10 Questions with... Gavin Diamond Head of Finance at Cheval

10 Questions with... Gavin Diamond Head of Finance at Cheval


1. Right then let’s get down to business... who do you fancy off the telly?

Difficult one... partly because I don’t watch that much TV, and I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you their names anyway! But from the big screen it would have to be the classic, natural beauties like Keira Knightly, Sandra Bullock...

2. OK, so when did you start working as Head of Finance at Cheval and where were you before that?

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and trained as a chartered accountant there for three years before moving to England when I was 27.

I joined Cheval in September 2007, I was friends with Mark Posniak who was the Marketing Director at the time, he knew I was looking for a new role and convinced me to join the Cheval ship! And it’s been almost three years now since I’ve been here.

I’ve been here through what’s probably been the most difficult time in the history of financial services. It’s been a huge learning curve and my skill set has expanded enormously as a result – which is very rewarding.

3. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

When I was very little I wanted to be a sports star, any sports star, which kind of sport didn’t matter, I just wanted to be the best! I grew up playing all different sports, as South Africans do, so that was always my goal. But then growing up, as with most people, I started to realise that my dream wasn’t so realistic! Financial services had always interested me... hence me becoming a chartered accountant, I did that as a way in to the industry, a springboard so to speak.


4. What would you be doing now if you weren’t at working in bridging?

I wouldn’t necessarily be in financial services. I do enjoy being involved in small businesses – where I feel I can help the business develop and direct it at a strategic level. That’s what I really like; I like helping things grow, making a difference, problem solving – I’m not interested in merely being a small cog in a large corporate machine.

5. What’s the best thing about your job?

I think there are a couple of things. Obviously working with the team here is immensely rewarding. When a business downsizes you are left with the people that will do whatever they can to make the company a success. Everybody here is pulling in the right direction to make our business as successful as it can possibly be. And because we’ve downsized I’m involved in a myriad of areas, not just the finance side, but marketing, underwriting, credit collection etc. Being immersed in all areas is fantastic as it enables you to fully appreciate and understand all business drivers.

6. The worst thing?

Frustration that you can’t do as much lending as you’d like to do. Not because of a lack of available funding to do transactions but because of the refinance market. You see deals that make perfect sense where, before the recession, you would have completed the loan easily, but now that mainstream mortgages are far more difficult to obtain, you just cannot lend the money unless you can have a reasonable level of certainty that the borrower has the means or ability to repay the bridging loan. Treating customers fairly is very important to us.

7. What trends have you noticed within the bridging industry over the last 12 months?

Over the last 12 months there’s been a steady increase in the number of good quality applications and loan completions; brokers have a far better understanding of the types of transactions that bridging lenders are able to get involved in, which saves time for everybody. The takeout of the majority of these transactions is through the sale of the security property or other properties.

We’re halfway through the Cheval Blue Skies Roadshow; a series of seminars designed to educate brokers on bridging finance and build new relationships to generate new business. So far the quality of brokers has been great.

8. What trends do you predict within the industry over the next 12 months?

More of the same really; I don’t see things getting any better and I don’t see things getting any worse. Until there’s a major increase in high street lending you’re not going to see a major change in bridging.

It is so much more difficult when mainstream lenders aren’t providing finance, there’s so much more assessment to do - a return to common-sense lending so to speak. In assessing a deal a far greater emphasis is placed on who the borrower is, rather than merely the security property and LTV. Putting a distressed asset on the market for sale is no good for either the lender or borrower in the current climate.

9. What’s your favourite film?

A Few Good Men. Jack Nicholson is just brilliant in it, he makes the film.

10. What’s your favourite book and why

I don’t tend to read too much fiction, I tend to read autobiographies. I recently read Richard Branson’s book which I really enjoyed. I like to see what goes behind the scene, what’s behind the public persona... When I was young I read more fiction but maybe now I’m a little more focussed!

I find reading about people and how they got to where they are fascinating. Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk To Freedom, was another incredible read. Growing up in South Africa, you were obviously fed a particular line...so reading his autobiography was a real eye-opener to some of the things that took place that nobody had any idea about....

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