City Finance Brokers

An interview with Mark Horne: 'Lenders need to get more radical, diverse and unique to set them apart from their competitors'




In an interview with Bridging & Commercial, Mark Horne, managing director at City Finance Brokers (pictured above), talks about the growth of the firm and opportunities in the bridging market.

You’ve revealed ambitions to triple the size of your business. Does the political and economic environment not deter you from growing?

Our ambition is to triple in size by 2022 through a robust and scalable growth model which will hedge us against political and economic uncertainty. The key for us is being able to scale our proposition which reduces risk. We offer our brokers a plug-and-play format, with all overheads paid for, and true full access to the whole of the market, both regulated and non-regulated, without any corporate shackling. We are recruiting aggressively and want to hear from talented brokers who want to join the City Finance Brokers family.

Wales and the South West are your most recent areas of expansion. Do you believe that regional growth is important? Which area(s) are you targeting next?

We identified Wales and the South West as areas prime for property growth and we have seen a great deal of demand for specialist finance products in [those regions]. It made sense for us to have a presence ‘on the ground’ in the area as a result. Through the City Finance Brokers network, all our regional brokers will be able to benefit from HQ’s extensive contact database, and experience of the broader team to allow them to facilitate deals typically outside of the scope of a local broker, which will in turn unlock new business opportunities in the regions. By way of an example, we are currently working on a £50m GDV scheme comprising 300-plus units in Devon that is being funded by a specialist international bank with offices in the City. 

For now, our focus is on building our Wales and west team and we are recruiting heavily at the moment. We have committed to regional growth and will be led by the demand as we see it.

Are lenders missing a trick in any areas of the bridging industry?

Having been in the industry for decades, I raise my hat to the innovators who have helped the bridging market to evolve into the sector we know today. However, there is always room for improvement. Due to the sheer number of bridging lenders available, we are often inundated with requests to visit our office, only to then be given the same lending criteria and pricing that the next lender offers, which doesn’t set them apart. Lenders need to get more radical, diverse and unique to set them apart from their competitors.

Perhaps the biggest bugbear for many brokers is valuations and there is definitely scope to streamline the valuations process. Maybe bridging lenders, alongside their asset managers, should consider employing an in-house RICS surveyor who vets the security before giving the green light to proceed. This would speed up the process for all involved.

What are your biggest concerns for the bridging market this year?

It’s perhaps only a matter of time before the FCA expands regulation in the bridging sector from beyond the scope of consumer credit — the additional red tape will surely result in additional costs that need to be carried over to the borrower and, no doubt, a slower application process, too. An idea might be for lenders to consider signing up to a charter or code of conduct that commits them to meeting certain principles and guidelines, in much the same way as the Equity Release Council and indeed the FCA’s core principles. One such principle could clarify the hot topic of excessive default fees.

How did you get into the industry?

Ever since I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to work in finance. I cut my teeth in insurance before settling at a City IFA wealth manager that was eventually purchased by Arbuthnot Private Bank. By my late 20s, I finally reached my goal and became a fully fledged financial adviser. In 2000, I made the leap to specialise in mortgages and joined Savills Private Finance and then in 2008 I opened a specialist broker in the City called Asset-Cap and, most recently, City Finance Brokers.    

If you didn’t work in finance, what would you be doing?

I love my music and worked as a professional DJ for a number of years. Maybe I could have been the next Calvin Harris?

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