Albatross spreads its wings after doubling Shawbrook funding line

Having built a £20m loan book from scratch, the two 20-something founders of Albatross Capital have just been awarded an expanded facility with Shawbrook. So, what’s the secret to their success?

Albatross Capital has been making waves in the lending market since the formation of the company in 2020, and its co-founders Lewis Casserley (pictured above, left) and Jordan Fearnley-Brown (right) have been something of a talking point since they secured a multi-million-pound facility from Shawbrook Bank in March 2021.   

The lender’s ‘mini wings’ product — which specialises in extending smaller loans from just £70,000-250,000 — fills a gap where many finance providers typically have less appetite. Having just celebrated the first birthday of this offering and passing the psychologically significant milestone of 50 transactions, Albatross can confirm that Shawbrook is ready to double its funding line with the business.

In an interview with B&C, Lewis explained that the specialist bank had agreed the newly extended facility following a review of how the first year had gone. “This has directly impacted the price competitiveness of our mini wings product.” The offering can now be accessed from 0.74% per month, down from an average of 0.83% per month across first and second charge. 

“We’re now delighted to be able to offer commercial bridging loans against income-producing assets, in addition to residential and mixed use,” he said. The lender confirmed it will be further developing the commercial offering over the next 12 months. 

Lewis and Jordan remained tight-lipped about the exact size of the expanded “multi-million-pound” facility but emphasised that they have big ambitions for the year ahead. “Shawbrook has increased our product range, enabling us to now offer a more competitive semi-commercial product through mini wings,” Jordan stated. “In the past month, we’ve already seen an increase in demand for semi-commercial loans, at sub-£400,000, typically in the North of England.”

Big ambitions

The company’s strategic objectives, however, extend way beyond these short-term targets. Jordan talked, excitedly, about Albatross’s ongoing focus on fundraising, which will allow the business to broaden its offering still further. “Taking on money is key. We are constantly looking to source new money that will allow us to offer clients a different rate, or help us enter a different area of the market.”

The finance provider is also looking to expand into the development finance market. “We currently offer light to heavy refurbishment, but are restricted on funding. We’re looking to grow on the commercial and development finance side.”

Lewis added that, while raising institutional money is an essential part of the business’s strategic plan, it is equally important that the company retains the ability to make its own lending and credit decisions. 

He believes that bringing on the “right funding lines” and making sure that brokers can always reach an informed decision maker will enable Albatross to protect its USPs. “That is crucial to us,” Lewis commented. “We don’t need a team of 50; we will have a core group of 10 people that are nurtured and trained.”

Combined roles

Albatross is keen to avoid the traditional model of hiring BDMs and underwriting specialists with separate job roles. Instead, Lewis considers a more integrated position will better serve the company.

“Most lenders employ BDMs that have been in the industry for years, due to the customers they can bring with them. However, they demand high salaries. That, we believe, is a risk to the business. We believe we are the best BDMs for our company.” Instead, the lender wants to develop its team through underwriters. “Each person will have the responsibility to make decisions,” Lewis added. 

Both co-founders feel that every colleague should enjoy a sense of ownership. “From a brand point of view, we want to be a team of principals. We’re not the cheapest or the most highly leveraged,” Lewis noted. “We believe we have been gaining traction because brokers can call us up and it is me, or Jordan, that answers the phone. We say we can do X — and that never changes. We don’t alter the terms. That reliability has won us business.” 

While some in the market may scoff at their aspirations, Lewis and Jordan have already proven many wrong. Still in their late 20s, they are keen to stress that they haven’t got this far without careful planning. 

The pair have embraced the expertise of others in the market, befriending lenders and brokers alike, and by welcoming Kevin Cook into the company as group chairman in January 2021. The latter is a decision they hope will serve them particularly well. Kevin — who was previously a senior audit partner for 25 years at BDO — has also invested in the business.

“One thing we have learnt over the past year is the importance of having [experienced] people in the business,” commented Jordan. “You’ve got to be on top of your quarterly audits. That is why we created our own CRM system. Being young, we’ve embraced technology and spent time and money on creating an internal system that manages all of that.”

Jordan said that combining experienced professionals with new technology is one reason why Shawbrook has been impressed with their operation to date. The two co-founders deem that, with Kevin on board, the business will have the systems and controls necessary to professionalise the company still further.

The track record, so far, is certainly impressive. In its first full year of operation, Albatross has managed to build a £20m loan book from nothing and secure an expanded funding facility with an institutional backer.

While the team are aware they must be mindful of the risks ahead in any potential change to the market cycle, they appear confident in their approach. Given their flying start so far, they are on their way to tripling their loan book this year. 

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