Martin's Mailbox: Trade bodies to the fore

Martin's Mailbox: Trade bodies to the fore


Benson Who? That was the cry that went up in parts of the trade press last week following the announcement of a new CEO for lender trade body, the Association of Short Term Lenders.

Now I must confess that I too had never heard of Benson Hersch ahead of his appointment. But then again, I haven’t been in the sector that long compared to some. Regardless, the man deserves a chance and brings to the job an impressive CV rooted in bridging.

He takes up his new position at a pivotal time for the ASTL. While it has achieved much in its relatively short history, there is clearly more to do. Representing perhaps just a third of all lenders, recruiting new names is a priority. It will never be 100 per cent representative as some bridgers clearly have no interest in aligning themselves to a trade body or, indeed, raising their public profiles in any way. But there’s definitely a missing community to attract - and attract back - to its ranks. 

Regulation is the other elephant in the room. With both the domestic and EU authorities fine-tuning their sights on short-term lending, it has never been more important for lenders to be represented by a credible and authoritative trade body. However, to do so requires the full, active support of members. I’m not sure this has always been the case.

On a personal level, I would urge Benson to look for advice and support from other, more mature trade associations. This need not imply any loss of sovereignty, but is a logical way to help speed the development of the ASTL into a first-class organisation. I’ve every reason to believe he will receive a warm welcome from those capable folk at the CML and NACFB.

As he gets ready to chair his first official meeting, I’ve little doubt these, and other, thoughts are firmly on his mind. With skill, good judgement, common-sense and luck, he has an opportunity to help forge a new future for the ASTL and, by definition, the industry. I, and my colleagues at Omni Capital, wish him well.

Talking of the NACFB, this week’s Expo in Birmingham promises to showcase the very best bridging has to offer. With the banks still in turmoil, short-term lenders are at the forefront of the alternative lending drive to bring much-needed liquidity to struggling SMEs, developers and private borrowers.

We’ve taken a stand again this year (B01 - come and say hello) and expect to see a steady flow of faces, old and new. The competition will be out in force, but I’d be disappointed if they weren’t. 

Some are sure to bleat on about the disproportionate amount of attention given to bridging; while others will revel in pointing out its less ‘salubrious’ aspects (wide-open to fraudsters, dodgy fee-charging etc., etc.). But show me another part of the lending market that’s its equal in terms of vibrancy, functionality and efficiency and I’ll….well, let’s wait and see the coverage and comment the event yields.


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