Andrew Bloom of Masthaven Bridging Finance

Directly from university I joined KPMG and after qualifying as a chartered account I moved into Mergers & Acquisitions. From there I joined a merchant bank called Strand Hanson working in Venture Capital.

I have been involved in various forms of property finance for 15 years and bridging specifically since 2002.

After Strand Hanson I joined a property investment company that purchased a great number of properties each year and carried out a significant amount of bridging lending to property investors. In 2004 I became the Managing Director of Masthaven.

The property finance industry has always fascinated me with its innovative ideas and ability to think outside the box. Bridging epitomises this.  

Having said that, it must be noted that the actual route I took into bridging was quite unusual. My professional background was spent working as part of a principal investment team that used various forms of finance to leverage sizable property purchases.

But I decided to move backwards in the food chain and become a provider of finance to other principal investors. I preferred the idea of selling picks and shovels rather than doing the gold prospecting!

One of the difficulties inherent within bridging is ensuring clients obtain the funds they require within the time frame available. This is one of the main reasons why the bridging market exists, and Masthaven prides itself on its ability to meet tight deadlines.

The industry has nonetheless been through some highs and lows, the tough years between 2008 and 2010 particularly. Irrespective of size, every lender had to take some pain and each lender has had to make some hard decisions. Masthaven weathered the financial storm much better than our competitors but we still had some difficult days.

For example, Masthaven used to have a funding line from Kaupthing and I remember taking the call in October 2008 informing me that Kaupthing was just about to announce that it had entered into administration. The call rapidly ended when I asked what would happen to our funding line!

But the highs for me have to be the personal satisfaction I gain from seeing Masthaven and its staff grow and develop. This can only be achieved via a continued focus on an exceptionally high level of service to brokers and their customers.

Looking ahead, I foresee that the biggest change within the bridging industry will centre on regulation. It would also appear that within 18 – 24 months all second charge lending on a borrower’s principal residence will be regulated by the FSA. Therefore, an increased number of bridging companies either need to become regulated or exit this part of the market.

As a result of regulation over the past ten years, the bridging industry has increased its level of professionalism and is increasingly being viewed as a sensible and cost effective route for financing property transactions.

Bridging has filled the gaps that have been created by the withdrawal of the mainstream lenders. More bridging companies are beginning to put their toe into development finance and this is likely to increase over the coming years, however, the focus of the industry moving forward needs to be on transparency and openness.

When the banks regain lending confidence, bridging lending will need to evolve. The focus will be on providing finance to borrowers whose requirements fall outside the strict ‘tick box’ requirements of mainstream banks.

As for my professional future, I decided many years ago that my career lies within the property lending arena. This is what I know and what I enjoy.