Mark Sismey-Durrant

An interview with Mark Sismey-Durrant: Poor lending practices to gain short-term market share do the wider industry 'no favours at all'

In an interview with Bridging & Commercial, Mark Sismey-Durrant, non-executive chairman at Oblix Capital (pictured above), discusses how the specialist finance industry has changed, the expansion of lending outside of London and why understanding risk appetite is key.

How has the specialist lending sector developed over the years and what’s been the most significant change compared with 10 or 20 years ago? 

The specialist lending market has seen some major structural changes over recent years. Many of the same people operate in the industry, but they now work for other organisations. For lenders in this market the persistent low level of interest rates (supported by quantitative easing) has made conditions good for borrowers, but it is highly competitive for lenders. Crucially, the market has developed innovative ways to keep evolving and growing. We have not had a recession since the 2008 crisis — that has meant credit conditions have generally been benign. Funding models have shifted away from structured finance through securitisation and towards retail deposits. Now with Brexit moving forward, I expect to see some good opportunities developing in the market.

Oblix Capital has some ambitious growth plans. What do you intend to bring to the table that will further enhance these plans? 

One of the things that attracted me to Oblix was the broad combination of expertise and experience it already has in its team, and its ambitious growth plans. I hope that by bringing additional insights from other parts of the finance industry, I’ll be able to help it to maximise the potential of the whole Oblix team, and this should open additional routes to success.

Do you feel enough specialist lenders have a big enough focus on other areas of the UK outside of London? 

It’s true that at the beginning of the last decade, some lenders had a distinct focus on London, but most reputable lenders now provide national rather than London-focused coverage, which means there is now good representation and competition nationwide. The UK offers a diverse and significant market in the regions and we are keen to be part of these markets.

What specific criteria should a specialist lender never disregard when arranging a deal? 

The key criteria are a full assessment of the risks involved in each deal, and a risk appetite that is understood by all involved in making that deal work. Poor lending practices to gain short-term market share do the borrower, lender and the wider industry no favours at all.

How did you get into the industry? 

I have been in the banking industry throughout my career and, while CEO at Sun Bank, we developed the concept of complex prime lending on mortgages and entered the buy-to-let market while it was in its infancy. These specialist skills were then further developed as CEO at Heritable Bank and Hampshire Trust Bank.

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

I love property — I would have become a property developer. I am a practical person at home and have renovated several houses in my time.


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    Tom Tailby

    Mark, it would be interesting for you to outline what poor lending practices you are referring to. The article is not specific in this regard.

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