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LDNfinance aims to be ‘best company to work for’ in specialist broker space – SLS In Focus

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  • 08/11/2022
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LDNfinance aims to be ‘best company to work for’ in specialist broker space – SLS In Focus
Specialist Lending Solutions “In Focus” series deep dives into different areas of the specialist lending market. This week we are talking to Amy Baptiste (pictured), head of specialist finance at LDNfinance, about her new role, plans for the team and opportunities and challenges in the bridging market.

How have the first few months as specialist finance head been?

Busy and very rewarding. These past few weeks have certainly kept the industry busy with the mini Budget leading to ever-changing rates, criteria and another new prime minister. The entire specialist lending team is working flat out.

A large part of my new role involves assisting the team with their processes and the application workflows. Our strong lender relationships have been vital in this period as we have seen the majority of our pipeline going through to completion, despite the added hurdles the market conditions have brought. They’re working extremely hard but being on hand to help is very rewarding while we navigate through these complicated times.

Prior to the past few weeks, I’ve been settling in well with managing the specialist lending department and making our overall existing processes more efficient. Thankfully it’s come at the right time because our advisers have been able to increase their volume of business, ensuring we achieve our ambitious growth targets for the coming years.

 

How big is the specialist lending department at LDNfinance?

The specialist lending department is a core pillar of the business, comprising a team of highly experienced expert advisers that have been in the industry for many years. We currently have four advisers who work exclusively on specialist lending (bridging, commercial and development primarily). We then work very closely with our other departments with a headcount now of close to 40 staff. We also have specialist department administrators and operational support.

This year has been a record year for our department and as we continue to grow, we’re always on the lookout for superstars to join our team.

What are your short-term priorities for the specialist lending department? Any specific areas you are looking to grow or more recruitment?

A significant short-term priority for me will be growing overall sales by unleashing the full potential of the department. My plan is to improve the one-to-one management and our systems and processes to help our current advisers achieve their goals – also to be known as the best company to work for within the specialist intermediary market.

Another primary aim is to look to grow the department through onboarding and collaborating with more introducers, to maximise the opportunities out there for our department.

 

How does your administration background feed into your current role?

Having been a paraplanner for over 10 years and having previously managed the firm’s administration department, I have a rich understanding of the property finance ecosystem. I understand the nuances of different applications and hold excellent relationships with lenders and introducers. All of which help with increased collaborative working internally and externally.

Similarly, I have been working within the administration of our specialist team for over three years offering bespoke support. This has enabled me to build strong relationships with our specialist advisers, their clients and lenders.

 

Where are the biggest opportunities in the specialist lending market?

Over recent months we’ve seen a shift in enquiries towards regulated bridging enquiries. Although this is relatively unsurprising considering the current market. Regular chain breaking off the back of a seemingly never-ending intense purchase market and the purchase of properties that are not habitable upon point of sale are two of the most common reasons we are hearing about.

Where are the biggest challenges in the specialist lending market and how can they be overcome?

We expect that one of the biggest challenges impacting the market is the effect of rising rates. Despite our clients being understanding of this, the big challenge is how the market impacts valuations and how lenders choose to de-risk by reducing their leverage on various products.

We feel that the commercial sector is likely to become more unsettled than any other and although this could make refinancing more challenging, it also means there will be more opportunity for cash rich investors looking to take advantage of the market conditions. This market is one that may only occur once every 20 years, so the next 12 months is likely to be a very exciting time for shrewd investors who have been waiting to pick up a great deal.

 

How has the specialist lending market, especially bridging, faired during the last few weeks of disruption?

The recent market turmoil can be stressful and hard work, but at the same time it’s exciting and the bridging sector has thrived. Some lenders have pulled rates or backed out of deals, but the sector overall has taken this in their stride and shown its resilience by focusing on the deals that can be saved by securing the most suitable products in the market. We are finding more and more bridging lenders are now offering a fixed rate, which has been an attractive proposition to clients who are clearly facing a headwind which is hitting them from different angles.

The key thing for any bridging funder that we feel is more important now than ever, is ensuring the exit is in place and is as solid as it possibly can be. Some lenders may feel that uncertainty in the market creates opportunity and as long as the bridging market maintains a high level of liquidity, sensible decisions can be made therefore there is no reason for bridging not to continue getting stronger.

 

What would you like to see from lenders, especially bridging lenders?

We’re forecasting a strong bridging market for the rest of the year and in 2023. We believe that the biggest opportunities will lie with the lenders who are willing to explore this area of the market and are hungry to lend. Some have done so already and been successful. It will therefore be very interesting to see who branches out and opens up their product offering to include this type of product competitively.

 

What would your advice to brokers be in the current environment?

Something I am very passionate about is promoting how skilled and extensive the knowledge is when working in the specialist lending space, and I feel more needs to be done to collaborate and share knowledge. I am aware that sometimes the industry does not do the best job of promoting itself. I am constantly in awe of my colleagues, peers and the amazing talent this industry harbours. Let’s celebrate our achievements every day, rather than an annual awards ceremony.

Something I also believe strongly in is an increased professionalisation of the industry. The introduction of a qualification – which divides opinion – would set a high standard of service and advice for our clients, and something we can use to highlight the professionalism of the industry. My advice to brokers? Take time to invest in yourself by increasing your knowledge and learn from others.

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