"To deliver a favourable outcome, early engagement from key internal stakeholders is critical": Caitriona Donnellan, Shawbrook

We spoke to Caitriona Donnellan, senior underwriter at Shawbrook, about why larger loans require a more involved and more personal approach, how technology has helped transform the underwriting process, and the opportunities available for landlords looking to diversify their portfolios.

Related topics:  In The Spotlight,  Mortgages
Rozi Jones | Editor, Barcadia Media Limited
8th March 2024
"Regular communication with the broker and customer throughout the process, with transparency on timescales and next steps, provides a better experience for all parties."

FR: Tell us about your background before Shawbrook?

I started my career in banking on the Graduate Programme at AIB (Allied Irish Bank) in Dublin in 2007. I made the move to London, with AIB, almost 10 years ago. I’ve worked in a number of roles but predominately in credit risk underwriting positions in consumer mortgage lending and SME business lending. I was working as a relationship manager in a customer facing role, in AIB North London, before joining Shawbrook in 2022. I've gained invaluable experience structuring and negotiating deals with clients after 10 years working in a credit risk function.

Over the years I’ve been very fortunate and grateful to have had mentors and sponsors that have helped shaped my career development.

FR: As a senior Shawbrook underwriter dealing with bigger ticket lending, what does your role entail?

To deliver a favourable outcome for the customer and the bank, early engagement and indicative support from key internal stakeholders is critical. These include property risk, group credit and sales. In-depth client meetings and property site visits are fundamental when getting to know a customer and understanding their strategic vision for their business and how the bank can play a role in that journey.

The assessment of complex applications involves evaluating credit risk, assessing financial statements, taking into account all relevant factors (i.e. repayment capacity, risk and consequence of default) and assessing the value and adequacy of the security being offered.

The bigger ticket deals require a credit paper submission, presentation and discussion at credit committee. Once approval is obtained the focus changes to offer documentation production and engagement with solicitors, while my colleagues in completion ensure that the deal gets to completion as smoothly as possible.

FR: Why do larger loans require a more involved, and often more personal, approach?

In order to be able to deliver a high value loan from start to finish you need to be a dedicated, skilled and approachable individual. Large loans can involve a more intensive process which can include face-to-face client meetings, property site visits and in-depth credit assessment. This requires a higher time investment from the senior underwriter. By meeting with the client at the outset the customer journey can be more efficient and streamlined. Regular communication with the broker and customer throughout the process, with transparency on timescales and next steps, provides a better experience for all parties.

FR: How do innovations in technology help with the underwriting process?

Over the past 16 years I have experienced a number of technological advancements which have streamlined the underwriting process within the banking industry. MyShawbrook, our innovative broker portal, has streamlined IMOs with significantly quicker response times and are typically issued within 24 hours of receipt. Uploading all the supporting documents via MyShawbrook leads to a speedier assessment timeframe and reduced touch points. In addition, the system has the ability to communicate in real time with land registry which is hugely beneficial. All of these improvements has significantly streamlined the process to formal offer which frees up more of our time to spend with clients on their needs. Personally, DocuSign offer letter production has saved me countless hours in the underwriting process by allowing customers to sign documentation electronically.

FR: Are you seeing buy-to-let landlords diversifying into commercial property?

Commercial property is a challenging market in the current economic environment but there are a number of opportunities for professional property investors to capitalise on with this higher yielding asset.

Typically for a buy-to-let landlord diversifying into commercial property for the first time, they will have engaged a joint venture business partner or mentor to guide them. We have several clients who have made this move; however, I don’t view it as an industry trend currently. Innovative landlords will look for creative opportunities to diversify their portfolio and income streams where specialist lenders can provide support.

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