‘This industry is all we know so it wasn’t a hard decision to make’
By David Craik -
According to the Oxford English dictionary autarky means self-sufficiency. That has been a trait many of us have had to follow during the last two years of pandemic insularity in our social, family and working lives.
It has created a new normal and, in many ways according to lender Autarky Capital, a new kind of freedom.
For Autarky, launched by former Amicus and Arbuthnot Specialist Finance Lending (ASFL) managing directors Yasin Patel and Shoaib Bux last October, that means more flexible and hybrid working and the adoption of quicker and more efficient digital technology.
“During the pandemic myself and Shoaib realised that we wanted a better work-life balance,” Yasin explains. “We both live in Preston and were travelling to Manchester every day. That’s hard when you have young families.
We had been at Arbuthnot for three years and although we had a great time there and set up the bridging business, we thought it would be ideal if we created a business closer to home.”
It wasn’t a daunting prospect for the industry veterans who have previous experience launching new businesses such as Mayfair Bridging back in 2007.
“This industry is all we know so it wasn’t a hard decision to make,” Yasin explains. “It was a case of doing it again.”
Autarky specialises in funding bridging, refurbishment and development projects, but it is very much a creature of these pandemic times.
It has a five strong team with a very flexible working policy allowing most employees to work from home and to come into the Preston office when they and only they feel like it.
“Home working is popular. People want that flexibility and from our experience it has no impact on productivity,” Yasin says.
“In fact, sickness rates are down because people will continue working from home if they have a cold. In the past they would have taken a day off because they didn’t fancy taking the tube or train into work whilst feeling unwell.”
The other pandemic legacy is a huge embrace of the latest fintech digital technology. Autarky has a secure communications app which brokers and borrowers can download that enables them to upload and describe their projects and funding requirements.
The terms for clients to accept are also sent electronically and securely, as are valuation and legal instructions and a final faster drawdown of funds and completion.
Autarky utilises Advanced Electronic Signatures to make the process quicker and more efficient.
“We have really concentrated on tech. It is our USP,” Yasin says. “That started with work from home and using video communications to help everyone feel part of the team.
We then naturally extended that to clients so allowing them to onboard electronically and for ID verification. Everything from Companies House to Land Registry checks are done electronically.
During the pandemic, when we couldn’t get to a lawyer or brokers office, it saved so much time and we want to continue it. We have a complete end to end electronic offering.”
He adds: “We’ve been in this industry for 15 years and a lot of the time you are just waiting around for the client to sign. They tell you their lawyer is busy or not in today. Now you can do it all on the same day where everything is signed electronically. You are saving weeks!”
One thing he stresses however is that technology can never and should never replace people.
“We use tech for our benefit, but bridging is a touch product. Everyone in the chain has to have dialogue,” he says. “We don’t have automated decision making or anything like that. It wouldn’t work in our industry but making things smoother by using tech certainly does.”
Yasin says clients are also seeing the benefits, although some lawyers have struggled to adjust to a life where they aren’t printing out reams and reams of paper every minute of the day.
“Our logo is a tree because we have a solid foundation and a strong natural structure,” Yasin says. “But it also symbolises how we are helping to save the planet by going digital.
We were unique when we launched but we have seen others now begin to use e-signatures and digital technology much more. That’s okay because we don’t see competition as a threat.
It spreads the word of development and bridging. We all have our own niches and if ours work for our customers then that’s fine.”
It’s certainly doing that. Autarky is well on its way to reaching and surpassing a target of lending £100 million by the end of this year.
“We are touching £30 million now so we’ll get past it,” Yasin says. “It’s been going really well since October. A lot of the distribution work followed us as we have built up so many contacts over the years. Business flow has been good.”
The institutional funded company’s main activity is in the residential development finance space with recent deals completed for just over £3.2million and just under £13million.
It focuses on ground up construction projects spanning from single house buildings to multi-unit schemes and larger refurbishments/conversions.
“Our sweet spot is between £1million and £5 million but we can go up to £30 million for the right deal.
Our past expertise in this area helps us understand the deals a little bit better than most,” Yasin explains.
“There are more lenders coming into this space and there have been some deals we have passed on. Anybody can lend money, but the hardest thing is bringing it back in. Unless you are experienced in doing that it could prove difficult in the long run for some people.”
Its residential refurbishment product is also doing well driven by a big uptake for conversions as is residential bridging where it lends up to £30million plus to individuals and corporates in England and Wales.
However, it has yet to dip its toes into commercial.
“We are sitting back watching that space. We do a little bit, but we are still not sure where the market is playing out,” Yasin says.
“There is a lot of activity in industrial warehouses, but we think that is down to lack of supply as nobody has been building them for years.”
It is looking to expand the team come this summer and is always on the hunt for good underwriters. But it is unlikely to launch new products.
“We stick to what we know and do it well. We will strive to make sure developers are happy and then concentrate more on repeat business,” Yasin explains.
“But, of course, we are always looking for new clients and we feel that joining the Bridging Loan Directory is a vital first step in advertising and getting our name out there.”
Well, we know what that name means now. “We are bosses of our destiny and have got the work life balance we were looking for.,” Yasin says. “We spend more time with our kids but we’re still not as tired as we were when commuting!”