The Five Minute Interview with Karen Bennett, Head of Sales and Marketing, Commercial Mortgages, Shawbrook Bank


Karen Bennett

Shawbrook is a specialist savings and lending bank that offers a straightforward, no-nonsense alternative to the high street.  In August 2012 Shawbrook announced it had broken even less than a year since it launched.

We speak to Head of Sales and Marketing, Commercial Mortgages, Karen Bennett:

What is the best thing about being in the bridging finance business?

For me it’s always been about the buzz and the excitement of the industry.

A lot of our work is undertaken with experienced property investors and we realise that they often require a quick turnaround on decisions, due to the time sensitive nature of the deals they are working on.

We’re able to turn around our decisions quickly and that’s such a great feeling when we deliver for our brokers.

What keeps you focused?

The constant need to improve on what myself and the company does.  I’m the type of person who always wants to do something that little bit better than I did it yesterday, and this is the same in a personal and professional context.

I’m always looking to see where Shawbrook’s commercial lending team can improve or where we can make small changes to benefit our brokers.

What qualities do you look for in your employees or colleagues?

I’m exceptionally passionate about my role here at Shawbrook and I always look for passion in others.

I want everyone to take great pride in the work we do and offer a personal service to our network of brokers.

I have a real drive to be the very best I can be, and I want my colleagues to likewise, which I know they do.  Loyalty and integrity are also really important to me.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Being a sales person, I’m always optimistic. I’m always focused on finding solutions for and looking at the positives in what can often be difficult or challenging situations.

What did you want to be as a child?

I’ve always wanted to work in business.  I think initially this was more down to looking the part in a sharp suit! I ended up doing a GNVQ in finance at school and found my feet working for a mortgage lender.  Needless to say, I’ve never looked back.

What will be the greatest challenge facing the bridging finance industry in the coming months?

Transparency is a key challenge that the bridging market continually faces.  The lenders need to take accountability for ensuring all their costs and fees are clear and transparent to allow the brokers to make an informed decision when recommending a lender to their client.

I also feel the industry needs to be mindful of volume incentive plans.  The MMR clearly highlighted that lenders should not be incentivising brokers financially to generate larger volumes and the brokers need to ensure that they can justify the reasons for recommending a lender and ensuring this isn’t linked to any kind of volume override.

If these schemes continue it’s only going to strengthen the likelihood of all bridging becoming regulated.

Who or what makes you laugh?

I’ve got quite a dry sense of humour and absolutely love the stand-up comedian Micky Flanagan.  I’m also a really big fan of ‘Have I Got News For You’.

The commercial lending team makes me laugh too, and there’s always some joke or funny anecdote doing the rounds.

Shawbrook is a great place to work with a great feeling within the commercial team.  That’s so important as if anyone needs a lift there’s a great supportive structure in place.

Do you dread Monday mornings?

Not at all. I sometimes work on a Sunday night because I can’t wait for Monday morning!

I know it sounds cheesy but I genuinely love what I do and what the business stands for. You’re a part of something at Shawbrook, and can make a personal difference to how the business operates.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to be a bit more patient at times.  I always work at such a fast pace and I am impatient when others don’t.

It would be nice to slow down sometimes, and enjoy the now, but my marriage vows included my addiction to my blackberry so I wouldn’t be me if I did!

With whom would you most like to have dinner?

Sir Ranulph Fiennes as his determination astounds me. Nelson Mandela for his inspirational nature and selflessness.  And finally Coco Chanel.  What woman doesn’t love shoes and handbags?