Bridging Loan Diamonds: 4 of the best
By Laura Miller
Heat and pressure and time. That’s what it takes to create diamonds. If you know one, nominate them.
Here are four of the best.
Roz Cawood, Masthaven Bank
Chasing sales targets is the closest thing to the punishment of Sisyphus in modern times. Pushing that boulder up the hill day after day only to find at the end of every quarter the hill has got steeper as new targets are set. It takes a robust sort to grind it out. Roz Cawood, head of sales at Masthaven, fits the bill. Consistently the lender’s top performing sales person within the short term lending division, colleagues attribute her success to “hard work, determination and dedication”.
Roz took tenacity to heart early on in her career in part because she had to. The first bank she worked for turned her down for their management trainee scheme. “They said I’d be married in a few years and would then probably want to have kids,” she recalls, a stark reminder some employers think hiring a woman in a senior role will pose challenges – “thankfully times have changed, mostly”, she says.
The early knock back has done little to dent her ambition. Roz has been supporting Masthaven’s business development team for over five years, and as part of the sales leadership team is responsible for leading and developing Masthaven’s network of brokers, and helping to drive education around bridging finance. Each one of them big roles. Before that she was busy at significant names LendInvest and Legal & General.
Joshing is part and parcel of sales culture and some wags may suggest Masthaven, known for its very low rates, is an easy place to sell. But the lender says rates have had to fall to counter a huge rise in competition in bridging, where the choice for the bridging broker has never before been so rich, and securing deals as tough as ever. “Roz has covered the existing Masthaven relationships with her brokers with the utmost professionalism, but it is her ability to garner and maintain new relationships in an ultra tough and competitive region that sets her apart from others,” says colleague Richard Deacon.
People buy people, not products. And Roz is a people person. “Probably the number one thing for me is the people and their personalities – I think the industry attracts really interesting characters, and variety is the spice of life,” she says. Property is unlike other investments or purchases. To sell bricks and mortar is to share a vision with the buyer. “Many people spend their whole lives dreaming of their ideal home and it’s great to help make people’s dreams happen,” says Roz, “when a chain has fallen apart or a broker has a difficult case, it’s very satisfying when we can find a way to make it work”.
Going above and beyond is a key part of being a Diamond. In this most difficult of year’s, Roz has still found time to build up others through her involvement in the Women in Leadership programme. “I’m so proud of the programme, which involves digital workshops and online courses to help empower our women leaders and develop their skills,” she says. The programme has given her a renewed sense of self-belief barriers can be overcome, but also she is “passionate about helping others gain this realisation to reach their own potential”. All of this is in Roz’s own time – and yet she still finds the energy to be a shoulder to lean on day-to-day: “I’ve made it known that I’m ‘here to hear’,” she says, “and as someone who’s not office-based, I can help my colleagues with adapting to working from home”.
Graham Beresford, FinSpace
It’s hard to know how to introduce this next Diamond in a way that would do him justice. Colleague Steve Pollard is the best person to explain. Last November Steve was diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of cancer in his abdomen. “After some initial tests to confirm I spoke with Graham to update him – his first thought was to ensure I focussed on my treatment and family and to remove any concerns about work”. Steve is self-employed with Finspace. No employment rights law required Graham to do anything to help. But he did it anyway. “I knew Graham to be a top bloke, but I was really taken aback by his support,” Steve says.
Falling seriously ill is devastating for anyone. For self-employed people it can mean losing everything – car, home, life savings – even if they win the battle to regain their health. Graham Beresford, co-founder and managing director of specialist broker FinSpace (along with Dave Fathers, head of bridging and development at the firm), made sure that wouldn’t happen to Steve. They organised for all Steve’s pipeline cases to be worked on in his absence, without any reduction in his usual income.
In February Steve had an emergency operation to relieve abdominal swelling so bad the surgeon said he wouldn’t have lasted another 24 hrs. He was in hospital for two weeks. “All through this time Graham waited anxiously for news from my wife without any intrusion,” he says. His recovery continues. It’s slow, and will take months. “Although I’m still not strong enough to speak directly with clients Graham has kept my pipeline on the boil and ensured I am updated – to my surprise I’ve even had some extra deals added,” Steve says.
One part of us probably feels this should be such a standard way of supporting the humans we work with it should be unnoteworthy. The bigger part of us knows it so rarely is, and that’s why people like Graham deserve recognition. When BLD asked Graham what the biggest challenges are in the industry right now he said the usual stuff – “a lot of uncertainty in regard to house prices, construction materials, project delays, cost overruns, developer exits, appetite to lend, mobility issues… the list goes on!” – presenting as just a man doing his job, getting on with things, not making a fuss.
Back in 2018 he built a panel from scratch at FinSpace, which is where Dave Fathers first came in. “Dave and I got on very well and as soon as I mentioned I was looking to set up a brokerage he jumped on board and helped shape the business so we were off the ground and writing business within two months,” Graham says. Starting off his career in insurance, Graham worked for two large PLCs for 5 years before switching focus to financial and insurance products in 2009, then going solo. When he says “I think the biggest challenge to the industry is being able to pivot to changes” he means it in terms of his own career, and, as he has proven in recent months, how he supports those he works with.
Faced with 24 hrs to live, Steve is eternally grateful to the many medical people who saved his life. But Graham’s decision to lift the yoke off of him professionally when he needed help the most has had a profound impact. “Knowing my self employed cases were being worked on provided me with similar gratitude for Graham as the doctors and nurses,” he says. That’s some boss.
Jodi Spreadbury, The Mortgage Broker
Often it’s the quieter ones who surprise you. Pre-pandemic Jodi shunned the attention-grabbing world of social media and PR. But, as with many of the BLD Diamonds, the last 12 months have acted as a catalyst to push her out of her comfort zone. Inundated with customer questions, she has become something of a go-to-guru.
Having provided an ad-hoc but dedicated Q&A clinic during the pandemic, Jodi has now launched her own Facebook page providing financial insight, hints and tips, videos of the week and even a podcast. “The main thing I know how to do is give advice and help those who need guidance in these difficult times. My main aim throughout this pandemic is to focus on what I do best and give back to those who need it most,” she says.
This is no small thing in a period when each and every one of us has had extra on our plate to deal with before thoughts turn to others. For Jodi, though, help extends beyond the clients who pay her own mortgage, to any family and friends who need guidance on anything to do with their financial wellbeing. “Jodi is an amazing role model for women coming into our industry and a future industry leader,” says Maria Harris at Digital Cat Consultancy.
Like all the best people, Jodi has worked her way up from the shop floor; returning from travelling 16 years ago she answered an ad in the local paper for The Mortgage Broker – “I just thought it would have good career prospects!” – beginning as a PA, moving into admin, compliance, before full fledged advice as a senior mortgage and protection adviser covering all forms of buying, remortgage and specialist advice.
Knowing how to take the rough with the smooth is the secret to longevity in any industry, but especially property: “My timing was awful as it was of course a recession, so combining that with being a young woman in a predominantly male industry I had to quickly grow in confidence and step up my game – especially when it came to speaking publicly,” Jodi recalls.
These days, however, along with the variety and rising to the challenge of ever-changing situations, speaking to people is her favourite part of the job. Because by talking to people she gets to know more about them than their money, and seeing clients as something other than a wallet is how you actually have an effect on their lives. Otherwise it’s just lending and land: “Being able to help people achieve their goals and dreams makes my job really satisfying. I make it my mission to find solutions,” says Jodi.
Despite being busy enough giving free advice, Jodi also found time this year to reinstate her protection license – “I think this year has shown us that you never know what is around the corner!” – and emerge as a finalist in the British Specialist Lending Awards for Best Adviser for Complex Credit. And that is before the daily GIFs, messages and virtual coffee breaks to help with knowledge and morale among colleagues.
“I like to send pizzas to support team members, to cheer them up after a manic month,” she says, no doubt creating envy in mortgage firms with less generous advisers. She made sure to redress the balance though, coordinating a running challenge to ensure the team kept fit in the height of lockdown. “I try to keep fit where possible, managing my first 10km run in the first lockdown,” says Jodi, before explaining why: “I have an obsession with cheesecake – I’ve rated my absolute favourite cheesecakes I have had around the world – I can’t be the only person who works out just so they can eat more cheesecake?” Makes perfect sense to us.
Danny Power, Bridge Help
“I am the eternal optimist in life and always see the glass to be half full.” Anyone who can say that after the year we’ve just had must be a unique character – introducing Bridge Help’s business development manager Danny Power.
There are a number of unusual pillars to Manchester lad Danny. He has been married for over forty years, testimony to a level of commitment to the cause, endurance and negotiating ability Britain could well have done with more of when trying to leave the EU. For nearly as long he has dedicated his career to the financial services industry – apart from a couple of mysterious years we won’t delve into as sales manager for the rich and even richer at a luxury Swiss watch brand.
He is also something of a DJ, treating his neighbours to a socially distanced (and wet and wild) festive disco, and an astonishingly hard-working charity fundraiser, best known for cabaret shows and auctioneering events; for The Meningitis Research Foundation, The Christie in Manchester, Children with Heart Disorders, Maggie’s that supports patients with cancer and their families, and Help for Heroes. Danny’s last two shows before lock down raised over £40,000 for Maggie’s in Oldham. He has recently joined Rotary Club International to help in their worldwide charity work.
Committing to community – stalwart husband, veteran colleague, willing neighbour, charity worker – runs through Danny’s life. In November he was honoured with the Dukinfield and Stalybridge Rotary Local Community Heroes Award in recognition of his “dedication, passion and hard work during the Covid-19 pandemic”. The President of his local Rotary Club commended him, saying: “You have gone above and beyond to help people in your community in providing much needed entertainment in Carrbrook Village during the Covid 19 lockdown. As a result of your hard work they have received much needed support, which would not have been available to them otherwise.”
Danny didn’t start out in bridging. For many years he was a pensions consultant, arranging asset purchase loans for schemes, before moving on to offering commercial finance and bridging loans as a broker. One day he was asked to join a lender to present their offering to the broker market. “That was nearly twenty years ago, and I am still passionate about meeting the requirements of brokers and their clients with what Bridge Help offers,” he says. In that time he has helped shift the conversation from bridging lending being expensive, to it often being cheaper than a project that fails due to lack of finance. “It has taken a long time to educate introducers and consumers on that,” he says.
Some who have been in a sector for four decades may fairly consider it a bit much to switch to a new challenge late in the day. Not Danny. Less than two years ago he moved to Bridge Help, a new entrant to the bridging market that needed a profile. “It has certainly been an interesting task to make Bridge Help’s product range known among the many other new entrants in the market,” he says, praising the management team and board, who “have proved as flexible as only a small team can be in reacting to market requirements”.
Danny has been able to adapt to the challenges of building up a newer brand in part because he is so rooted in the sector, proof of the true value of relationship building beyond the superficial. “I love the fact that I am still regularly dealing with introducers I first worked with when I came into bridging, as well as creating new relationships. I have been lucky enough to work with some great people,” he says.
A team player (he’s played for county at both rugby union and football), Danny has managed to secure longevity in a fast-paced industry by keeping two plates spinning; competition and collaboration. He says: “There are some incredibly talented young relationship managers who have come into the field and I still feel able to compete and fight for business with any of them – even the ones I have helped into the business.”
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