Ultimate Finance hires Ronnie Stokes as regional director in Scotland
Stokes has over 24 years’ experience in invoice finance and banking and for the last five years has been working as a corporate development manager at Bibby Financial Services focusing on structuring and delivering larger deals.
Prior to that he worked at Clydesdale Bank for around two years and prior to that spent nearly 19 years at RBS in various senior roles, including lending director.
Ultimate Finance was established in 2002 and is a specialist UK asset-based lender which supports 3,000 businesses with flexible funding solutions. It is part of the private investment company Tavistock Group, and has offices in Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Lutterworth and Edinburgh.
Stokes said he was looking forward to helping Ultimate Finance grow its business in Scotland.
He said: “There is a real need for flexible working capital solutions and Ultimate Finance’s impressive product portfolio
and reputation for outstanding service really resonates with my introducer base in the current climate.”
Richard Hamilton, sales director at Ultimate Finance said: “I am delighted to welcome someone of Ronnie’s calibre to our growing Scottish based team. His knowledge and experience in the invoice finance sector alongside his impressive network of introducers is perfect for us as we strengthen our presence in Scotland and further our commitment to supporting even more SMEs with the right funding at the right time.”
UTB appoints Adam Ware to structured property finance team
In his role, Ware will report to divisional head Gerard Morgan Jackson, and focus on expanding UTB’s lending in Central London and South England.
Ware joins from Hilltop Credit Partners, where he worked for around a year as vice president and head of origination.
Prior to that he worked at Octane Capital for around three years, initially as an internal business development manager and then as a senior internal sales manager.
Before that he worked at Commercial Acceptances for just over three years in various roles including assistant lending manager and lending assistant.
According to UTB, Ware has “considerable experience” across commercial and residential real estate finance, including structured, pre-development, property investment finance and complex bridging.
He has also worked with high net worth individuals and corporate clients as well as off-shore entities and family offices providing “multi-million bespoke facilities”.
Jackson said: “Adam brings a great deal of experience to the team and most importantly he shares our passion for delivering bespoke solutions outside of a traditional criteria led framework. Our goal is to create long term relationships which extend beyond single transactions.
“We assist our customers in the growth of their businesses, tailoring the funding we provide to meet their changing needs and evolution. We create true partnerships enabling our clients to prosper however uncertain the economic climate may be.”
Ware added: “UTB have established a great reputation as an innovative lender which quickly delivers the creative, bespoke funding more commonly found at privately backed lenders, but with the robust and reliable funding of a successful retail bank.
“I enjoy working offering a solutions led approach to lending, structuring the product around the client’s needs and I’m looking forward to working with Gerard and the UTB team as they continue to grow and expand their offering to customers delivering the very highest levels of personal service.”
UTB said its structured property finance team has written a record volume of new business in the first half of the year and developed its commercial lending proposition.
Commercial yields hit six per cent ‒ Revolution
The advisory firm noted that while some areas of the commercial property sector suffered significantly as a result of the pandemic, and the shift to remote working, commercial rental yields are holding strong and actually delivering a better return than residential property.
Looking at a regional break down, the South East has the strongest rental yields at 8.6 per cent, ahead of the North East which comes in at 8.1 per cent, and the East at 7.4 per cent.
In terms of commercial stock availability, the South West accounts for 16 per cent of all commercial stock currently listed for sale. This is followed by the North West at 14.9 per cent, East with 12.8 per cent and South East at 12.5 per cent.
Revolution Brokers suggested that investing in commercial property is becoming more accessible to no-professional investors, and noted this can present them with different challenges from investing into the residential market.
These can include the lengthier process for finding a new tenant, how challenging it can be to remove tenants who run out of money, as well as the more complex legal elements of commercial investment.
Almas Uddin, founding director of Revolution Brokers, said that while commercial properties like office units and retail outlets have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, on the whole yields remain very favourable, with securing a tenant the primary concern for commercial landlords, rather than the return on offer once they do.
He continued: “Despite this and the turbulence of the last few years, it’s an exciting time to get into commercial property investment and there’s now a real emphasis on how commercial spaces can better suit the needs of today’s tenants and their customers.”
Mortgage brokers recently told Specialist Lending Solutions that they were seeing an increase in commercial mortgage enquiries, though were split on how sustainable the higher enquiry levels were.
Sirius hires Ashley Elkin as senior associate and secures exclusive development exit proposition
Elkin has more than seven years’ experience in the property sector, including five years in property finance.
His previous roles include a seven-year tenure at LSH Commercial Property Consultants, where he joined as a chartered surveyor and was most recently a broker.
At Sirius, Elkin will have the responsibility of advising developers and investors in the private sector and SMEs, focusing primarily on residential development across London, the South East and the North West.
He will also assist the public sector through consultancy across the UK.
Nicholas Christofi, co-founder at Sirius Property Finance, said: “I’m really delighted to welcome Ashley to Sirius. He has a very impressive track record and his background as a surveyor adds an extra perspective and skillset to the Sirius team.
“We have deliberately built a team of advisers who have extensive property experience from a variety of angles, which gives them a deeper understanding of developer and investor needs in addition to just the finance side of things. Ashley is an excellent example of this in action and it’s great to have him on board.”
Elkin added: “I’m delighted to join the fantastic team at Sirius Property Finance. As I was previously a chartered surveyor, I have a good understanding of the wider property market, analysing developments, local rents, sales prices and yields, which can prove invaluable for clients. It also helps when arguing with valuers.
“I genuinely enjoy providing advice to clients who find themselves in difficult situations, whether they have been let down by a lender, a broker or have fallen into hardship. I also take pleasure in structuring high leverage development finance using a combination of senior, stretch senior, mezzanine and equity finance to push a client’s return on equity to astronomical levels. I can’t wait to get started working with clients at Sirius.”
Exclusive development exit solution
The firm also announced it launched a funding line for property developers by gaining exclusive access to a finance solution.
The product is a development exit to term product at 80 per cent loan to value (LTV). Experienced developers can access senior and mezzanine finance at a blended rate of 9.95 per cent. The product has a two per cent completion fee and loans are available on a nine-month term. When that ends, there is a guaranteed term facility up to 75 per cent LTV, with rates starting from 4.45 per cent.
The term part of the product offers loans between £5m and £30m on newly completed schemes but is not available on permitted development schemes.
Sirius did not disclose which lender would be providing the loan when asked by Specialist Lending Solutions.
Christofi said: “At Sirius, we pride ourselves on championing the SME developer and we are seeing far too many good schemes fail due to slight shortfalls in funds. So, we are proud to be able to offer this as a potential solution solely for Sirius clients. It’s perfect for those developers who have experienced delays and cost overruns, want the flexibility to sell more units, or the security of longer-term finance that is pre-underwritten at the outset.”
Stuart Benge appointed as senior BDM at Hodge
Benge, has worked in the financial services industry for over 25 years. His previous roles have included sales roles at N&P Commercial and Assetz Capital.
Hodge said Benge would be able to draw on his background in commercial sales and extensive experience working as a national sales manager and relationship director to help it further its national presence in the investment property sector.
Benge said: “The focus at Hodge is very much on the customer, it’s a part of everything it does. I’m a proactive person and delighted Hodge operates, both internally and externally, in a collaborative manner.
“It’s important for property professionals to have a relationship with a lender who not only understands the market, but also appreciates what’s affecting them on a day-to-day basis while providing them with a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.”
He added: “The focus of my role with Hodge involves me meeting both intermediaries and customers throughout the UK drawing on my experience of working in a variety of trusted roles – to ensure all parties achieve their goals in the most efficient and cost effective way, while never losing focus of building a relationship that will stand the test of time.”
Andy Button, head of investment lending at Hodge added: “We’re really excited to be welcoming Stuart to Hodge. His experience in nurturing new and existing customer relations on a national scale is set to be of huge benefit to our commercial lending operation.
“His arrival represents opportunities for further growth in a multitude of areas, and we’re really delighted to have him on board.”
Know Your BDM: David Binney, Norton Home Loans
What locations and how many advisers and broker firms do you cover in your role?
I cover the length and breadth of the country, averaging 1,000 miles per month visiting brokers up and down the country as part of my role with Norton Home Loans. Before Covid, this was probably closer to 2,000 miles a month. I love the diversity and flexibility that being a national business development manager (BDM) brings.
How have you changed the way you establish and maintain a good relationship with brokers in the pandemic?
Although I love being back to face-to-face meetings with brokers, I am making the most of technology and keeping in regular contact with brokers via Zoom meetings and WhatsApp messages. This was something that emerged from the pandemic and it’s definitely a good way to keep in touch and maintain relationships.
What personal talent/skill is most valuable in doing your job?
I think being down to earth and always being myself is one of my key strengths and it is definitely an advantage in a client-facing a role like this.
What personal talent/skill would you most like to improve on?
While I am really comfortable on a one-to-one basis, I would like to improve my networking skills and learn how to work the room a bit better.
Where would you rather be stuck, in bumper-to-bumper traffic or back-to-back Zoom calls?
It depends on how I am feeling and the sort of day I am having, but I do enjoy a good sing-a-long in the car.
What’s the best bit of career-related advice you’ve ever been given?
That’s a hard one. I cannot think of one key piece of advice, but I have learned through experience that a work life balance is what matters most. It is much more important than title, money or perception.
What was the greatest lesson you learned during lockdown?
To not take anything for granted. Lockdown was a real eye-opener for me in terms of restrictions on freedom. Make the most of everyday.
What was the first social event you attended once restrictions were eased?
Sadly, I am pretty sure it was a mortgage exhibition.
What was your motivation for choosing business development as a career?
Like many people, I wouldn’t say I chose business development, it kind of chose me. I fell into it, but it has worked out for the best. The freedom and variety of the role is a big drawcard for me.
If you could do any other job in the property sector, what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t mind being a broker for a day and giving some BDMs a bit of grief.
What did you want to be growing up?
All sorts of things. I wanted to be a goalkeeper, an oil rig worker – I even wanted to be a DJ. I’m actually not very good at any of these things.
What’s your favourite face mask design/pattern to wear?
All black. Very boring but very true.
And finally, what’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked?
Probably what’s your favourite face mask design/pattern to wear.
Sahil Thapa named CTO at Recognise Bank
Thapa was formerly with Deutsche Bank for more than a decade, most recently responsible for areas including data, strategy and business architecture with a focus on loans by DB’s corporate and investment banking divisions.
In 2008, he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.
At Recognise, a subsidiary of the City of London Group, Thapa has a multi-pronged remit, including spearheading development of the bank’s technology needs and leading a new innovation team charged with creating new revenue streams while also developing new and existing products and services.
Thapa said: “Our strategy will be to consolidate and build around Recognise Bank’s existing cloud-based digital banking stack and introduce new products and services, while creating seamless integrated experiences for the bank’s stakeholders – partners, intermediaries, employees and customers. We will leverage data driven analytics to assist decision-making and build solutions for customer and business needs.”
Technology teams, he said, “can be catalysts for change and innovation. At Recognise Bank, we will use technology, data and our SME banking experience to create products and services that help companies do more business and do it better.”
Bryce Glover, the Recognise chief executive, said: “Technology has been the bedrock of Recognise Bank since the beginning, and it meant we could build the bank quickly and cost-effectively by partnering with some of the sector’s leading fintech providers. But having established Recognise Bank as a force to reckon with in the SME marketplace, as shown by our £100m in lending, we need to move forward and create a world beating bank for a small business sector that is rapidly changing.
“I’m delighted we have been able to attract somebody of Sahil’s calibre and experience. I truly believe he has the vision and ability to lead the bank’s technology strategy and give us the tools to help accelerate our growth.”
Recognise Bank received its full authorisation in September 2021, and since then has lent more than £100m to SMEs in the UK, the bank said. It recently announced a capital fundraising that brought in £8.7m to develop its digital capability and to support future lending.
Ashman receives UK banking license
A start-up founded in 2017 by Ashkin Mittal and Manhad Narula, Ashman is now authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated to trade with restrictions.
The company said it planned to focus at first on small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which it termed a £90bn market opportunity, on deals from £100,000 to £5m in the commercial real estate sector. It planned to provide loans for what it considered to be “conscientious businesses and simple savings for conscious consumers”.
Ashman is led by chief executive James Leach, the former global chief operating officer of Maple Financial. Among his senior team is the chief risk officer, Lisa Nowell, formerly with the digital bank Monzo; the chief commercial officer, Caroline Luxmore, who was with Aldermore Bank for a decade; and Matt Cowan, chief financial officer, who has worked at Deutsche Bank, HSBC and RBS. The chief operating officer is Simon Healy, previously one of the founding members of Aldermore.
“Our banking licence is an important first step in realising our ambitions to support SME borrowers and personal savers alike”, Leach said, “with a different approach to lending that delivers the service and range of products we know SME developers need.”
United Trust Bank hires Alfa for digital transformation
Louise McIntosh, UTB’s asset finance head of operations, is in charge of the project. The bank said brokers could begin to benefit from the re-platforming by the end of this year.
The system, UTB said, will allow the bank to underwrite proposals more quickly which could lead to faster pay-outs. The software would also let UTB connect to brokers’ own proposal systems, the bank said, streamlining the application process to aid brokers.
Additional potential improvements, it said, would be to auto-underwrite proposals that fall within pre-set parameters, giving brokers instant decisions on some deals.
UTB said loan originations through its asset finance business grew by 136 percent last year, becoming its fastest-growing division by volume and headcount, pushing the lender’s asset finance loan book beyond £250m for the first time.
Nathan Mollett (pictured), head of asset finance at UTB, said the investment in technology will give the lender “greater capability and automation of routine tasks, accelerating servicing and allowing us to free up skilled people, enabling them to add value in ways only human interaction can.”
Andrew Denton, chief executive of Alfa, added: “We are proud that Nathan, Louise and the team have chosen Alfa to provide the technology foundation to make them future-ready; a scaleable, agile platform that allows them to fulfil their growth ambitions whilst maintaining their differentiation. And we are excited that Alfa Start will get them to that place in double-quick time.”
Assetz Capital appoints Andrew Charnley as managing director
Charnley will manage a team of 130 and report directly to chief executive Stuart Law.
He has spent over 28 years working in commercial lending and joins from Together where he worked for nearly four years in various roles. These includes director of credit and portfolio. director of asset management and head of corporate.
Prior to that he worked at Lloyds Banking Group for nearly four years, most recently as head of sales for invoice finance. Other senior roles include SME national sales director for invoice finance and trade.
Charnley also spent nearly a decade at Barclays corporate where he worked in several senior product roles.
Law said that attracting talent to Assetz Capital was a sign of its success and a “show of faith in our future”.
“Andrew will play a huge role in taking Assetz Capital to the next level of growth as we look to continue delivering credible returns to our retail and institutional investors, and set our sights on growing our influence in the wider housing market,” he said.
He said that its long-term target included funding as much as a quarter of SME housebuilding sector and Charnley would lead efforts in developing and delivering new bespoke financial products and create new ways to invest in real estate portfolios.
Charnley said: “Assetz Capital has consistently been a market leader in the UK alternative lending sector, providing outstanding returns to investors for over 20 years, while supporting thousands of UK SMEs and financing billions of pounds worth of new housing.
“The business’s pioneering approach, marrying strong returns with a focus on sustainability and social impact, while creating more flexible and accessible platforms for real estate investment has been a truly innovative market force for institutional and retail investors alike.”
He added that the company had provided a “desperately needed alternative to high street lending” to an underserved crucial economic sector over recent decades.
“I am excited to join the team at a critical moment in Assetz Capital’s growth story, as we look to continue to drive market share and innovation, consolidating our position as one of the UK’s top specialist lenders and a business which is growing ever more ambitious in terms of the impact it makes on society,” he said.
The firm has been growing its team, recently hiring Jason Way as business development director and recruting to its origination team.