“Stuck on the M62 I miss the roar of the track”
By Laura Miller -
You could be forgiven for thinking Carl Graham harboured a Tom Cruise crush growing up. From Days of Thunder-style stock car racing to lawyering up like a Few Good Men, the parallels are uncanny. But when the time came, he did beat Mr Cruise to a bridging role.
“As a kid I was in a few different motorsports, from early days karting, through to MiniStox and stock cars and, finally single seaters,” reveals Tuscan Capital’s newly appointed regional director.
“I absolutely loved my time behind the racing wheel”, he says, adding the M62 provides slightly less in the way of glamour: “It just doesn’t feel the same stuck in traffic on a wet Monday morning in January!”
Graham Tuscan’s first regional director – the role, building up relationships with local brokers, introducers and advisers, is new. He has been in it, and the company, just three weeks, a literal bridge between Manchester’s just-opened central office and one in Birmingham.
“With high demand for mixed-use and residential property across the North and Midlands, I am genuinely excited about our continued impact and expansion in these important growth regions of the UK,” he said at the time of his appointment.
But it could have all gone so differently. Back to that A Few Good Men reference.
“I originally earmarked a career in law,” says Graham. Increasingly unfulfilled with legal work, he looked around for somewhere he could use his knowledge of the law, but that would provide other opportunities.
“I was working for a law firm in Chester in 2002 when Advantage Homeloans moved into a business park up the road,” he recalls. “An opportunity arose in their legal department the following year, and I grabbed it with both hands.”
Not too long after joining the subprime lender Graham saw finance and property were his real calling, namely specialist debt, where he has now amassed 17 years’ experience at an array of lenders.
After front-end origination and credit and risk as a roving underwriter at Advantage, he moved to Beacon Homeloans in 2008 as roving credit manager for the North, before leaving in 2011 to join Bridgebank Capital as sales director There he was able to extend his grasp.
“I sat on the board and was responsible for setting up the Quantum by Bridgebank Capital brand, which helped grow the loan book exponentially,” he says.
After a year with Octopus Real Estate – “I helped build the business plan for the Manchester office launch” – his last move was to Rocket Bridging as credit director, before joining Tuscan Capital this month.
“I have deliberately chosen to vary my business roles,” he says of his eclectic work history. This strategy has, he says, allowed him to “acquire skills, adapt readily, develop professionally as the industry has grown, and overcome more easily any barriers”.
Bridging was a quietly niche part of finance pre-2008 credit crunch, after the crash and retrenchment of mainstream lenders heralded its advance as a more noticeable alternative source of borrowing.
Graham says specialist lending has always been “fiercely competitive, from way back in the early subprime mortgage days, right up to the specialist short-term industry we know today”.
Used to fast-paced rivals from the race tracks of his youth, he navigates this by “wanting to learn and grow continuously”, to understand lending “from inception to administrative processing and final redemption”.
Like many in the industry, the biggest challenge he has now is managing client expectations. “Lockdown is having an impact on how quickly the due diligence process can be completed, across valuations, legal sign-off and obtaining information from planning departments,” he says.
“While transactions are certainly still happening, it is essential we communicate this openly to our brokers and clients throughout their journey with us,” he admits.
To ease the pressure he follows the British Touring Car Championship, while “lending my wholehearted support to my beloved Liverpool Football Club” (though I doubt that Burnley result did much to lower his stress levels).
Any wise words for the next generation of keen-but-green bridging pros?
“Talk less, listen more, never stop learning, and always ask for feedback, whether good or bad – otherwise, how else do you become better?”
Put that on a bumper sticker and parade it around Westminster.
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