Mehran Radfar

An interview with Mehran Radfar: As a country, I hope we all find 'better ways of working'

In an exclusive interview with Bridging & Commercial, Mehran Radfar, COO at Phoebus Software Limited (PSL), hoped that, as a result of Covid-19, we could all find better ways of working, on a productivity and personal level.

Mehran (pictured above) joined PSL in April to focus on driving change and delivering operational excellence.

Prior to joining PSL, Mehran spent 35 years at Unisys, and has delivered implementations with some of the UK’s largest banks and building societies, driving technological change.

B&C caught up with Mehran to discuss how technology is supporting the specialist finance market during the pandemic, and his plans for innovation within our sector.

What do you think the bridging and commercial industry is lacking right now in terms of innovation?

I’m not sure it is fair to say that either sector lacks innovation — these lenders are hugely innovative and entrepreneurial much of the time and, we find, are always trying to bring new ideas to the market to gain competitive edge, but also to meet changing market needs. 

Fundamentally, the way you deal with bridging, development finance, and commercial cases, can be very different to mainstream residential lending, but there are still borrowers to deal with and similar processes that need to be undertaken when originating and servicing these types of loans; underwriting, valuations, fund release and areas, such as arrears management, are all required. It’s just that the complexity of some of the deal types means that you cannot rely on automated routines as you can for many residential mortgages. 

Phoebus has been developed to offer specific modules to deal with areas such as development finance and commercial lending, for example, including sub-participation and syndication requirements of some of the funding elements required. We don’t just rely on shoe-horned residential modules to try to manage these lender products, we have specific modules to allow specialists to process and administer cases in a specialist way.  

What experience will you bring from your previous roles into this new position at Phoebus?

Having worked in the IT industry — specifically in the financial services sector — in the UK and Ireland for so many years, [and] in a variety of roles, I believe I bring extensive system integration and delivery experience and expertise, as well as industry knowledge and acumen. This, I believe, enables me to provide the bridge between sales and delivery to drive efficiencies for our clients and ourselves. I have led the transformation of a similar business in this space with fantastic results and I expect to be able to replicate that at PSL.   

What are your plans for innovating the bridging and commercial sectors?

This is an interesting question. Our strategy is about utilising the existing proven Phoebus solution and digitising it as much as possible to the needs of both the broader market and our clients and new business prospects. 

A main area of focus has been around APIs and the ability for Phoebus to use the information available from multiple sources to enhance both the onboarding and borrower and user journeys as much as possible. For example, currently we have APIs that allow a seamless transfer of a case from an originations platform to the Phoebus servicing solution, meaning that, as a business, you do not have to take our full end-to-end solution. You can choose what you see as ‘best-of-breed’ originations integrated with our servicing capability. This doesn’t just apply to bridging, development finance and commercial lending, this of course is available to any Phoebus client to process any product type. We have just launched a borrower self-service portal that should take [the] pressure off of many clients’ call centres, at a time that is clearly difficult for all.     

What is your opinion of the bridging and commercial industry embracing technology more at the moment, as a result of the Covid-19 crisis?

Undoubtedly, all lenders are looking at ways to continue doing business at this difficult time. We are all undertaking face-to-face meetings via multiple VC channels, and this is proving very productive — it’s a way of still giving that personal touch in a time of social distancing. Of course, you can record these for future reference, if you need to, which helps if you are regulated and want an audit capability. Policy movement in terms of desktop valuations has been interesting, but some of the deals in the bridging and commercial sectors just won’t lean to mass reliance on these capabilities.

Remote working has been an interesting challenge for some and, at PSL, we have offered our IT support desk out to clients that require any assistance re connectivity etc. But, I do think that once we’re through this situation, ways of working will be analysed in general and I would hope that that, as a country, in multiple sectors, we all find better ways of working, on a productivity and personal level.  

How did you get into the industry?

I joined Burroughs in 1985, which later became Unisys, as a consultant in the financial services sector. I then moved to a project manager role, again in financial services. My first involvement with the retail banking sector, particularly mortgages, was when I managed the implementation of a new mortgage platform for NatWest Home Loans. After that, I remained heavily involved in financial services working with many banks and building societies in the UK, driving major technological change and system replacement and/or integrations.      

If you weren’t working in finance, what would you be doing?

That is a difficult question. Having worked for so long in this sector it is hard to think what else I would be doing. Having said that, I am fascinated by historic building and architecture. So, perhaps, if I was not in IT and finance, I would have liked to be an architect, in a second life.   

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