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Wanted: Investigative, courageous, quick-thinking bridging specialists – Colin Bell

by: Colin Bell, managing director of Commercial Mortgages, Hampshire Trust Bank
  • 09/08/2016
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Wanted: Investigative, courageous, quick-thinking bridging specialists – Colin Bell
Brokers may often wonder why bridging underwriters ask the questions they do, and why those with the courage of their conviction are worth their weight in gold. Colin Bell, managing director of Commercial Mortgages at Hampshire Trust Bank explains.

While, as a bank, we underwrite a number of different financial products, we operate specialist divisions and teams. We do this because if you are serious about being a specialist you need different skill-sets and people who stick within their areas of expertise. Generalist underwriters are fine for mainstream vanilla business but not right for complex lines.

Skills of a good bridging underwriter

The core skill is their ability to take each deal on its own merits, to asses carefully and diligently but be proportionate to the risks on that particular deal, rather than taking a tick-box mentality-type approach. Yes there are standard boxes on all cases that must be ticked, but there must be the ability to then move into proportionate and investigative underwriting.

The best bridging underwriters start by looking at the viability of the exit. Bridging finance is after all meant to be short term, not an endless rolling facility. If the exit is not viable then the case has no merits. The best underwriters are also skilled in restructuring deals that still have merits but are not right as they are – this could mean de-risking or changing the structure.

Expect intrusive questions

Underwriters must be investigative and intrusive in the background, so brokers should prepare their clients for questions about what may happen at various stages of the deal to test if the project is viable. All of this has be done quickly but without cutting corners; speed does not mean lax. People bridge because they have a short-term need and there is no point to taking longer than the facility length to come to a decision.

Standing by decisions

Service delivery and strength of conviction in decisions are core attributes and good bridging underwriters tend to be seen by introducers as being good at both. They should also be recognised as being experts in their field and stand behind their decisions – discussing a case with the introducer and meeting borrowers are actions they do not fear.

Bridging is a specialist product, often for specialist reasons, and introducers and borrowers expect that to be reflected in the underwriting and therefore the people effecting the underwriting.

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