In the Spotlight with Oliver Hembury, Specialist Finance Centre

We spoke to Oliver Hembury, director of specialist lending at Specialist Finance Centre, about his unusual route into financial services, how the bridging and commercial finance markets are performing in the current climate, and SFC's aims for the business going forward.

Related topics:  In The Spotlight,  Specialist Lending
Rozi Jones | Editor, Barcadia Media Limited
26th May 2023
Ollie Hembury SFC
"This may come as a surprise to some people, but at SFC we’re finding the market buoyant and full of opportunity."

FR: What is your background?

It’s safe to say that my path to financial services wasn’t been a straightforward one! Having left college during the 2008 recession, job opportunities were few and far between and at the time university wasn’t me. I decided to join the Army, subsequently becoming a Mini Unmanned Air Systems Pilot.

After multiple deployments, including a tour of Afghanistan, I decided to leave in 2013 following the birth of my eldest daughter. I moved into the security industry and between 2013 and early 2018 I worked for the likes of the University of Bristol and Dyson. However, it was all shift work (including nights) and my eldest child was about to starting school so I began to crave a more ‘normal’ job. I wanted to work Monday to Friday to make sure I was off at the weekends in order to spend more time with my family.

FR: So how did you come to work in financial services and for Specialist Finance Centre (SFC)?

In my search for a more ‘9 to 5’ existence, I tried for a manager’s role at a security site but was unsuccessful and was really struggling to see where I was going. At that point I decided that I really needed to make a change. At a relative’s wedding I struck up a conversation with my uncle who is an IFA. I told him that I’d love to do something like he did but that I didn’t know where to start. He advised me to get CeMAP, move into the mortgage industry and go from there.

That was my light bulb moment so I started researching the best way to get the qualification and move into the industry. I took the plunge and booked a CeMAP course and that Is where I met Daniel Yeo (SFC’s managing director). The rest as they say is history...

FR: The economy has worsened since September last year and interest rates have been on the rise for over 12 months. With that in mind, how are you find the bridging and commercial finance markets at the present time?

This may come as a surprise to some people, but at SFC we’re finding the market buoyant and full of opportunity. Lenders are fighting for market share which is always a good sign, while experienced landlords and developers are swooping across the market to pick up bargains.

Bridging is being heavily utilised both on non-regulated acquisitions, whether its ‘buy to flip’ or part of a more long-term wealth strategy, and regulated bridging for downsizing and chain-breaking.

FR: What about the second charge market?

Second charges are being taken more seriously by brokers (about time!) because remortgage rates are not particularly attractive following the consecutive Bank Rate rises. We’ve seen a rise in popularity in second charges for home improvements because of this.

There are rumours of up to two new lenders entering the second charge market in the latter half of 2023, which demonstrates how important the second charge market has become and how attractive it is for investors to work in. Rates have come down, with the new market-leading rate being 4.99%.

FR: SFC has been growing steadily over the past 12 months. Does it feel like the same business at heart?

I believe a business only runs as well as the culture it has instilled within it. We live and breathe our core values and if people don’t match them then they don’t fit. Our culture is central to everything that we do, it embodies our approach not just to our introducers and clients but also our lending partners and each other.

All of our new recruits understand this and recognise how important it is; we are not prepared to sacrifice our culture for growth.

FR: With that in mind, what aims do you and Dan have for the business?

We have clear plans for each division of the business. SFC Solo is growing monthly under the leadership of our recruitment director, Joe Dillon, and we aim for our self-employed adviser headcount to total 30 by the end of year.

SFC Seconds is seeing increased demand due to the volatile nature of first charge products and lender appetite, while SFC Bridging and Commercial is going from strength to strength due to the increased need for specialist lending to cater for complex lending scenarios. We’ve also been investing heavily in the division.

SFC Scotland, under the leadership of Allan Smith, is beginning to make in-roads into the Scottish B2B market. He is building a great team of self-employed advisers and earlier in the year we made our first employed hire.

We’ve planned to have a total headcount of around 60 by the end of 2023, a not insignificant growth target. Our goals haven’t changed: keep growing, by employing the right people and become the market leader.

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