'Bridging industry is under-appreciated', says new astl CEO

'Bridging industry is under-appreciated', says new astl CEO


Earlier this week the Association of Short Term Lenders (astl) announced the long awaited appointment of its new CEO, Benson Hersch, a Chartered Accountant and consultant for bridging lender, Cheval. He is due to begin his new role today (21st June) and plans to meet with the membership in the coming weeks to formulate how to take the Association forward.

With this in mind, Alexandra Jones secured the first interview with Benson, in his role as the astl’s new CEO, to find out what he believes he can bring to the Association… 

What is your professional background and what expertise of the short-term sector do you believe you can bring to the astl?

I’m a chartered accountant with wide experience, including, inter alia, international trade finance.  I’m a hands-on person, and handled all aspects of bridging for Cheval during its growth from a small company to a major player in the industry.  I guided Cheval to registration with the FSA and helped design computer systems, including a KFI system which was up and running on M day.

Why did you apply for the position? 

I have always felt that the bridging industry is under-appreciated and the role of the astl is crucial in correcting this. I was asked by several people if I was interested, and jumped at the chance.

What do you intend to bring to the association and do you foresee a new direction for the astl?

I hope to bring new energy and a sense of purpose to the astl.  I think the groundwork has been laid, and the road ahead is clear.

What is your future vision for the astl in the next 12 months? 

One of my first tasks is to consult with members in order to ascertain what they want from their organisation. 

A member of the astl has voiced the following concerns about your new position:

“We have never heard of him and were a little surprised to hear the news today. As one of the few members of the group that has actually paid our membership fees, we were never asked for an opinion on the candidate. It would appear that the astl is continuing to operate in the same ways as it has in the past."

Are you able to offer a response?

All of the membership was involved in the process of setting up a small committee to appoint the new CEO. Each member of this committee was nominated and voted for by the members at the last general meeting and it was agreed that this committee then had the authority to interview and make the appointment, which took place.

How do you intend to fully commit to your new role as an employee of Cheval?

I am not currently an employee of Cheval; however, I work on a consultancy basis for one day a week.  I don’t see that this will create any problems, but if it does, I will terminate my consultancy.

Do you foresee any conflict of interest or potential bias if you are still working for a specific lender?

Definitely not – anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t even discuss business at home.  As mentioned above, in the unlikely event that there is a conflict, I will terminate my consultancy.  In any case, astl policy is determined by the members, through the Executive Committee, to whom I will report.

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