The Power of People
By Alan Margolis, Head of Bridging, United Trust Bank
If asked to identify just one aspect of bridging loans that differentiates it from term mortgages and most other mortgage products, I would plump for “people”.
This is because at every stage of the intensive life cycle of a bridging loan, the involvement of various people is critical.
Starting with the obvious; the borrower. I have often said that one of the most enjoyable aspects of working in this sector is meeting with our borrower customers and hearing the story behind their requirement for a bridging facility. The variety of situations is endless and each is unique, so that in effect each loan is tailored to the borrower’s specific circumstances and requirements.
The vast majority of UTB bridging loans are introduced to us through and involve our broker partners. The use of the word “partners” is quite deliberate. Processing and underwriting most bridging loans is a collaborative effort – it’s not simply a case of an introducer just pinging in an application with a bundle of paperwork and sitting back and waiting for draw down. Because of the uniqueness of each case (and the relatively large sums involved for an average UTB bridging loan), we actively engage with both borrower and introducer.
Solicitors: Too often the bogeymen in the mind of introducers, the fact is that borrowing and taking security is a serious business and the legal aspects have to be done correctly. At UTB we pride ourselves on our ability to pick up the phone to our panel solicitors and work with them to get over any issues. People forget that in most cases our solicitors do not have an undertaking for their costs and so their time costs are at risk. Our solicitors are therefore equally motivated to ensure loans complete.
Valuers: Very often, the overriding concern about the valuation is “how soon can the Valuer attend the property and get their report back?” However, a valuation with a figure is not just an item to be ticked off on the checklist. The strength and quality of the valuation underpins the entire loan. As with our solicitors, we have a proactive engagement with our valuers.
Case Managers / Underwriters: UTB’s Case Managers are the engine room of our business. Often involved from the first tentative enquiry to draw down, they are the interface between the broker, lender, solicitors, valuers and of course the borrower. The capability of the Case Manager can be the difference between a loan stalling and one that completes in spite of issues that inevitably arise in such a bespoke business.
Loan Administrators: Bridging loans do not end at draw down. To misappropriate Churchill’s famous lines, “…drawdown is the end of the beginning”! At UTB we have a team dedicated to looking after our loans after they have drawn down. The process begins with a “Welcome Letter” that is sent to each borrower customer on commencement of their loan and it marks the next phase of our relationship. Many of our loans have in life conditions that require monitoring and active engagement with our borrower. The introducer often still has an involvement at this stage.
In conclusion, a bespoke lending business is not that different from the tailors in Saville Row who provide made to measure suits. In bridging we also have to measure and assess the borrower’s requirements, and the success of the loan, as of the suit, depends enormously on the skills and experience of the people involved. This becomes more and more apparent the longer one spends in the bridging finance sector.