In an interview with Bridging & Commercial, Claire discusses how she will utilise her experience at the P2P lender and the need for more female representation in the industry.
You’ve joined Relendex with over 10 years of underwriting experience. How will you incorporate your experience into the underwriting process at Relendex?
Relendex has been successfully funding bridging and development loans through the platform since 2013. The next phase of its growth plans is looking to streamline its processes from loan origination through to recovery. My previous roles have covered not only underwriting but operational aspects, including processing, documentation, funding and other aspects. My comprehensive experience gives me the means to look at the process from all angles to propose changes that will ultimately help the business to meet its goals.
What will you be responsible for as the new head of lending operations?
My initial role is to look at streamlining the process to allow the company to grow and increase business volumes. I will be working closely with the sales and underwriting teams as well as other support functions to ensure the process is as efficient as it can be and that the right resources and experience is deployed in the right areas to enable the company to achieve the growth it has targeted.
How does Relendex currently implement tech into its processes? Are you bringing in anything new to speed up processes?
Relendex is currently undertaking a rebranding exercise to upgrade the platform, which will include up-to-date technology and functionality. In addition to this, it is looking to introduce a CRM system to better manage loans from enquiry stage to completion and beyond. From an underwriting perspective, the introduction of the system will take away a lot of manual tasks and minimise the risk of error, ultimately speeding up the process. My proposed changes will further add to this and make the operation as smooth as possible.
While the bridging and development lending arena will always need that human element and should not be fully automated, there are definite ways in which technology can assist and give a better outcome for all parties.
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What will be the biggest challenge for the bridging market this year?
It goes without saying that the 'B' word is and will continue to have an impact on the market until we know the outcome. Leaving that aside, there is an increasing number of new lenders starting up and the challenge for them will be finding their own niche in order to compete with the existing lenders. Competition is good and healthy, but it is no longer just about who gives the best rate. New entrants, as well as existing lenders, are having to be innovative in their offerings to set themselves apart and this will continue to be a challenge.
In the P2P sphere, the new rules announced by the FCA in June seeking to avoid a repeat of the Lendy collapse will have an impact. While the more seasoned lenders, Relendex included, are welcoming the changes, they may prove more challenging for others.
If you could change one thing about the bridging industry, what would it be?
It would be to increase the number of women in the industry, particularly at a senior level, an issue that is getting a lot of attention recently with the great work being done to promote the Women in Finance Charter.
Linked to this, I would like to see more firms review their policies in respect of flexible working arrangements for both men and women to put greater importance on a good work-life balance. It is hard to achieve this in a bridging environment where speed is of the essence, but it is up to companies to think laterally on how this could be achieved while still offering that flexibility to its employees and retaining and attracting talented individuals.
These are key areas that the senior management team at Relendex is keen to promote and was one of the things that attracted me to join the company.
How did you get into the industry?
My family has always had an interest in property, so I was exposed to it from an early age. During my time at university, I did a placement year where I worked for a property investment company run by Andrew Bloom. I finished my degree and worked for another property investment company before leaving to join a developer. Unfortunately, that was in the depths of the credit crunch and he was doing very little in the way of developing, so I started looking for something new. At this time, Andrew was successfully running Masthaven and was looking for an underwriter, so I joined the company and built my experience from there.
If you didn’t work in finance, what would you be doing?
I would be a property lawyer. I am a detail person — a key quality, I believe, in a successful underwriter — and thoroughly enjoy getting into the detail of a legal transaction with its title issues, lease complexities, covenant problems, overage clauses and so on. If I wasn't doing that, then I would have a cake shop and bake cakes all day!