5 bridging lenders to watch in 2021
By Laura Miller
Bridging in 2020 has been no easy task. For up and coming firms the challenge is even greater – smaller operations face competition from big lenders able to throw their institutional weight around. But the Covid crisis has meant many of these risk-averse larger lenders have pulled back, leaving a space for smaller bridging loan companies to fill the gap.
Next year we are likely to see another seismic shift in what was already a growing bridging finance industry before the pandemic hit. The five lenders below are the ones to watch as ‘new normal’ starts to take shape in 2021.
The Bridging Group
Jagtar Singh Sethi and Dawn Trustram make a compelling team as joint MDs of The Bridging Group, with their experience of the finance and bridging sectors (Trustram) and IT and property development (Sethi). Founded in July 2018, lending from January 2019, in 2020 the lender had already earned Best Bridging Newcomer in the Bridging and Commercial awards.
Ahead of the curve, the lender was already working remotely pre-Covid – the sales team work from their phones while they are out, providing terms, as decision makers, straight away – while being virtually paperless. Unsurprising then that, seeing a good uplift in enquiries and completions, the lender is planning expansion in 2021, with new hires on the operations side of the business.
The Bridging Group is not going to make a big detour from what it already does next year, choosing instead to open up a feedback channel for brokers and solicitors, listen to what they say, then focus on tweaking its offering accordingly. Likewise adapting to take advantage of changes in planning at the start of the month.
Whatever they do will be fast – the brand is built on speed, offering decisions within 2 hours, as well as flexibility, and transparency, while not shying away from more complex applications.
Only founded in 2019, Reim Capital houses over two decades of experience in property development, private banking and credit. Its youthful ambition shows in its broad range, from residential and commercial bridging, to auction finance, semi-commercial bridging, land with planning bridging and development exit finance.
Lending is underpinned by an exclusivity agreement with a large private debt fund. Shrugging off difficult Covid trading conditions, Reim Capital expects to surpass its 2020 target of writing £2 – 3m per month later in the year, and has grown its broker partnerships by 30% over the past few months, no easy task given the unpredictability of the financial market during lockdown.
Reim aims to grow its loan book to £60m by end of 2021, and is currently looking to expand its exposure to the Midlands and the North. It is actively seeking two new hires in its credit and sales teams, and will use 2021 to grow its development finance business, with both targets in new areas and expansion in current operations.
Stretton Capital stands out for being able to fund all loans from its own resources. Not being tied to institutional investors or bank funding let it continue lending when others stopped, weathering the pandemic, and, it is confident, leaving it ready to exploit the economic aftermath.
This financial independence means quick, frictionless decisions in-house on individual loans up to £5m, ground up development finance for residential, commercial, and industrial, on land with planning, loans to foreign nationals, and lending in the Channel Islands, Isle of Wight, and Isle of Man.
All this has helped it push annual lending volumes close to £60m a year, after only three years of trading, and 2021 will see it scatter field sales reps nationwide, while retaining its Chester base.
Plans are also underway to recruit in sales, credit risk, underwriting and loan management, so growth aspirations don’t impact on service – all new employees will need to show they can make a positive difference to Stretton’s bottom line, from cost efficiencies and supplier agreements, to commercial arrangements and arrears management.
A wealth of experience and knowledge of commercial property development, with some solid institutional buyers like pension funds, means this will be the growth area Stretton targets in 2021.
SDKA stepped up as larger lenders pulled out during the pandemic, keeping finance flowing in the residential, mixed use, and commercial property sectors, specialising in auction purchases, loans to expats, and light refurbishment deals.
To stay fast and flexible – providing a decision in principle in eight hours – SDKA keeps its product range simple, provides direct lines to decision makers, and creates its own finance documents to instruct its legal team within two hours of signing a decision in principle.
A forward-thinking business even prior to the pandemic, everyone at SDKA already works from home at least one day a week. Expansion plans mean it is on the lookout for more underwriters, and an in-house solicitor.
In 2021 it will target more lending to expats buying investment property in England and Wales, and clients purchasing property from corporates under their disposal programmes – it recently lent to a number of clients buying convenience stores from a major national brand.
SDKA have built a strong base of return customers – most of its lending is to existing clients – earning it a spot as one to watch in 2021, when it plans to help them use the expected downturn to pick up buying opportunities. It is expanding its bank funding to bring new lenders on board, with negotiations already underway with a number of UK banks.
Elysium has built a reputation as something of a disruptor. Spotted as a notable entry into the market in EY’s 2018 UK Bridging Market Report, it was nominated for a bridging newcomer award that same year. Longlisted for Bridging Lender of the Year at the SFI Awards 2020, its national business development manager Jamie Gillespise has also been nominated for BDM of the Year.
Elysium Bridging continued to lend through the pandemic – even employing a BDM at its height. When aims to grow its loan book were rocked by coronavirus, it quietly plugged away in preparation for 2021 by building up funding. It already plans to hire more sales and admin staff in the first quarter of next year to expand into its offices in Shaw, Oldham.
While many small bridging companies gain strength from their specialised focus, Elysium wants to expand operations and seize new opportunities, in what CEO Paul Gammond described as its “quick, friendly, no fuss approach to even the quirkiest of lending scenarios”.
To its wide range of clients, from brokers to property developers, investors, and other introducers, Elysium offers light and medium refurbishment products, with loans from £26,000 to £5m at a maximum LTV and LTGDV of 65%, for up to 12 months.
Each of these bridging lenders has developed a formula to stay competitive in their respective areas, prioritising lean, proactive operations to exploit the agility of being lighter on their feet than larger rivals. Bridging in 2021 won’t be easy, or predictable, but these five show the rewards of a focus on servicing a defined range of projects, leaning into specialism, and giving clients direct access to decision makers at all stages of the lending process.
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