Exclusive: £35m surge for big-ticket lender

Exclusive: £35m surge for big-ticket lender


Just over six months since one of the bridging industry’s most highly regarded lenders re-launched its short-term lending proposition at One Hyde Park, B&C decided it was time to catch up with Omni Capital’s CEO, Colin Sanders, to check on the lender’s first quarter progress…

We’ve been hearing from some of our industry contacts that Omni Capital has enjoyed a very good first three months of the year. Can you put some flesh on the bones for us?


Your sources are well-informed – as usual – but, yes, I can confirm we‘ve had a great start to the year. Our total lending for the three months ending March 31 was just shy of £35 million. I don’t want to place too much emphasis on a single period’s trading results, but we’re very pleased with the figure achieved. Importantly, our pipeline of pending deals is also looking healthy and well-padded.


It’s been said that you’re a large loan lender only. Is that how you achieved these numbers?


I’ve heard that too, and I’m still not sure how it started. It’s true we’re not fazed by the big-ticket deals – and have the funding and resources to handle them – but we’re not players in that field alone. By way of example, the smallest loan we completed in the first quarter was for just £30,000. Conversely, the biggest loan had a value of £4.85 million. Across our book, the average loan value is comfortably below £1 million. If the deal’s right, loan size is no obstacle.


I take it that’s a position you’re comfortable with?


Absolutely. We take a considered approach to the risk-reward balance. That means building a loan book that exhibits a blend of characteristics in line with our risk appetite.


Can you give me some examples?


Well, first off, it isn’t just about volume. Any fool with cash to lose can write new business and brag about it. The key is to write business that is profitable – by which I mean that which meets our strict return-on-capital requirements – and which is as secure as possible. We’re achieving the former on a loan book with an average LTV below 65 percent – firmly in line with industry norms – and secured on some first-class real estate.


Is that because you lend only on property in prime central London postcodes?


That’s another misconception. Nearly 40 percent of our book is secured on property without a London postcode, predominantly in the south-east of England. Our position is to be as flexible as possible. While we don’t as a matter of course lend outside the south-east, if we like the look of a deal, we’ll try to do it; as will our funders.

Omni Capital offers both first and second charge products. How does this split out?

Very evenly – about 50/50. Encouragingly, the key performance characteristics for each – LTV, margin etc – are also very close. This suggests we’re getting the blend and risk ratio about right.


You mentioned your funders. Do you still rely on your parent business for funding?


Our parent company, CPC Group, provides us with the bulk of our funding. We do have other lines in place, but these are secondary to our principal proprietary line. This gives us a great advantage as we know our funding is secure and guaranteed. It’s also substantial and available immediately. I don’t rule out looking at alternative funding opportunities in the future, but our immediate needs are amply catered for.


A number of your intermediary partners have spoken openly about their ‘preferred partner’ status with Omni Capital. How is your panel strategy working?


Six months on from re-launch and I’m very satisfied with our distribution strategy. One factor has made a huge difference here, and that’s getting

Martin Gilsenan

on board as sales director. Martin has huge industry knowledge and credibility, and has been the vital ingredient in opening doors that, if not quite locked, were not fully open to us.

Our panel of partners comprises some of the best-known and most respected distributors in the bridging sector. These are people who know what they’re doing and understand what we expect from them. In return, we strive to deliver a fully 360-degree service proposition with proportionate financial rewards.


The figures suggest our strategy is working for us. By limiting our direct relationships to around 15 partners, we’re able to maintain service excellence and give each deal the attention it deserves. But our panel isn’t fixed in stone. We’re happy to have a dialogue with any proven intermediary who believes we can be a good fit together. A couple of these discussions are happening now, and I’m confident our panel will grow in line with expectations.


You’ve spoken in the past about moving Omni Capital into the term market for loans covering periods from three to 15 years. Is this still on your radar?


It is, and we’re continuing to invest in the necessary background work. I firmly believe it offers a real niche opportunity, and I know many of our broker partners share my view. That said, our current product offering – short-term bridging, development and refurbishment finance – is pulling in more business than we envisaged at this stage in the Omni business plan. I’m not complaining, but it means we need to focus resources on what’s working for us right now.

And what about regulation – does this hold any nasty surprises for you?


I don’t believe so. I’ve deep personal experience of regulation in the mortgage sector, as has most of the Omni team. We’re not regulated at the moment, but we underwrite and behave as though we were.


Regulation in itself is not to be feared and may even be desirable to ensure the long-term future of the sector. But we need to work with the authorities to ensure it isn’t implemented in an unthinking way that discourages liquidity – the lifeblood of bridging – or sensible innovation. I’m pleased to see our trade bodies stepping up to the plate in this regard.


So what next for Omni Capital?


I want to consolidate and build on the very favourable position we have created for the business. I have a talented team on which I rely heavily, solid support from our parent company and growing loyalty and appreciation among the broker community. I take none of this for granted and have seen first-hand how things can turn sour, usually through the unforeseen intervention of external agencies or events.


With this in mind, we will continue to build the business steadily, sensibly and sustainably. We’ll seek out new partnerships and lending opportunities by developing fresh product and marketing initiatives. Above all, we’ll ensure we’re able to deliver on our promises by securing the funding and service components.


We also plan to grow our core broker-facing team. We presently number eight, all based at our Watford operations centre. This will rise shortly to 11 following the creation of three new posts in underwriting, finance and administration. Other opportunities, particularly in sales, will follow.

Whether we end up as number one, two or three in our sector is not my main concern. I’ll gladly leave that to others. But I do want Omni Capital to be regarded as a best-in-class player, one that puts its employees and customers first, and one that can be trusted.  


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