"There will also be new unique products under the SoMo brand, some of which are not in the market space. "
We spoke to Louis Alexander, CEO of SoMo, about the firm's recent rebrand from BridgeCrowd and how Covid-19 will continue to affect the specialist lending market into 2021 and beyond.
FR: As SoMo’s CEO, tell us about your background and experience.
I founded The BridgeCrowd in 2012 when I saw the opportunity to connect people to help them improve their finances through specialist loans and through a unique crowdfunding lending platform.
My core role in the business is legal compliance, borrower due diligence, business development, technology updates and fund management.
My career began as a qualified barrister and I was called to the Bar in 2005 specialising in commercial law. Following that I founded, launched and expanded two other businesses that have in turn become leading players within their industry. At that point, it was time for me to sell these businesses to focus my efforts on the significant opportunities in specialist lending and my vision for The BridgeCrowd.
We started as a family business and have grown from two people to 50 people in the last eight years, building a wealth of expertise over this time to deliver the best possible experience for our customers. Now we’re ready to head into the next decade and build on our results to grow further.
FR: The BridgeCrowd has relaunched its brand into the market as SoMo – what will your new proposition offer to brokers and borrowers?
It’s a pivotal time for us as a business. We’ve been steadily building the company up since 2012, focusing on quality, and we can be really proud of all we’ve achieved under The BridgeCrowd name.
Since the businesses inception we’ve processed in excess of over 650 loans with a combined value of £132m.We have the highest second charge bridging lending product in the market at 70% LTV. We have lent close to £150,000,000 and every investor has been repaid in full for all loans to date.
We were the first company to use Open Banking technology for anti-fraud measures for seven years and this was five years in advance of other lenders. We have had zero capital losses for investors and this is in large part to us doing safe, solid loans backed by key brokers. And we’ve increased our team by 25% and continue to recruit talented people.
Our results, service and LTV rates stand head and shoulders above the crowd of other lenders and it is time our brand does too. But this goes beyond a name and logo, the rebrand represents an evolution of culture, mindset and a developing product range.
Under the new brand, we will build on that success, growing our existing market-leading products to suit the fast-changing business environment and the changing needs of investors and their individual appetites, providing flexibility and opportunities away from the traditional stock market.
SoMo stands for Social Money Limited and represents who we are at our essence – we connect people to help them improve their finances by borrowing and lending. At the heart of this is a focus on flexible and adaptable customer service.
The new brand comes with a new website which is both educational and relationship-centric – a real reflection of the current specialist lending market and the way we operate. With the website, you are one click away from a genuine and valuable conversation and personal relationship with our team about your needs.
There will also be new unique products under the SoMo brand, some of which are not in the market space. So watch this space.
FR: What opportunities and challenges come amid relaunching in 2020?
I’m excited for what lies ahead for SoMo - the future is vast in my eyes. We’re preparing for our busiest 12 months as we predict more brokers and lenders will need to explore specialist loan options to aid their resilience and recovery in light of Covid-19.
In terms of timing, we felt there isn’t a better opportunity. As a society, we’re looking at the world through a new lens and we’re seeking better technology to help us do everything, including borrowing and investing our money.
We are more open than ever to non-traditional routes to finance and how we manage our money and we are seeking businesses that put our needs first and treat us as humans. SoMo embodies all of these things and the new brand puts these values front and centre.
The challenge will of course be to navigate the economic environment as a result of the pandemic. We are a second generation family of property lenders and we are fortunate to have over 100 years of specialist lending experience within the group and this is experience that is readily available to all of our partners as we support clients in resilience and growth. Markets will evolve but we also focus on security, responsibility and trust.
FR: How will Covid-19 continue to affect the specialist lending market into 2021 and beyond?
The specialist loan market continues to be an attractive proposition for a range of alternative finance needs, such as loans for business purposes or quick property completions that do not fit standard mortgage bank lending. The global pandemic has certainly given us a platform to continue to show how specialist lending can fill the gap that high street banks have left, and now it’s about ensuring that borrowers are aware that we have the agility to support them. As an industry, we securely and safely process funds to those that need it, supporting businesses and helping to keep the UK economy going, when other traditional lenders have tightened their criteria.
Our extensive due diligence processes minimise risk and ensure we only take on affordable and suitable loans with good security. It’s about showing customers that there’s another way of lending out there that’s safe and secure, and has that personal touch as well.
FR: If you could see one headline about financial services this year, what would it be?
“Specialist and non-traditional lending supports businesses in rebuilding the economy to new heights” or “Investors move away from traditional stockmarket options leading crowdfunding investor platforms to see exponential growth”.