Specialist Finance Solutions: What has been the highlight of your first year in business?
Michael Clapper: I’m pleased to say there has been quite a few, but for me, the unanimously positive reaction to our new market proposition – as an intermediary’s one-stop shop for all finance areas – has exceeded even my highest expectations, and that has to be the main highlight. It has allowed Black Book to forge its first major distribution relationship with the Beaufort Group, and also encouraged more than 400 individual broker registrations so far, who are now passing us all kinds of enquiries. It has also been great to reconnect with so many of my old industry colleagues and friends, with everyone being extremely supportive of our plans for Black Book.
SLS: What weren’t you expecting?
MC: I have been pleasantly surprised by the buoyancy of the commercial and development finance sector. From our first day of launch this finance area, alongside bridging and second charge, has been among the busiest departments in Black Book, and we have had to bolster our expert team there several times, and far earlier than expected, to ensure we maintain our service efficiency.
SLS: What have you learnt?
MC: I’ve learned that for the most part, third parties in the finance chain are now taking a lot longer to fulfil their obligations than they used to. Valuers and lawyers can be painfully slow to turnaround these days, causing what often feels to be unnecessary delays to completion.
I’ve also learned that while so many things have changed, much more has stayed the same. Introducers still want the quickest, easiest way to secure the most competitive available finance options for their clients, and they will quickly migrate to the places they can find them with confidence. Black Book is designed to make our introducers lives as uncomplicated as possible and as long as we stay entirely focused on that, I believe we will continue attracting high-performance introducers.
SLS: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back a year?
MC: In truth, we haven’t yet made, or not made, any moves that we so far regret in any way, so my advice would be to just do as I’ve always done – go with my instincts and react or adapt quickly as opportunities are identified.
SLS: Has the venture proved more or less successful than you envisaged?
MC: I’m delighted to say that Black Book is performing better and faster than we had ever anticipated. Already we are trading profitably, with completions increasing monthly, and most importantly we have large and growing pipeline at every stage.
SLS: What’s next?
MC: This first year for us has been about soft-launching, building relationships, monitoring volumes and ensuring our people, operations and systems are up to task and ready for rapid growth. We have successfully met these objectives, so been able to further expand our one-stop proposition, with the recent additions of an innovative ‘tax bill funding’ product, personal loans and also capital allowances reclamations. Over the next year we will continue to focus on growing our high-performance introducer base, as per our strategy plan.