‘Knowledge and relationships really are king’

By Laura Miller -

Liam Lawlor Octane Capital

Actress Jessica Alba, best known for kick ass roles in Fantastic Four, Sin City, and also 2007’s questionable Good Luck Chuck, doesn’t get much mention in the world of bridging finance. More’s the pity.

She is one of only six business leaders (as award-winning CEO of The Honest Company) followed on LinkedIn by Liam Lawlor, business development manager at lender Octane Capital. With Bill Gates among the other five, Lawlor clearly aims his sights for gurus high.

It is an ambition to learn from the best that he passes on as advice to anyone looking to enter the bridging sector.

“Ask questions, reach out to people in the industry with experience for guidance and always be open-minded to learn something new and adapt to change in the market,” he says, “in such a fast-moving market, there’s always a lot of change”.

Lawlor’s career trajectory certainly shows a willingness to adapt, and a preference for big names. In the early years he bounced from Britain’s best known wealth manager St James’s Place, to international giant HSBC, then on to Metro Bank, the first new highstreet lender to hit the UK for a century.

“I started out as a mortgage and protection adviser before moving into the intermediary market as a BDM for Metro Bank, shortly after it launched,” he says.

His professional turning point came a few years later when he met Mark Posniak, who at the time was at lender Dragonfly Property Finance (later rebranded as Octopus Property).

“I liked the way Mark and his team worked, and so moved to Dragonfly where my career in bridging began,” says Lawlor.

Testimony to the smallness of the bridging world – and the importance of picking the right boss –  Lawlor’s current home, Octane Capital, which launched in 2017, is headed up by the senior team from Dragonfly, including Posniak (managing director) and CEO Jonathan Samuels, who founded Dragonfly in 2009.

For Lawlor the switch to bridging required “a change of mindset and adapting”, he says. “The world of short-term finance is much more spontaneous and dynamic than the conventional term market”.

Building on the base of his previous experience in mortgages, he immersed himself in the new, faster paced world he found himself in.

“I threw myself into learning and went out of my way to understand the processes involved, the risks and more importantly the appetite and parameters of lending,” he says. It wasn’t just a thirst for learning, but a strategy to succeed.

“Our industry is built on the strength of relationships, and having a deep knowledge of what you do and how you can provide solutions helps build those relationships,” he says – adding, “in bridging, knowledge and relationships really are king”.

Relationships that are being tested right now. Asked what his biggest current challenge is, Lawlor says “borrowers taking out the wrong products or loan facilities”.

“It is a big issue right now. You have unfortunate situations where borrowers are not clear on how refurbishment facilities are funded and, as a result, are finding themselves with part completed developments, leaving them with no option but to sell the property as an exit.”

Navigating these snakes and ladders of the job are what he enjoys most though. In echoes of Glengarry Glen Ross’s rather infamous ABC – Always Be Closing – Lawlor says “completing deals and delivering results for my brokers and borrowers” are what get him out of bed in the morning.

“This role can be challenging, and highly stressful at times, but it’s always worth it when a deal completes.”