Yasmeen Dufils: My route into underwriting? A risk of course


Yasmeen Dufils Fiduciam

A quick glance at Yasmeen Dufils’s CV points to a woman who enjoys learning new things, and who can adapt to a changing environment – two traits any lender would want on hand in its underwriting department.

Since 2018 she has been fulfilling that role at Fiduciam, where she is senior underwriter associate for real estate finance, primarily in the Irish market. But her experience criss-crosses the globe, from schools in Madagascar and Senegal, to the universities of Essex, Toulouse, and Leiden, in the Netherlands.

Dufils’s initial plan – having obtained a dual-degree in French and English Law, completed her Master of Laws in European and International Business Law, and worked as a research assistant – was to apply all her international experience to a quiet life in legal academia.

So how did she end up in the slightly less than serene world of bridging? “A little bit by chance!” she admits.

“While academia is important for gaining a deeper understanding of complex subjects, it can sometimes feel disconnected from the practical applications and real-world implications of these concepts,” she says.

It happened like this.

Dufils was working in research for a global listed American company in the Netherlands when in September 2018 an opportunity came up to join Fiduciam, then a plunky start-up in London looking for a French paralegal.

It was a leap of faith – an inherently high risk move some underwriters might calculate – but Dufils felt it would make better use of her degree and capabilities.

She recalls: “I saw this as a great chance to challenge myself and try something new. Looking back, I’m grateful for that opportunity and for taking the risk.”

Bridging lending takes pride in welcoming peers from a wide variety of backgrounds and former careers. But the jargon can be jarring for newcomers.

Although Dufils was familiar with the English legal system, she did not have any background in finance and real estate financing. Her main barrier was “definitely the lack of industry experience”, she says.

“This can make it difficult to understand the market and to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed,” she remembered.

Persistence, hard work, and a willingness to continuously learn and adapt to changes in the industry, were the tools she used to vault the hurdles she came across.

These have also been her go-to skills to handle underwriting in a volatile property market since 2020.

She says: “It is always difficult to balance risk and reward in the lending process, profitable for the lender while also being sustainable for the borrower, but the past few years have been a roller coaster.”

“The key is a combination of hard work and a willingness to continuously adapt and evolve in response to changing market conditions,” she adds.

Riding that rollercoaster is, it turns out, Dufils’s favourite part of the job. She enjoys working on a diverse range of projects, and feels “lucky to be surrounded by dynamic and brilliant people”.

Fiduciam works in a number of European jurisdictions, including Spain, France, Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

Dufils’s work can involve working across multiple jurisdictions each with its own unique set of laws and regulations.

Winding the way through is not for the fainthearted, but for Dufils it is the ideal environment.

She says: “I find it extremely challenging and rewarding to navigate whilst finding solutions that work within the constraints of each jurisdiction. It’s a constant learning experience and one I find incredibly fulfilling.”

From someone who feels she made the right risk-reward trade off to get into her current position, what advice would Dufils give someone considering a move into bridging?

“There is no traditional way to enter the industry,” she says.

“It is constantly evolving and new opportunities for entry are emerging all the time, shaped by new technologies, changing consumer preferences, and shifts in the global economy.”

Aware of how her leap from research to real-time decision-making created a steep learning curve, Dufils is also a big advocate of work experience, at any level. “It will provide you with hands-on knowledge that a degree or studies won’t be able to.”

Be open to opportunities and embrace change, she advises, and “you’ll be well-positioned to succeed, regardless of the traditional or non-traditional path you take to enter the industry”.

For Dufils, taking that alternative fork in the road towards bridging finance almost five years ago was her best risk analysis so far.

“I’ve learned so much and have been able to grow and develop my skills in ways I never thought possible,” she says.

“It’s been a fantastic experience, and I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities if I hadn’t been open to trying something new.”