James Bloom

A combination of technology, flexibility and speed helped the bridging industry to navigate a treacherous year

It almost goes without saying that 2020 has been an immensely challenging year, but it has also been one in which I think we can be proud of what we have achieved in the bridging industry.

In the space of a few short months, we progressed from an unprecedented lockdown of the UK economy to delivering the highest ever recorded level of bridging applications in a quarter. This is quite some achievement, and it was only made possible by the ingenuity and tenacity of intermediaries and lenders working in the sector. 

So, how did bridging lenders innovate in response to Covid?

The first improvement had to be technology. With social distancing and people required to work from home, businesses had to adapt quickly and make use of the tools around them to continue operating. At Alternative Bridging Corporation, we introduced new processes and technology to ensure that we could continue to provide new lending throughout the pandemic. We made use of video link technology on Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp to carry out face-to-face conversations with brokers and clients, and we adapted our processes to ensure we could continue to function efficiently and effectively.

Ensuring business continuity was the first step. It was then important to respond to the changing demands of customers. Bridging, by its nature, is most useful during periods of uncertainty, as it provides a financial bridge to a time when greater certainty can be secured. It was clear that there was high demand from clients and that they wanted access to funding that offered both flexibility and certainty. At Alternative Bridging, we responded to this by revamping and relaunching our Alternative overdraft product, which delivers a flexible loan facility, enabling borrowers the opportunity to draw, repay or reduce funds to match their needs. This is the sort of product that will enable clients the flexibility to improve their situation or make the most of an opportunity in a rapidly changing environment.

Towards the end of the year, it was emerging that speed — or rather the lack of it — was proving a problem for many customers who were being held up in long delays with term lenders, while average times for the completion of bridging loans were also stretching out. As a result, another innovation in response to the changing market, was a commitment to keeping things simple and delivering on the fundamental principles of bridging lending. In an environment where the average completion time for a bridging loan has reportedly extended, it was still possible to deliver completions in as little as four days, as we demonstrated with a refurbishment loan that was advanced on a property in north London in November.

A combination of technology, flexibility and speed helped the bridging industry to navigate a treacherous year in 2020 and come out on the front foot. As we move into 2021, with a vaccine already beginning to be rolled out, we are in a good position to continue the recovery. In order to do this, we must continue to innovate, and I have every confidence that we will.

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