Meet September’s Bridging Loan Diamonds
By Laura Miller -
What separates growth from stagnation is an outward looking mindset. It is the sentiment behind the ancient and still unreservedly true Greek proverb, “a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit”.
Bridging Loan Diamonds share a desire to turn any knowledge they have gained into wisdom, and pass that onto others, personally and professionally. It is what sets them apart, and makes them shine.
Introducing BLD’s latest examples of industry excellence, the Diamonds…
Naomi Little, Recruitment Manager, D&R Partners Recruitment
All of us had to overcome more than we expected in 2020, as the world, country by country, business by business, individual by individual, fought a very public battle with coronavirus. Amid the professional pressure to adapt though, some fought through very personal battles too.
Naomi Little joined first joined Boxtree Recruitment in July 2020 during the first lockdown, where she placed £1.1m in candidate salaries into the UK bridging and lending markets, despite being only 21 years old, before being headhunted herself into a promotion as senior recruitment consultant, and now recruitment manager, with D&R Partners.
Toni Dines, her former boss at Boxtree, says of Little, “she consistently delivered above and beyond her years of experience, with a love for finance recruitment which shone through daily in terms of passion and drive”.
While such progression and early success would be remarkable under any circumstances, Little achieved all this while coming to terms with and managing a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in November 2020.
“This was a very challenging, difficult time for her, but regardless of the troubling, testing and difficult times she has faced she continued to inspire others,” says Dines.
Little has become an advocate of mental health. During her time at Boxtree she made it her mission to ensure her clients offered a supportive workplace to her candidates.
“She truly is inspirational when she shares her stories with the industry,” says Dines.
Little’s wisdom belies her youth. Asked what one thing she would tell your younger self about getting started in the business, she says: “I would have put less pressure on myself to know what career I wanted to pursue, take time, make mistakes and don’t settle for anything you feel less than passionate about.” Likewise her own personal mantra – “Tough times don’t last; tough people do.”
It is a stance Little has had to live time and again, personally and professionally. Financial services has, admittedly, come on a lot since, say, the 1980s era of fast talking salesmen – and only men.
But let’s not kid ourselves there isn’t further to go, a fact Little knows first hand. “My integrity has been questioned, males are never frowned upon for building relationships and interacting with clients in the non-traditional ways.
There is no stigma surrounding men who “wine and dine” to win business or get ahead. But being a female who simply wants to build a relationship with others in the market is still questioned.
My offers to meet with financial services professionals have previously been misconstrued and sexualised,” she says.
And yet Little, like so many BLD Diamonds, is outward looking with a rare and expansive generosity. Now she is in a management position her approach to the role is to encourage growth in others, for example by changing how recruitment companies deal with questions from potential employers about previous salaries, long a bugbear of candidates but an issue about which they felt they had little recourse to do anything about.
The question can lock already underpaid groups, for example women, in an inescapable cycle of not being properly compensated that repeats from one employer to the next.
Little is unequivocal. “Stop asking candidates what their current salary is”. Candidates previous earnings “should not be a factor and I encourage candidates not to disclose this when interviewing”, she says.
Little is taking this attitude into her newly senior role, taking her inspiration from famed former General Electric manager Jack Welch no less, who said: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Lorenzo Satchell, Key Account Manager, Together
It is easy to make something more complex, as the saying goes, what’s hard is to make it simpler.
On a related note, if you can’t explain it, you don’t really know it. Lorenzo Satchell, key account manager at lender Together, has mastered both these things, according to two separate sources no less, while staying married for 22 years, maintaining prowess as a fitness inspiration, and being the “best dressed in bridging”. Is there anything this man can’t do? It‘s verging on annoying.
Finance has a way of explaining things that sucks the life and joy out of them. Satchell is described as having “excellent internal and external stakeholder management” which is “evident by brokers consistently commenting on how successful he is communicating complex deals with head office staff, solicitors and valuers”.
What that means is he manages to get things done while, or perhaps because, he talks to people like actual humans, an astonishingly rare combination in the modern corporate world.
Keeping clients happy comes with fairly immediate incentives. Taking the time and energy to help cultivate your profession by passing on hard won wisdom is a longer term investment few are so willing to make.
Yet Satchell is also a key mentor for new starters at Together, which he volunteered for as part of playing his part in the business and the industry.
The reason Satchell was nominated twice as a BLD Diamond is because whenever an opportunity arises to give back in some way, he grabs it with both hands, combining his ability to easily speak with not just to people, with a genuine desire to do so.
“One of Lorenzo’s greatest skills is his ability to train and educate brokers particularly those new to specialist lending,” says Sundeep Patel, director of sales at Together, “he has a knack of making the complex seem simple, is always the first to volunteer for presentations and broker events, his passion is evident by his work ethic and commitment to our broker panel”.
It is one thing putting yourself forward for something, it is quite another performing it well. But according to Mark Fry, managing director at broker CSC Loans, Satchell’s desire to ensure everyone he speaks to has a clear understanding of the Together portfolio of products translates into useful, practical, time well-spent.
“He regularly hosts bite-size zoom meetings to focus on a particular subject like income or valuations, and these meetings are far more beneficial than an hour long drawn out presentation that some other lenders prefer,” says Fry.
If CSC Loans needs some training at short notice, Satchell will always make himself available within 24 hours to assist, Fry adds: “He will ensure we have 100% understanding of the topic before closing down.
My overall feeling of Lorenzo is his total commitment and passion towards our industry.” Lucky indeed is the employer who has staff like Satchell (who has been with Together for 10 years) are able to serve as walking, talking billboards for their high standard of customer service and competence.
Outside of work these ethics extend into Satchell’s personal time. A fitness fanatic, he spends his spare time on all aspects of training, from weights, circuits, running, and boxing to CrossFit, and during the first lockdown he decided to run two marathons in a week, completing both Berlin and New York.
He also decided to post videos of his training sessions for people to stay healthy and fit during the lockdown for the well-being of staff and brokers (though it is not entirely clear whether they saw it that way). It’s not all testosterone fuelled reps though, thankfully – currently his favourite box set is The Crown, because who doesn’t love a period drama?
Jonathan Newman, Senior Partner, Brightstone Law
BLD Diamonds have the basics covered, nailing the day-to-day that’s a given, though not to underplay how hard that is to consistently achieve. But what sets Diamonds apart is they are always doing a bit extra, contributing to a bigger picture. That’s certainly the case with Jonathan Newman, senior partner, Brightstone Law.
“Jonathan isn’t just a member of the Association of Short Term Lenders executive committee,” says Alex Hammond, PR professional and director of the Mortgage Market Alliance, an industry lobby group, “he’s an incredibly proactive member and invests much of his time in generating new ideas and contributing to the association’s activities in promoting the interests of the bridging market”.
In the last year, Newman has worked very closely with ASTL CEO Vic Jannels to spearhead activity on behalf of the rest of the membership, writing a series of letters to HM Treasury and the FCA, and holding meetings with the Treasury, to discuss the impact of the enforcement moratorium on the short-term lending sector and the availability of finance for customers.
“Jonathan’s contribution to the ASTL, and this activity in particular, goes well beyond simply meeting his obligations,” says Hammond, “it points to his genuine commitment to doing the right thing for the industry and its customers”.
In our fast fashion world, commitment, like spending 30 years practising law at the same firm, as Newman has, can seem anachronistic.
As a student he came down to London for law school, intending to go back to Manchester, but ended up staying “because it was so much fun”.
He started training with a firm at the forefront of Consumer Credit Act lending and non-conforming lending. “We didn’t know it at the time, but we were at the start of everything we know as normal today.
It’s a horrible thought to think that nobody can have more experience in the industry than me!” says Newman, in a humblebrag we’ll let him off for.
The hard work has paid off. In the Hazelwoods/Lloyds Banking Group Financial Benchmarking Survey 2021 median practice fee income increased 1.6% – at Brightstone Law it was up 17.6% per equity partner.
In fact, the practice outperformed its peers in all six key indices used to benchmark solicitors’ practices, giving both staff and clients peace of mind the firm will be around for the long term.
Innovation is part of the firm’s success, pushed forward by Newman. Brightstone recently delivered a free online conference called Lending After Lockdown to educate all lenders in the sector – both clients and non-clients – with creative and forward-thinking content about the considerations their businesses must address in order to operate safe, successful lending after the pandemic.
For colleagues, during remote working Newman has taken an active role in organising monthly online events, and sending thoughtful gifts to keep everyone connected.
The firm has also launched a programme called Culture Club, which has its own independent budget to create an environment of greater pastoral care, promote equality and diversity and protect and promote the firm’s unique, and obviously successful, culture – which as everyone knows, eats strategy for breakfast.
For example, everybody was given a plant to mark mental health awareness week and the firm celebrated National Receptionists Day with cakes, and appreciation – everyone was asked to identify a quality in Brightstone’s receptionist to let her know how much she was valued.
“The Culture Club programme is a way of investing in our culture but also investing in our people, offering development opportunities for individuals to take a leadership role in driving the firm forward and making a tangible difference,” says Newman.
There it is again, the mentoring and futureproofing shared by so many of BLD’s Diamonds, setting them apart.
Alice Williams, Director, Pilot Fish
Alice Williams only entered the bridging sector in 2017 when she joined Pilot Fish as a property finance consultant – having been an entry-level intern at Handelsbanken just the year before – and now the economics graduate is director at the broking firm.
Her activity in the last year alone points to why and how she has progressed so far so fast; in the last 12 months she has completed her CeMAP qualification as well as all of the modules for her MSc in Real Estate Finance and Investment.
She is also on track to achieve her Chartered Surveyor status later this year.
But it would be incorrect to dismiss Williams as only booksmart. Becoming director in June 2020, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor bingo, plunged her into a baptism of fire where it was sink or swim.
Back then no one had any idea how long we’d be in the depths of lockdowns. Williams quickly realised the property community couldn’t and shouldn’t be left in stasis.
When her team could no longer attend regular mentoring events in person, she sought an alternative way to arm property investors and developers with knowledge on how to fund their projects.
The Pilot Fish Academy was launched in June 2020. It offers the first completely free of charge online finance training academy.
After a successful launch the Academy continues to attract subscriptions from both new and seasoned developers.
For internal progression, and to ensure her team are all striving for the same vision, Williams also heads up monthly strategy sessions, followed by a team social.
Last year, when that was tricky in the usual office-based way for obvious reasons, she sought out ways to use the time to contribute positively to the health and wellness of her colleagues.
To continue with in person meetings, Williams introduced walking team meetings, with a view to keeping the team fit, getting a bit of vital vitamin D from the sunshine, and helping to improve team morale and communication during a tough year.
Investment in her team has translated into a strength that has increased sales, and numerous accolades, notably winner of Peterborough’s Emerging Leader award.
Unbelievably there is more. While many of us, without reproach, spent last year just trying to get by, Williams was building.
She helped deliver the online Property Conference, the first of its kind, in May 2020. Such was the response from leading figures in the property industry that the originally planned 12-hour conference was extended to 36 hours to accommodate all that wanted to take part.
The conference went on to raise £18,000 for NHS Charities Together.
Going down this impressive list of achievements you may be forgiven for thinking Williams exists in a state of near-constant self-confidence.
How else could she trip into a field with virtually no prior experience and not only survive but thrive, delivering both results and innovations?
The answer, as with so many adventurers, is not that she wasn’t scared, but that she did it anyway: “Entering a hugely male dominated industry, as a young female, was at times intimidating,” she admits, “my role regularly involves presenting to audiences of 100 plus people, and it took time and a lot of hard work to prove my capabilities in the sector and to gain the trust and respect of audiences and peers”. Clearly, she has done just that.
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