Six brokers to watch in 2021
By Laura Miller -
Young broker firms – some on the list below only launched this year – always face early challenges. But few new business plans would have factored in a global pandemic, a national lockdown and the threat of more shutdowns to come.
Keeping a company afloat in such an environment is success enough, but some brokers set themselves apart by finding ways to thrive and grow. They now have big plans for next year. These formidable firms are the ones to track in 2021.
No stranger to working from home pre-Covid, VIBE Finance launched in April 2018 from managing director Kim McGingley’s spare room. It now occupies its own commercial premises with a team of advisers, case managers and sales support.
McGinley left behind 12 years at lenders and picked a niche part of the market she knew she could tease broker work from, finance for buy-to-let, HMO’s, multi-unit blocks and commercial units.
The strategy has been a success. While some parts of the bridging sector shut their doors during lockdown VIBE Finance expanded its Lee-on-the-Solent HQ, and added an office in London, with its sights firmly set on growth in 2021.
The firm also kept hiring, taking on extra sales support. It is VIBE’s plans for further hires next year which set it apart as an innovative and ambitious firm. By the end of 2020 it plans to launch a trainee specialist adviser programme to build and train its own team from a variety of non-industry employment backgrounds.
“Finding advisers with the required specialist mortgage experience is actually really hard,” says McGiney, “and I’m also keen to give the younger generation a chance to join an amazing industry whilst promoting diversity.”
“The industry is addictive,” says Sarah Fisher, director at Kensington Shorre, “every single deal no matter the size gives you the same great feeling when you have truly created a bespoke proposition, and fundamentally helped a client”.
A 17 year industry veteran, Fisher’s passion – “and a heap of courage”, she admits – pushed her undeterred to launch Kensington in April 2020, at the peak of the UK coronavirus outbreak, bringing together experience from funding, corporate banking and BDM to broker, bridging, property development, business loans, merchant cash advance, invoice discounting and lease.
Just six months old, the firm is already looking to expand, and is actively seeking new offices in Greater London in 2021. It is also planning selected hires, to move into siloed areas of expertise across the lines of finance it arranges, including a dedicated role to head up its coronavirus business interruption loan scheme and business cash flow funding business.
Swelling its current client base next year will be key. Underpinning its market share acquisition plans is a strategy to build a network of introducers in 2021 that will see it grow through collaboration. “When we, as an industry all work together this strengthens the alternative market and is something we advocate and love being a part of,” says Fisher.
London Belgravia Specialist Finance
London Belgravia Specialist Finance is part of the London Belgravia Group, so its clients are in the unusual position of having access to a one-stop-shop of insurance, finance, real estate investment and wealth management advice.
By Spring 2021 the group plans to leverage this in-house advantage by strengthening its wealth management arm as part of its service to all clients, including those seeking bridging.
On the broking side, LBSF has already started to look for more office space to accommodate its 2021 growth plans, based on its current pipeline and projections.
Hiring is on the cards to deal with the extra business, with expansion in both the mortgage and development debt advisory teams between now and into Q1 2021 to bring on experienced advisers.
London Belgravia brokers deals for high-net worth individuals, property developers and portfolio landlords across all aspects of residential and commercial property finance, including senior and junior debt, bridging, buy-to-let, and commercial finance.
The firm isn’t targeting new markets next year, but its open door policy rules nothing out, leaving it plenty of room for manoeuvre depending on how the next 12 months pan out.
“The group’s mantra is to solve problems for property professionals, so if an opportunity arises to do just that, our leadership team will always discuss it,” says Rosita Mendonca, London Belgravia’s marketing manager.
The Property Finance Collective
Wheel out the cake for the Property Finance Collective – this toddler turns two in November. The Spalding-based broker is run by husband and wife team director Michael Primrose and office manager Alice, and despite being less than 24 months old it has already moved offices twice to accommodate growth.
Next year more expansion is planned, after an ambitious hiring spree during one of the hardest trading periods on record. The firm is looking at a bigger office space to enable the team to naturally grow – despite having doubled in size during the pandemic with the acquisition of a new head of business development, case administrator, and apprentice.
Another apprentice is planned for next year (as well as a hire in sales), testimony to the firm’s strong focus on staff training – its case administrator is currently undertaking studies towards a CeMAP qualification, and it’s current apprentice will be guided into a new role in the coming months.
The Property Finance Collective’s further ambition in 2021 is pinned to becoming a multi-faceted firm of both brokers and media creators. It has plans to reach a virtually unlimited audience with its The Property Finance Podcast, and so is seeking bigger premises for an audio studio, and space for recording videos for clients, creating content for The Property Finance Collective App and its Training Academy.
Specialist Finance Centre
Formed in 2017 by Daniel Yeo, Covid-19 and lockdown, far from holding the firm back, fast forwarded SFC’s plans to spleen out two distinct new arms; SFC Commercial and SFC Mortgages. The move lets SFC’s self-employed advisers and BDMs generate clients both direct and from intermediaries (as separate divisions, to ensure no cross selling occurs).
SFC’s model means though the firm is headquartered in Cardiff it has self-employed brokers trading across the UK. A London office in 2021 is an option “if demand requires it”, but business confidence has already seen it take a larger office for its HQ from October, doubling the space to grow its employed side, and creating desks for local self-employed advisers to work under the SFC brand.
Four new hires include a BDM under Specialist Finance Centre and an adviser on regulated and non-regulated bridging and commercial under SFC Commercial. In 2021 Yeo also wants to build up the number of mortgage advisers he has working for SFC Mortgages.
As the UK braces for a spike in unemployment, SFC is hiring as many people as it can to take advantage of bridging opportunities next year. “We are aggressively looking to increase our self employed numbers and in turn the employed model in our central office,” Yeo says.
Next year will also see the firm working on its first charge proposition for introducers, and plans for high net worth clients will be revealed by the end of 2020. Equity release, pensions and investments could also become business lines in future, showing a deep seated ambition to dominate more than one area of the financial sector.
Wharf Financial launched in early 2020 based in Leigh on Sea, Essex but offers expertise in a range of financial solutions across the UK. “Our philosophy is to tailor financial packages to exceed the expectations of our clients,” says Marc Champ, a broker with over 15 years experience in property lending.
Having survived starting a new business in the jaws of a pandemic, Wharf is not resting on its laurels, and it is envisaged the company will expand into 2021, both in terms of customer base and by hiring ambitious brokers who can take on whatever next year throws at them.
The firm’s hiring pitch to prospective applicants, which, with the incoming unemployment rate expected to soar, there may be many, is it is “looking for experienced property professionals that enjoy the thrill of the deal and want to offer the highest possible customer service”.
The firm covers the full spectrum of property and trading business lending, so plans to take on ex-lenders who can grow under the Wharf brand.
When the time is right (though not immediately) the broker plans to offer a wider range of products to its customers. First off is a foray into a local market created by its coastal location – marine finance. It is an area of expansion Wharf is currently exploring (hopefully in a submarine and diving suit).
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