awards for service and products, not being content to rest on our laurels we started to look for ways to improve on what we already do. There was no need to tear the whole thing down and start again. Instead we looked at every aspect of our service, processing and products and looked for ways to improve them.

We started in early 2017, looking at the more obvious things at first. We looked at our pricing and, just over a year ago, reduced our interest rates in every LTV band, becoming one of the cheapest bridging providers in the marketplace for both first and second charge lending.

We reviewed our distribution strategy and recruited four new regional BDMs to offer real ‘boots on the ground’ service and support to brokers in areas across England and Wales.

In anticipation of business levels increasing, driven by the extra BDMs, we added Katy Nolan to the successful internal sales team to ensure that service levels and efficiency were maintained. Something webelieve we were already very good at.

We also brought Faye Quigley on board as Underwriting Manager with a responsibility to ensure that proposals were dealt with quickly and professionally and we bolstered the underwriting team with the addition of Iain Burke and Grant Ward, both very experienced bridging professionals. Then we began looking at the smaller things.

We amended and streamlined our internal processes, particularly  in relation to sign off authority, to further improve turnaround times from enquiry to drawdown. We streamlined the solicitor panel toensure excellent service and reduced fees for borrowers and we broadened the valuer panel toprovide relevant national coverage and improved response times.

Many of our improvements have come following consultation with key introducers and feedback received from our expanded BDM team. For example, our most recent change, that of reducing our minimum loan size to £75,000, resulted from discussions with brokers operating in regional markets. And our decision to introduce AVMs for qualifying loans to reduce both costs and processing times was again due to feedback from introducers. The number of cases which might benefit from these improvements may be relatively small overall, but… The aggregation of these marginal gains has had a significantly positive effect on our performance. New completions in 2017 were more than 30% higher than the previous year. That’s no coincidence.

We will continue to look at every detail of our business and make improvements where possible. We will keep developing new products, such as the property improvement/refurbishment loans which are now achieving significant traction in the market. The proportion of these loans to our overall business volumes has increased significantly and it is a clear indication that we are providing property professionals with an attractive funding solution to help them achieve their objectives. This is just the beginning and you can expect to see further enhancements and marginal gains applied to our bridging products and service throughout this year.