‘I am the happiest when I am serving, learning and growing’
By Tony Sanchez -
Offa Alternative Ethical finance is the first bridging finance provider in the UK real estate market to offer financial products designed in accordance with recognised universal Islamic and ethical financing principles.
Offa’s core executive management team have extensive experience in the real estate financing space. Between the team, they have over 50 years of real estate finance experience and consider themselves as industry experts.
We speak to CEO, Bilal Ahmed:
What is the best thing about being in the bridging finance business?
The bridging market is a dynamic and ever-changing environment.
I have spent almost two decades in property finance, from purchase and development to refurbishment and disposal.
I am passionate about property finance and am hands-on – always happy to don my hard hat and walk a site to assess the true investment potential for clients whenever necessary.
I have worked across student accommodation, residential and commercial developments and this has helped me develop a deep understanding of the needs of both brokers and clients.
In September 2019, I achieved a major ambition – launching Offa, with co founders Haris Akhtar and Tarek Kallel – which operates in accordance with recognised universal Islamic and ethical financing principles.
We have a £20m funding line provided by a UK based Islamic Bank, lending to all corners of the UK.
Shariah-compliant finance is now an established and trusted part of the mainstream UK financial services landscape, used by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
What keeps you focused?
My vision of where we want to be in five years – providing a range of flexible finance products to UK residents, expats and international clients based overseas.
Over the next 12 months, I will be working closely with the team to launch refurbishment bridge together with a repair to let a light refurbishment product, which will be a bridging facility initially and then move to a term loan, all done with one valuation and legal fees.
The broker channel is integral to our proposition and I am keen to speak to intermediaries who want to add Shariah-compliant bridging finance to their proposition.
There are many investors in the UK market who will relish the chance to take out short-term finance that is consistent with Islamic principles and brokers who can accommodate them will benefit from a strong new revenue channel with considerable long-term potential.
We lend to individuals, sole traders, partnerships, limited companies, LLPs as well as on and offshore SPVs. Procuration fees of up to 2% will be payable to introducers.
What qualities do you look for in your employees or colleagues?
Knowledge and willingness to learn are the really important qualities for me.
I also look for honesty and integrity, along with a positive attitude, ambition and the ability to think outside the box and problem solving.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
I am an eternal optimist and I believe this helps me strive for better outcomes and persue my goals and ambitions.
What did you want to be as a child?
Like many young lads, I wanted to be a footballer to play for Man United.
However, I realised I wasn’t cut out for this career and decided early on, that working in the property finance industry was the right choice for me.
What will be the greatest challenge facing the bridging finance industry in the coming months?
The bridging finance industry has been hit with Covid Restrictions, Brexit and many more hurdles, but continues to grow and adapt.
The number of lenders operating in the UK’s short-term finance market has grown enormously in recent years, but we have something different to offer being the only Shariah bridging provider.
The UK’s Muslim population is set to grow to 13m by 2050 from its current level of 3.4m and so we feel this is a high growth market with a long-term future.
Who or what makes you laugh?
I find joy in being around my family and they can always make me laugh as they are the people who know me best.
My children Dylan and Aaron and my wife Hawa are my honest critics. I am the happiest when I am serving, learning and growing – so I have something to contribute that is meaningful.
Do you dread Monday mornings?
No, I’m a workaholic so can’t wait to get started on the day’s challenges. I spend Monday mornings organising my diary for the week ahead and my team’s targets.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My attachment to my electronic devices – my phone is always in my hand and I struggle to switch off from work.
With whom would you most like to have dinner?
Warren Buffet is my number one! I would love to glean some wisdom from a renowned investor; get some tips on how to beat the markets; hear how a billionaire manages to stay so grounded and humble; and finally maybe learn some life lessons.
It would be great to have dinner with Anthony Robins too, as I have been a huge fan from an early age.
I would really appreciate some tips on how and where he gets his energy from and pick up some insights into why we do what we do.