In an interview with Bridging & Commercial, Will Aylmer, partner at Castlehaven Finance (pictured above), discusses the company’s ambitions following the funding and trends in the Irish bridging market.
You’ve just secured backing from Avenue Capital Group. What are the company’s ambitions in the lending market as a result of this?
Thanks to our new partnership with Avenue Capital Group, we are targeting to lend €500m annually for development in Ireland over the next four years. Working with Avenue also gives us the ability to focus on expanding our offering to include commercial lending throughout Ireland. Another area of interest for us is the private rented sector (PRS), which offers substantial development and lending opportunities. We’d like to grow our business in the regions of Ireland. It’s our goal to become the go-to lender outside of Dublin as well working with developers in places such as Cork, Galway and Limerick.
You’ve said you’ll now provide more funding for commercial projects. What type of assets are you interested in funding and why?
As we expand into commercial development lending, we will look to fund projects across the spectrum. These opportunities could include hotels, offices, retail, warehousing and more. This country is experiencing rapid growth in tourism and other trades. This necessitates more hotels and better retail. As the tech hub of Europe, office space in Ireland is also in extremely high demand. At Castlehaven Finance, we are primarily development lenders, preferring to focus on projects with a clear exit plan. While pre-agreed sales are great as a lender, we are also happy for our clients to refinance at the end of a development — and this will probably be the case for many commercial projects we fund.
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Have you seen an increasing amount of demand for lending in the Irish market in recent years?
The demand for lending in the Irish market continues to grow exponentially. Since 2014, Castlehaven Finance has expanded year-on-year. We’ve gone from a team of three to a team of 15. We’ve worked with more than 70 clients and lent more than €603m (approximately £541m) for development in Ireland. One of the reasons why we are able to continue on this upward trajectory is the intense demand for housing. The Irish population needs houses and the supply has yet to meet the demand. Additionally, there is more land available today than there was even five years ago. Property that was previously tied-up is now becoming available for development.
What are your biggest concerns for the bridging market this year?
Our biggest concern for the bridging market in this country is the knock-on effect that Brexit might have in Ireland. Brexit is already creating uncertainty here, and should it go through, the potential negative impact on trade will ultimately have repercussions on both the residential and commercial property sectors.
How did you get into the industry?
Originally, I worked as a development manager in Ireland. When the economic recession hit, I left my job to set up a brokerage in London. There, myself and my business partner Clark McCann began structuring finance for development in London and the UK. Slowly, but surely, the Irish market began to improve. We began to suspect that there was a gap in the market back home. In 2014, Clark and I moved back to Dublin full time and started Castlehaven Finance, offering development finance to builders who were finally back to work in Ireland.
If you didn’t work in finance, what would you be doing?
If I didn’t work in finance, I would probably still be working in the development industry. I can see the appeal of working as a developer, particularly in the residential space. I’ve always had an interest in seeing plans come to fruition — an end product presented after months and even years of hard work. I like problem-solving and finding creative solutions and I feel this definitely fits into a career in development.