West One targets £1bn of short-term lending this year

In an exclusive interview with B&C, West One’s new sales director Nick Jones (pictured above) confirmed that the lender is focusing on surpassing the £1bn mark for short-term finance in 2021.

Nick joined West One in June to support the company’s objective to lead the non-bank lending sector. 

Having spent over 21 years in the industry — 14 of those at Together — he is now responsible for developing and driving the implementation of the sales and distribution strategy for the lender’s bridging and development proposition.

The announcement followed a “phenomenal” Q1 for the business, which saw completion levels rise to £309m, up 37% on Q1 2020, with bridging finance making up the majority.

Since then, the company posted a record first six months of the year for bridging business, having issued a total of £2.3bn in terms.

It also saw gross completions surge by 32% to £485m across its bridging and development offering during H1.

“We don't foresee any sort of slowing in lending levels [for H2],” Nick told B&C.

“I think to conclude the year exceeding one billion pounds of lending is certainly a focus for everybody in the short-term department.”

To reach its lending goals going forward, Nick will be building up West One’s distribution throughout the UK while maintaining its levels of service and delivery.

“Service is key, but it's more than just how quickly you can fund a case — it's clear communication and strong decisioning. It starts when the phone rings or when the email is sent,” he explained.

“It starts with not wasting intermediaries’ time through speculative acceptances. It's making sure, as we do, that when the application comes in, it's understood, underwritten, and structured properly.” 

Consequently, the lender will be bolstering the internal structure within its short-term lending division to help support its field sales teams and intermediary partners. 

In addition, it will be adopting a new processing system to enhance its underwriting capabilities. 

“We want to be able to get back to [brokers] even quicker and give more concise decisions earlier on in the process,” Nick stated. 

“Building the internal support structure will allow our teams to go out there and educate more brokers and talk to more of our partners about our broad product offering.

“We want to redefine what the word ‘partnership’ means for intermediaries and lenders.”

Nick is of the opinion that while there will be some “serious challenges” when government support schemes, such as furlough, come to an end, “there is always opportunity” in a countercyclical environment. 

“Let's not get away from the fact that there’s still a housing shortage,” he added. “Property is still very much a long-term investment in the UK.”

He believes that the change in permitted development rights will make conversions easier, and more people will look to diversify their portfolio. 

“[Investors are] used to converting properties into HMOs, or HMOs into self-contained flats, so there’s a massive opportunity to convert commercial property into residential to keep up with the demand.”

Nick also divulged that the business is considering non-traditional methods of construction for its development offering, as well as green initiatives across the company.

“We’re looking at the whole green landscape —it’s still very much in creation mode, but certainly something that's on our radar,” he shared.

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