"I expect the diversity of valuations amongst the valuers to continue to be a frustration and the unfortunate trend of some silly interest rates to attract business to continue."
We spoke to Sonia Shortland, managing director of Apex Bridging, about why they will not seek growth at any price and the two biggest issues currently facing brokers in the bridging market.
FR: You recently joined Apex Bridging as managing director – what does your role involve and what does a typical day look like?
I have been with Apex Bridging since it launched in the capacity of director. It is only recently the board have rewarded our efforts by appointing me Managing Director.
Typical days are changing by the week as we extend our recruiting net to establish a stronger middle management team. Previously my day was the management of a team of six talented ladies who had limited experience in the sector so very much a bit of everything. Late last year the board recognised we needed to establish a more robust structure to our model if we were to build more aggressively on the success we had enjoyed since launch in 2014 and increase our profile in a growing market. So, my day now is looking more strategically at how best to establish our stakeholder model with cherry picked partners across brokers, developers, solicitors and valuers. To this end we engaged the services of Alan & Mel Dring from The Mad Approach who have a track record of success in taking small lenders to the next level and so I am in daily contact with them as we strengthen our proposition.
We are currently recruiting an operations manager with underwriting responsibilities so until they arrive I am still doing it all from putting the kettle on to approving loans, seeing clients, talking to the press, you name it I do it but am slowly delegating more to a talented team motivated by our success to date.
FR: What are Apex’s main aims or focuses over the next 12 months? Do you have any exciting news or plans you can tell us about?
Now that our growth strategy is in place, we are looking to become an award-winning lender who is trusted to deliver service levels that generate repeat and referral business via all our stakeholder partners. Having just moved into new spacious offices with plenty of room to accommodate our growing team our focus is very definitely on establishing long-term relationships that will support us in expanding our proposition to satisfy.
I am excited in the way we have seen our profile increase in recent months. The team are confident we can achieve the growth we are planning and realise that the internal training and development programmes we are designing will give us the competitive advantage the market demands if you are to become an award winner.
Everything we are doing in preparation for our 2020 activities is exciting me, but what is reassuring is that we have done a great deal of work in the last six months to ensure all the team are equally excited and motivated by the increased business levels we are achieving.
We will not seek growth at any price and will continue to involve our partners in the development of our plans ensuring our targets are achievable and driven by the relationships we are establishing.
FR: What trends do you expect to see in the bridging market over the rest of 2019 and into 2020?
We have recently published the finding of our first ever broker survey and not surprisingly the two topics most addressed were:
1. The often poor performance of a borrower’s solicitor; and
2. The constant demand by brokers for more education programmes from lenders and other stakeholders to encourage more to diversify into a sector regularly considered to be complicated.
We believe Apex Bridging is in the minority in having a model that commits us to selling relationships and not products and our priority is to support the growth of our partners so we can benefit from their success. We are convinced that this approach will help us improve the brokers experiences in these two areas.
The market will be affected by the Brexit debacle but my crystal ball does not tell me how, but not withstanding that I expect the diversity of valuations amongst the valuers to continue to be a frustration and the unfortunate trend of some silly interest rates to attract business to continue. The ASTL members have done a great deal over the last six years to improve the reputation of the bridging sector I hope the advent of very low rates does not harm that reputation. On that point I await the appointment of Benson’s successor. I was hoping it would be a full-time appointment, but I understand that will not be the case
FR: If you could see one headline about financial services in 2020, what would it be?
I would actually like to see two headlines:
The first: "Trusted bridging lenders stepping up and delivering where others fear to tread".
This sector has changed significantly in recent years. Bridging lenders provide an invaluable service as they lend where others won't. For many years, non-regulated bridging has been seen an expensive, a tool for adverse clients and the dirtier side of lending. Despite hard work from the ASTL, FIBA, and the NACFB, it has struggled to change perceptions of bridging so a landmark moment would be to see the sector get recognition for the good it does. We lend where others won't. Increasingly the sector is raising standards and professionalising its approach. Apex Bridging is one of the new breed of lenders who operate as if regulated even though we're lending in the unregulated space.
The second: "Daniel Craig takes on new 'ambassador' role for Apex Bridging".
To have a well-known figure endorse and support Apex Bridging for all the great work we do would be a huge achievement. I can't think of a better choice than Daniel. 'This is no time to die' for the short-term market it is the time to live and thrive.