Paresh Raja

An interview with Paresh Raja: On 'dangerous' trends in the bridging sector and why adapting to changing market conditions is key

In an interview with Bridging & Commercial, Paresh Raja, CEO at Market Financial Solutions (pictured above), discusses recruitment in the bridging industry, expansion plans and what he considers will be the biggest challenge in the market this year.

You’ve expanded your BDM team this year. How important have these appointments been in increasing your reach in the market?

At MFS, we boast a number of incredibly strong funding lines, including a new one that we secured towards the start of 2019 with a global investment bank. With capital ready to deploy, it’s been important over the past 12 months to grow our team, which has included hiring new underwriters and BDMs — the latter ensures we’re constantly speaking to brokers and private clients, assessing market demand and adjusting our services accordingly. For example, this year we have strengthened our services in the Midlands, while also lowering our minimum loan amount to £100,000. These decisions came as a result of an increasing number of enquiries requesting our services, along with the conversations our BDMs were having with prospective borrowers on a daily basis. Together, this has ensured we’ve been able to improve our offering and grow our loan book impressively in 2019.   

How have you been able to expand the team at a time of expected consolidation in the bridging market?

MFS has been around for over a decade, and as an established lender we constantly have to respond to market trends and evolve with the times. While consolidation might be on the agenda of some lenders, we focus on our long-term vision and ensure we’re constantly moving forward. This is something I firmly stand by, which is why I have remained committed to expanding the MFS team.

You’ve recruited your two latest BDMs from inside the industry. Do you think it’s vital to recruit people with bridging experience?

When it comes to recruitment, I look at what each person can bring to the MFS team. This goes beyond their experience in the bridging industry — what we seek are people who understand the property market, people who are creative thinkers and readily embrace challenges with the utmost attention to detail. What’s more, we pride ourselves on having a friendly team and delivering an exceptional level of customer service, which means an employee’s personal skills are as important as their technical ones. As a result, I’m proud to say MFS currently boasts a team with some of the best and brightest minds the bridging industry has to offer.  

Your recent research found that property investors have remained undeterred by Brexit. Is this a trend you’ve noticed at MFS?

Despite a lot of scaremongering and some doom and gloom predictions, I think it’s important we don’t allow Brexit to overshadow the long-term performance of property as an asset class. History has shown that in times of transition and change, real estate is able to hold or increase its value. This same mindset still very much exists today, and that no doubt explains why investors are rallying to property. At MFS, we’re still seeing high levels of demand for property investment opportunities among both domestic and international buyers. 

What advice would you give to those investors who may be worried about uncertainty?

Uncertainty is something all investors dislike, but my advice has always remained the same: have a long-term view and plan accordingly. Peaks and troughs are inevitable in any financial market, but never let this cloud your overall judgement. And, of course, don’t hesitate to call on professionals for advice and insight.  

What do you expect will be the biggest challenge for the bridging market this year?

Leaving the ‘B’ word to one side, a big challenge will be ensuring bridging products remain innovative and adaptable to changing market conditions. There’s been an influx of new lenders entering the market over recent years, which has provided good competition and ensured lenders cannot rest on their laurels. Bridging firms must adapt according to what the borrowers and brokers need — having the right attitude and structure to allow for this to happen will be an obstacle for many lenders.

If you could change one thing about the bridging industry, what would it be?

There are two dangerous trends in the bridging sector right now. One is that lenders are tempting clients through the doors with rates and offers that, in reality, are not available to 90% of borrowers. The second is that lenders are pulling out of deals at advanced stages — this is something we’re hearing from brokers more and more frequently. At MFS, we remain committed to seeing all our deals through, while also being transparent with our rates. So, if there was one thing I could change in the industry, I’d like to see more honest conduct across the market to save bridging lenders, as a whole, from getting a bad reputation.

What is the most interesting case MFS has dealt with?

As specialists in complex cases, we are always inundated with inquiries from clients most lenders would turn away. One personal highlight was the deployment of a £4.5m bridging loan in just four days, which required a lot of moving parts to be initiated very quickly. Bridging is all about speed, so cases where we can deliver a multi-million-pound loan in a matter of days are always very pleasing.

If you weren’t in the lending business, what would you be doing?

I have been in the finance industry for so long that it’s hard to think what an alternative reality could look like… However, I would have enjoyed being a pilot, but as a fan of many sports, I’d like to think it would involve that — perhaps being on the board at Liverpool FC!

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