LONDON – 14th January 2019. Blend Network, a fast-growing peer-to-peer property lending platform, has announced the appointment of highly-experienced property professional Paul Watson as Head of Origination. His arrival will help the company better serve its existing clients, as well as accelerate the acquisition of new borrowers, while also enhancing its due diligence capability for the benefit of its lenders. Paul’s appointment comes at an exciting time for the business, and follows the company’s recent successful completion of a £10m funding round, including commitments from a number of leading global business figures.
Blend Network is a peer-to-peer property lending platform which allows lenders to invest in property-secured loans. Private lenders are able to co-invest from £1,000 with very sophisticated high net worth lenders in the same deal, in a move that is leading to the increasing ‘democratisation’ of investing.
The business’s platform has delivered double digits returns to investors whilst also channeling money into affordable housing where there is a recognised lack of funding. Blend Network has already lent £5m to 20 projects across Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North of England, with 0 defaults and an average fixed return of 12.06% p.a.
Paul has a 15-year track record of working across residential and commercial property, including experience in distressed assets, fund management of residential income portfolios, new acquisitions, and development management. He also brings significant experience of the property market outside of London, which fits well with Blend Network’s core strategy of focusing its lending in the regions, particularly in the North of England, directing funds to small-and-medium-sized affordable housing developers in these areas, which are typically overlooked by mainstream lenders.
Paul’s most recent position was as Senior Development Finance Originator for leading real estate lender Octopus Property, where he focused on the sourcing and execution of development finance projects in residential, mixed-use, and student accommodation schemes. Previously Paul was a Senior Development Manager at Churchmanor Estates in Ipswich, where he was responsible for working on new transactions and managing existing assets and developments, including the delivery of the £25 million Chequers shopping centre.
Earlier in his career, he spent five years at Royal Bank of Scotland’s Real Estate Management division as an Investment Manager, where he had sole responsibility for £105 million of strategic buy-side transactions and was involved in the financial appraisal of a variety of distressed assets and joint ventures across a number of real estate sectors.
Paul began his career as a surveyor in the property sector with global real estate investment management firm Jones Lang LaSalle. As part of this role Paul was responsible for advising clients on mixed-use development and investment issues in London, analysing assets whilst providing development advice and the marketing of opportunities. He was also involved in a variety of buy-side and sell-side mandates including financial modelling, due diligence and structuring advice to a national housebuilder in order for the firm to secure an equity partner.
Paul holds a masters degree in Property Appraisal and Management, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Manchester.
Blend Network and other alternative property lenders offer one potential approach to help address the UK’s housing crisis. Housing experts report that 40% of all new houses built every year need to be affordable homes, but 2016-2017 figures show that the figure was only 23%. Recent research also states that England has a backlog of 3.91 million homes, meaning that 340,000 new homes will need to be built annually until 2031.
The company had a strong finish to 2018, securing £10 million in a successful financing, which included investment from leading business leaders such as Cyrus Ardalan, chairman of OakNorth Bank and Citigroup Global Markets Ltd, Chairman of Publicis Group Maurice Levy, and Jean-Phillipe Blochet, co-founder of Breven Howard. BLEND Network aims to continue its growth in 2019, further expanding the team, developing new features for the platform and increasing its range of borrowers and lenders.
Yann Murciano, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Blend Network/ Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer at Blend Network, pictured, commented:
“We are delighted to welcome such an experienced property professional as Paul to our growing senior team. He has a breadth and depth of experience across real estate sectors as well as extensive regional expertise, which will significantly help us scale the business. His appointment will help accelerate our acquisition of new borrowers as well as enhance our capabilities to service both existing borrowers and lenders on the platform.”
Paul Watson, Head of Origination at Blend Network, commented:
“I am very pleased to be joining Blend Network at such an exciting time. The company has already gained recognition as one of the most innovative and dynamic businesses in the alternative property lending sector. Its business model and strategy offer property developers overlooked by mainstream lenders an opportunity to secure funding while providing lenders with robust returns, secured on bricks and mortar. I believe the company has a great future and I look forward to playing a strong role in its expansion and success.”