5 BDMs you should meet
By Laura Miller -
Everyone in bridging tells you the same two things. They love their job because every day is different. And the job is all about relationships. Business development managers bring these two aspects together in a venn diagram of what is needed to deal with the daily ups and downs of unpredictable people management to get the deals across the line. Here are five doing that better than the rest.
Danielle Evans, Avamore Capital
Cut and blow dries may not seem an obvious route into finance, but one that makes complete sense for the client-centred role of BDM – you can learn a lot about people in the confessional of the hairdressers chair.
“I started off as a mortgage adviser for the Coventry which was a complete accident, by trade I’m actually a hairdresser,” says Evans, who got so good at transforming unkempt barnets into luscious locks she regularly competed at it nationally, “to varying levels of success”, she says.
Her ability to adapt into a fresh field began a passion with the lending sector. “I really enjoyed understanding finance, and after having my little girl in 2013 I wanted to try something different so moved over to the BDM world, which I absolutely loved,” says Evans. Always keen for a challenge she has tried her hand at a variety of lenders, all the while increasing her specialism, including now in bridging.
Joining Avamore Capital in November 2020, Evans manages and develops relationships in the Midlands and North. She lives in South Leicestershire with her fiancé Adam, daughter Tegan, dog Ada and cat Bobo. Despite not initially choosing a career in property, it has been the backdrop to her life.
“I love property, I’ve grown up around development, my entire family are involved in some form of trade, and I purchased and renovated my first home at 19, so it makes perfect sense for me to be involved in the financial side of it now,” she says. The interest is not purely professional. Evans is always planning how she can reconfigure her own home, much to the chagrin of her fiancé. “I can often be found with a sledge hammer or a paintbrush, or buying random things for my other half to build,” she says.
Evans was 20 when she first started giving mortgage advice, and it wasn’t always easy. Older hands were often suspicious her youth reflected her competence. “My age was definitely an obstacle in the early days. Back then I was very fresh faced so I did get asked on a regular basis if I was old enough to be doing the job, despite being qualified, and having a mortgage of my own at the time,” she says.
Now her biggest challenge is a pandemic-induced lack of face-to-face interaction with introducers. “This is such a key factor when building relationships and doing quality business, as well as knowing how people work,” she says, an echo of the skills required of any good salon stylist. Bridging deals are often complex, “being able to sit down and discuss how we can make the deals work with a coffee would make life a lot easier”, she adds.
Evans attributes her success in the sector to the two Ps; perseverance and personality. “It’s not a job that’s particularly easy to get into, so you need to stand out from the crowd. And I fully believe in what I am representing as a brand and that comes across when I’m pitching for business and building my relationships”. Evans says she’s far from an overnight success story, and “it’s really important to remember that when you’re starting out, but once momentum builds it is such a rewarding feeling”.
When she’s not obsessing over varying shades of paint, Evans enjoys long countryside walks, “ideally past a pub for some lunch and a glass of wine by an open fire”. “Myself and my fiancé love trying different wines, so hopefully we will be able to visit some vineyards once life re-opens.”
Chris Buckley, Hope Capital
Language has been described as the road map of a culture, but if that’s true it looks like it could be easy to get lost in Danish. In Denmark you don’t get lucky, you’ll “skyder papegøjen” – “shoot the parrot.” Confused? Just ask Chris Buckley.
“One thing people are often surprised about is I speak Danish fluently, due to my mother being Danish. It therefore goes without saying I am also a massive Denmark supporter – European Champions 1992!” he says
Buckley joined Hope Capital in 2019, but before then spent 15 years learning the ropes across several fields in finance, working as a financial broker, commercial insurance broker and the business development manager. “All this provided me with all the tools to understand the needs and requirements of the broker and client,” he says.
Buckley knows what makes brokers tick, and what ticks them off, because he’s been one, insight he feeds into his daily interactions. He says: “Working as a BDM is all about providing a personal service and having the ability to be there when you are needed, while being transparent and open with the broker.”
Being honest about what you can deliver for often time-critical deals in a period where the sector has been hampered by delays is no mean feat. The average completion time was 50 days last year, according to market-wide data from Bridging Trends, up from 47 days in 2019 and 45 days in 2018. “There is no doubt Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown measures have created many challenges for Hope Capital,” Buckley admits. He credits the hard work of his team with keeping service levels high despite that.
Danes seem reluctant to admit defeat – a Dane is never “wrong”, they have just “gone wrong in the town” (gået galt i byen) – so perhaps unsurprisingly Buckley is keen to flip the switch on a difficult year by focusing on the “numerous opportunities” it has thrown up for Hope “to distinguish ourselves from our competitors”. He adds: “I am very proud of what we have achieved in the last year”.
Enthusiasm often makes for a valuable currency in tough times, and Buckley has it in spades for bridging. “I love that the marketplace is constantly changing and evolving, it makes my role very exciting and challenges me daily,” he says. Being “på god fod” (on good terms, or literally, ‘on a good foot’), surely helps. “The amount of people I get to meet and work with is fantastic. I have made so many contacts and friends throughout my years working in the industry and look forward to all the relationships I will continue to build in the future,” he says.
In a run down of the skills a BDM should possess, Buckley lists knowledge of the industry, “staying up to date on the latest products, tracking what competitors are doing or being aware of new brokers and opportunities”, but also transparent and dedicated service, where queries are responded to quickly and efficiently. “This is essential in the short-term lending market, especially during a period where there is so much uncertainty”, he says.
Finally when he has not got his BDM hat on at Hope Capital, you will find Buckley cheering on not just Danish football but also his beloved Liverpool FC, which on celebratory occasions may leave him “i hegnet”, apparently in the fence, the Danish equivalent of under the table. Nope, no idea either.
Samantha Emery, Glenhawk
If BDMs sell themselves as much as the services of the company they work for, Samantha Emery started her promotional journey early. “I was once on a Daz advert as a baby!” she reveals. Glenhawk may need to watch out that keen TV producers don’t snap her up – buying and selling seems a bit of a telly launchpad for her. “More recently I was on Bargain Hunt last year with my mum. We lost but only by a £1, and were still in profit!”
Like her TV fame, Emery started her career in finance early, at the tender age of 16 when her mum packed her off to an interview at Barclays, and she never looked back. “This was my first full time job and I immediately found a love for finance,” she says. She stayed for 11 years. “As well as my clients it was my love for property and mortgages that kept me there” she says.
Emery left only after “getting a little frustrated with rigid lending criteria”. Out of the blue she was contacted via LinkedIn and told about a role in bridging. “I could be out and about looking after clients, brokers and introducers, helping them to lend against property but using a flexible, common sense approach. I thought it sounded too good to be true, cherry picking all the things I loved about my role and only enhancing it further,” she recalls. She joined the specialist finance sector in 2017. “I have never loved my job more,” she says.
Newspapers are currently wall-to-wall with articles about city dwellers who, suddenly realising the limitations of cramped, expensive living after a year of lockdowns, have moved to rural idyls. Emery was ahead of the curve, relocating two years ago to breezy West Sussex, “for my love of being near the beach and the countryside combined”. Her little pleasures are “countryside walks through the woodland and breath-taking views, being able to take a short drive to a very windy and stoney beach. Nothing beats the sound of the waves”.
Like moving from city to country, Emery found the switch from regulated to unregulated lending a shock at first. “Having only ever known working for a bank, coming into specialist lending is an experience I will never forget. My mind was blown in my first week,” she admits. Being unshackled from the confines of highstreet lending, however, soon became the best perk of the job. “I love how flexible this is, the way in which it enables clients to achieve their goals in the short term until they find a long term solution. I was and still am extremely grateful to the person who brought me into this industry,” she says.
Having some of this freedom curtailed has been the worst part of lockdowns for Emery, who can’t wait to be back on the road. “I absolutely love being out travelling around the south of England spending time and building relationships with all my connections”, she says, though admits Zoom calls bring their own colour: “It has definitely provided some entertaining scenes. Like seeing children, pets or even wives crawling across the floor to get something, thinking they couldn’t be seen on camera”. She praises the support she’s received from Glenhawk in these tough times as “nothing short of fantastic”.
To anyone looking to join bridging, Emery is unequivocal. “Jump in with both feet, and your heart, but be prepared – I always say life in specialist lending is an absolute rollercoaster, within hours you could go from celebrating an amazing deal completing, to pulling out all the stops desperately trying to save a deal for a client who is about to lose money”.
But despite the stress and the ups and downs, Emery wouldn’t change a thing. “Guy [Harrington, Glenhawk CEO] has created a team of people where everyone really cares; about the client, the broker, every deal and each other. When it all pulls together and completes, you can’t beat it,” she says. “Nothing is a better feeling than completing a deal so the client can achieve a dream of theirs, even after that’s happened hundreds of times I still get goosebumps on every one”.
Sarah Bennett, The Bridging Group
Flying back from backpacking around South East Asia to become an admin assistant for an independent financial adviser is quite a change of scene. But what started as a temping job for Sarah Bennett flourished into a career. “Within two years I had moved up to mortgage assistant and then mortgage adviser, and I managed to study for my MAQ and FPC in that time too,” she says.
In what must have been an interesting five years, from 2005 Bennett was a BDM at Northern Rock, during a period when the bank was nationalised (in 2008) due to financial problems caused by the subprime mortgage crisis, up until 2010 when it was split into two to be sold back to the private sector. What followed was a stint as sales manager at Bupa, then first a BDM then mortgage helpdesk manager at Magellan Homeloans, managing its team of six internal BDMs in the Leatherhead and Birmingham offices, until the lender’s closure in 2019.
It was then she joined The Bridging Group. “My team is fantastic and even remotely they are a great support, we are like a little family,” she says, adding though she misses seeing brokers and customers face-to-face to assist them with cases – “especially those tricky ones other lenders have not been able to help with”.
Finance is not exactly a feminist industry but change is happening in the right direction, especially since the introduction of the Women in Finance charter in 2016, which requires signatories to improve female representation in board-level roles. They are now over 330 firms of all shapes and sizes across financial services signed up to the commitments of the Charter – from global banks to credit unions, the largest insurance companies to the smallest fintech start-ups. Back when Bennett first joined the industry things were quite different: “I remember being at an industry event in the early days of being a mortgage adviser and another broker mistook me for being a waitress and asked if I could get another drink for him,” she recalls. They would have been better off asking to take her for a spin. “I am an award winning Ballroom dancer,” she confesses.
For young people thinking of entering (a much progressed) sector today, she advises picking the brains of older heads. “Be prepared to study hard and work flexibly, and listen to what experienced members of the community tell you,” she says, not least because they have seen the worst before – like crashes. “Know the economy is a cycle, and look back at what happened in times of recession previously and the impact that had on financial services,” she recommends.
Jim Nash, Tuscan Capital
Jim Nash joined Tuscan Capital in 2019, brought on to grow and develop its broker network with a particular focus on the Home Counties and the Midlands. But it was less of a fresh start and more of a homecoming for Nash. Such is his longevity in bridging finance he had previously worked with Tuscan CEO Colin Sanders four times before, including National Mortgage Bank (1992-1997), iGroup (1997-2005), Money Partners (2005-2008) and Omni Capital (2011-2016).
“I originally wanted to be a carpenter – my mum still has two tables I made when I was 16 – however I was persuaded to go for an interview with a national bank and was offered the role. My mum, who always wanted me to have a ‘proper’ job, made me take it!” recalls Nash.
He worked for that bank for 13 years, acquiring a solid grounding in finance, before joining a brokerage firm. “I stayed there for a few years before moving back onto the lending side, but the time I spent as a broker was to prove invaluable for the rest of my career giving me as it did an insight into how the brokerage world works,” he says.
Outside of work Nash is kept busy by supporting not one but two football teams, Spurs and Liverpool (what happens when they play each other?), hero-worshipping the “legend” that is David Attenborough – “I’ve twice been to South Africa for safaris” – and devouring books: “I became an avid reader during the first lockdown, I read more books then than in the whole previous 60 years,” he says.
Switching the business literally overnight from an office-based operation to a remote working one, he admits, “appeared at first hugely daunting”. But, he says, “I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how successfully we’ve adapted.” That said, he can’t wait to get back to the old ways. “I thrive on personal contact. But for all our sakes, and not least young people looking to forge a career in our sector, I think we need to look beyond Zoom meetings to a time when people can happily shake hands and sit at a table together,” Nash says.
He may be fighting against the tide, however. British Airways has just become the latest large company to signal a major switch to working from home, and is considering selling its headquarters near Heathrow because the shift means it may not need so much office space. Likewise Reach, the company behind national newspapers the Mirror and Express, and more than 100 regional titles, said three-quarters of staff would now be entirely or mainly home-based. But Nash is not ready to give up on the commute just yet. “I think our city centres need us back, not just for commercial reasons but because it makes for a more vibrant way of life,” he says.
But after a long hard week, Nash is ready to swap the hustle and bustle for some simple pleasures. “My favourite day of the week is Sunday: roast dinner (which I always cook) and football on the big screen at the local pub along with a cool pint of Guinness. How I’ve missed not being able to do that.”
Laura Miller is a freelance journalist who writes about money and business. She regularly appears in UK national and trade newspapers and magazines, and has previously worked for ITV News and the Telegraph among others. Find her on twitter @thatlaurawrites