‘Times like these are when we are in demand most’
By Helen Crane -
For lots of companies in the finance sector, the pandemic has been a time to batten down the hatches and focus on retaining existing clients, rather than branching out or expanding.
It’s an understandable position to take, given challenges such as the need to offer mortgage payment holidays, and periodic shutdowns in the housing market during the first and now second lockdowns.
But specialist bridging and development lender Lendhub has taken a very different approach. According to managing director Christopher Adamou, it has not only made five new hires but is also preparing to increase its customer base and launch some “interesting new products”.
So how has the business managed to stay productive throughout the last few months, and what does the future hold?
Like virtually all companies, Lendhub was shaken by the rapid country-wide shutdown when Covid cases began to skyrocket at the end of March.
“Obviously in the beginning there was a big element of uncertainty, but we managed to work through it as a team,” says Adamou. “Constant communication between the team, and with our brokers and borrowers, was really important.”
Portal ‘changed the way we work’
He also credits some of Lendhub’s recent success to the launch of its new online portal, myLendhub, in November last year.
The platform enables ‘contactless’ loan applications that are processed entirely online. It is designed to make life easier for both brokers and borrowers by simplifying information input, enabling real-time updates on case progress and allowing applicants to use digital signatures instead of posting documents.
“It completely changed the way we worked, from our own internal processes to the way we deliver information to our brokers,” Adamou says.
Lendhub had been working on the product for years, but no-one could predict that launching it in late 2019 would be such a fortuitous move. As it turned out, the software helped the team –normally based on New Bond Street in Mayfair – to hit the ground running when working from home.
“All of the day-to-day processes happen through those systems, so which made the transition to working from home relatively smooth,” says Adamou. “It was as if you were in the office, but in the comfort of your pyjamas.”
Lendhub is one of the first specialist lenders to launch a portal of this kind, and it is still an evolving piece of technology which is being constantly tweaked and improved.
As well as simplifying internal workflow, Adamou believes it improves the customer journey.
“It gives complete transparency throughout the whole loan journey,” he says. “At any time, a broker or borrower is able to log in and see where their loan is at and what the next steps are.”
Looking back at the seven months of the pandemic so far, Adamou says the thing he is most proud of is the fact that his team continued to work hard for their clients without compromising on terms.
“I think our biggest achievement was being able to continue lending and delivering on all our pipeline deals, not changing the goalposts on terms issued pre-lockdown, and making sure no-one was let down,” he explains. “It was a really uncertain time, but we managed it through constant communication with borrowers and working closely together.”
Big loans completed – in lockdown
Not only did it continue to lend as normal, but Lendhub also managed to close some chunky deals.
In June, it completed a £1.5m development loan to enable the redevelopment and refinance of a detached house in Epsom, Surrey, which will see it converted into six flats, and most of the work was done during the height of lockdown.
And last month, Lendhub proved its agility when it completed a £550,000 residential bridging loan in just five days, preventing the buyer’s connected purchase from falling through.
High-profile deals such as these require more manpower, and Lendhub has responded to this by making five key hires since the beginning of the pandemic.
In August, it hired Asim Shirwani from Lendinvest into the newly-created role of chief commercial officer to assist with the company’s growth and product expansion plans.
Ashley Kendall and Wesley Hawthorne have joined the team as business development managers, while Anna Gibbons has taken on the role of business development executive. Menakha Nathan has been appointed as case manager.
“This will ensure that we can continue to provide a good service, and also help us to scale the business,” Adamou says.
More expansion on the horizon
Despite the challenging economic backdrop, he believes that specialist lenders should be firmly in growth mode. Lendhub’s strategy on this front is to appeal to new customers who find that mainstream lenders can no longer meet their needs.
“Times like these are when we are in demand most, as the mainstream lenders tighten up and many are closed for new business,” Adamou says, adding that such lenders are more likely to be focused on serving existing customers than looking for new ones.
The fleet of foot nature of bridging and specialist finance lenders could also work to their advantage.
“Customers may find that, where mainstream lenders are open for new business, it is a bit slow because of backlog,” he says. “Because we are more agile and act quickly, we will get access to borrowers that we may not have had access to before.”
With the market moving so quickly, Adamou says Lendhub will continually evaluate its strategy to make sure it stays on top of new developments.
“We will constantly be looking at our position and how we can improve it, assessing where we sit in the market and how we can do things better,” he says.
It is also planning to introduce new products to the market next year – but Adamou has to remain tight-lipped on the details for now.
“We will continue to scale the business, and we’ve got some interesting new products that we are looking to launch,” he says. “We’ve got quite a lot of exciting things to come – so all will soon be revealed.”
The success of those products remains to be seen – but if Lendhub can implement a new tech strategy, complete major loans and grow its workforce in the midst of a global pandemic, you certainly wouldn’t bet against them.
Helen Crane is a freelance journalist specialising in property and personal finance. She previously worked at London daily newspaper City A.M and on the trade publication, Property Week.