10 Questions with... Sidney Cohen, Bridging Finance Expert

10 Questions with... Sidney Cohen, Bridging Finance Expert



1. Right, so most importantly, who do you fancy off the telly?

The newsreader Mary Nightingale – I’ve fancied her for years. But I don’t think it’s all one sided. You know when you visit galleries and there’s a portrait on the wall and the person in the portrait follows you with their eyes across the room? Well that’s what happens with Mary sometimes, I leave the room and I feel her eyes following me...

2. OK...When did you start working in bridging finance and what were you doing before? 

I’ve worked full time in bridging since 1998, which was when I joined Cheval. They were very small at the time, barely writing one loan a month, but they asked me to come on board as director of marketing. I agreed, but only on condition they would let me write the lending schemes. I stayed there until 2005.

After that I moved to Affirmative Finance, I liked the sound of something new, I liked what they were doing there. Now I’m a consultant, but I mainly work with Masthaven. To me they are the most ethical company and the most straight forward. With them, the deal is the deal, even if it changes and they stand to make less money from it, they honour the application, they will fund it. 

Before that I was a consultant at Southern Pacific and before that – when I very first started out – I ran my brokerage doing finance broking, second mortgage broking. At the time there weren’t any bridging products available as such, just odd bods here and there lending their money. It was only after 1998 that proper products with rigid requirements came about; pre 1998 there was no real marketplace...

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

When I was little I wanted to be an athlete, I had no idea what financial services were. When I was a teenager I remember someone mentioning a second mortgage and me thinking what the heck is that?! I wanted to be an athlete but unfortunately I was useless at sport. I never won a race, couldn’t get into a cricket team, couldn’t get into the football team. I went to a mixed school as well, so sport afternoons should have been great as you got to go out with the girls...

4. What would you be doing now if you weren’t working in financial services?

That’s very difficult to say because I blundered into financial services very early on in life... I’ve never thought about doing anything else. But, and this might sound strange coming from someone in my industry, but I’d like to do something that helps people, that’s useful to the community.

B&C: You don’t feel you’re helping people now then?

Financial services are vital to the country. People need to borrow money, it may not taste very nice but they need to swallow it sometimes to get better. It’s the same thing when you see a doctor, the medic in might not taste great but you need it to cure the problem.

B&C: Do you find it rewarding?

Rewarding? Yes. I can look back now and think that I’ve helped people...

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

The best is the people I get to meet and the things I can do for my fellows in the industry. There are some utter rogues in this industry but there are some really nice people too – there’s some camaraderie, if you can call it that!

The nicest people I met were the directors at Southern Pacific Mortgage Lender: Bill Cherry, Stuart Aitkin, John Prust and Angela Davis. They were charming people and a real pleasure to work with as a group, the most charming people in senior positions I’ve ever worked with in fact.

The worst thing about my job is phoning up an introducer and telling him/her that the deal will be declined and can’t be funded. I always like to put it to people in the gentlest, most tactful way to soften the blow, but it’s always terrible when they think they’ve got a perfect application and you have to turn it down...

6. What trends have you noticed within the bridging industry over the last 12 months, and what trends do you predict for the next 12 months?

The amount of lenders who cease to lend but continue to advertise, that’s what I’ve noticed! They’re trying to keep their names in the industry, that and the number of new entrants in the market. There have been dozens who have come in thinking now’s the right time to try and lend because no one else has any money, they think there’s room for them. There must be a new one every week! But the market will automatically regulate itself once again.

As for the future, I think that bridging loans will have to change dramatically. The current product is out of date; bridging needs a revamp to fit in with the current climate. Before, when money was freely available, it was different. Now, over the next year we will see a radical a radical change in bridging loan products... we have to. 

7. What’s your favourite film?

The Usual Suspects by Brian Singer. The film is so complex that I think you need to sit through it half a dozen times to fully understand it. I’ve seen it that many times and enjoyed it every time.

8. If your life was a TV show what would it be?

I’ve watched very few TV shows. I’ll just have to say the one I Iike the most, which is Only Fools and Horses, all the characters in are lovely. [B&C: Marlene?]

But I wouldn’t want to be Rodney, I’d like to be Delboy.

B&C: Fancy yourself as a bit of a wheeler dealer then Sidney?

Well, I like to feel I could be, but I’d never like to feel I cheated anybody, I’d go up to the line but I wouldn’t cross it – I never have. Once you’ve crept into the corrupt it’s very hard to creep out again.

9. What’s your favourite book and why?

Guys and Dolls, which is a selection of short stories by Damon Runyon. I’ve read that half a dozen times, as you can see I’m very lightweight. I should have told you something heavy like War and Peace.

B&C: Have you read War and Peace?

No. I did use it to support a bookshelf once though...

10. If you could have a super power for one day what would it be and why?

If one had the opportunity, the only thing one could say is to heal as many people as possible. Those who are lame, blind, deaf, if I could cure them that would be wonderful...



Leave a comment