The Five Minute Interview with Ian Wilson, CEO, Vitvo

Ian Wilson

Vitvo are an institutionally funded bridging lender who lend to property professionals on residential property in England and Wales. Vitvo’s team of experts take a holistic approach to lending, with every deal decided on its own merits as opposed to a “tick-box” mentality. With a small but highly skilled team, Vitvo is significantly faster than some of the more traditional bridging lenders and is able to regularly complete bridging loans in a matter of days.

Vitvo aims to be an innovative and disruptive presence in the bridging industry, as illustrated by their recently launched “Flexible Development Exit Loan” product.

We speak to CEO, Ian Wilson:

What is the best thing about being in the bridging finance business?

The opportunity. The UK, the economy, the political landscape, the regulatory framework, and technology; all pose an existential threat to the status quo within the fragmented bridge lending market. With change comes opportunity, and I believe Vitvo is poised to overachieve in the coming years. In a steady state market, growth of any new lender can only be achieved through progressive and determined application. Contrast this with a market which is being buffeted by the winds of change; such change will offer opportunities for all participants to materially change their status quo. Whether it be through technology adoption, product innovation, risk mitigation or anything else, the opportunity to materially increase market share exists.

 What keeps you focused?

My problem – although hopefully it has some benefits – is I find it difficult to accept the status quo for long. I believe in challenging every aspect of the perceived norm. In fact, what gets me out of bed every morning is the desire, to continually search for opportunities to improve all aspects of our operation; deployment, risk management, customer journey, whatever it may be. If it sounds tiring, that’s because it is!

What qualities do you look for in your employees or colleagues?

Values. it’s very difficult to work with anyone, particularly in a small business, unless you share the same set of values. Honesty, integrity, determination, and work ethic are what I look for. Starting a business from scratch is never easy, and to break into an already crowded market is even more challenging. So whilst we do wish to maximise our long term profitability, our reputation is nevertheless everything.

What achievement are you most proud of in the last year?

Vitvo’s launch of the Flexible Development Exit Loan (FDEL). The ‘Castro loan’, as we have nicknamed it, is unique in the market It allows developers the ability to refinance out of a development loan into a bridge loan once a property is wind and water tight, and months before practical completion.

This allows developers to avoid penalty clauses if they have suffered delays and recycle their development finance relationship into their next project much earlier than would otherwise be achieved. This saves money by reducing fallow periods for their build teams so increasing the capacity of developers to maximise their build rate over a given time period. Since launch we have been overwhelmed by the reaction.

We believe this addresses a real need for developers, and will hopefully help address, albeit in a small way, the structural shortage of properties in this country.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

An optimist in terms of what we can achieve. I wouldn’t have started any business if I was a pessimist! That said, I would say our team is – quite deliberately – evenly balanced! However, I am a pessimist in one respect: maintaining the status quo in any business will lead to irrelevance at best. With the pace of technology change, if you aren’t doing the disrupting, you will be disrupted. Watch this space.

What did you want to be as a child?

I had no idea, literally none. I was still lacking in direction working my first job, which was coding the operation of linear low density polyethylene chemical plant for a multinational company. Then, one night, I went to see the movie Trading Places, and I was hooked. I applied for commodity trading positions in various banks, one thing led to another, and 23 years later I was on the European Management Committee for JPMorgan for all sales, structuring, and marketing across Fixed Income.

What will be the greatest challenge facing the bridging finance industry in the coming months?

Brexit, and the potential election of Mr Corbyn are the two events that worry us the most. The range of outcomes around these events makes prediction tricky. The downside scenarios to both are potentially very negative for the UK economy generally, and UK residential property values in particular. They may create a very difficult environment for bridge lenders.

Who or what makes you laugh?

Politicians, albeit not all. The lack of conviction, honesty, and shamefaced self-promotion, is often sufficiently apparent as to make their Faustian pacts all too clear. Politics is the longest running comedy show on offer, and the most expensive!

Do you dread Monday mornings?

I love Monday mornings. Everyone’s back at work!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I wasn’t quite as busy, I wouldn’t mind more time with my children.

With whom would you most like to have dinner?

Elon Musk. His vision is amazing, and his capability to achieve his goals is truly inspirational.

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