Martin's Mailbox: Funding for Lending?

Martin's Mailbox: Funding for Lending?


Not so very long ago, it was accepted by most non-partisan folk that markets generally did things better than governments. As a radical, reforming prime minister, Margaret Thatcher reinforced the message by selling or outsourcing large chunks of the state to private enterprise. Milton Friedman appeared to have won the day!

Then came the banking crisis of 2008 and it was back to the drawing board. With its attendant scandals – Fred Goodwin, bonuses and lie-bor among them – market forces quite suddenly looked flawed, incompetent and heavily engineered to benefit outrageously a very wealthy clique.

As if this wasn’t enough to take the swagger out of even the most ardent free-marketeers, up pops G4S. With no less than seven years’ advance notice, it was forced just a few days ago to make the startling admission that it has failed in its signal task to recruit sufficient security staff for London 2012. Not only that but those it has recruited are, according to sources, largely unfit for purpose.

Now, I have some direct knowledge of this. One of my daughters successfully applied for one of the many volunteering posts on offer. On arriving at Stratford (note how careful I am at avoiding the word ‘Olympics’ – just in case the copyright lawyers are reading) to collect her pass and kit, she was horrified by the poor quality of her soon-to-be colleagues. Lack of spoken English among them was bad enough, but many looked as though a proper day’s work would finish them off.

In light of this state of affairs, what are we to make of the Government’s latest initiative to get credit flowing again? Does Nanny know best after all?

‘Funding for Lending’ is the catchy little title of the Bank of England’s new wheeze to get the banks lending. From what I understand, the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street will allow commercial banks to borrow on heavily discounted terms, but – and here’s the catch – only if they use the cheap dosh for lending to their customers.

The amount involved is not insignificant – up to £80 billion. Its intended recipients are small and medium enterprises, and would-be investors and buyers of property. The banks argue it won’t work because there’s no demand for credit. I say: balderdash (or words that effect)! Of course there’s demand for credit – the evidence is all around us. What there isn’t a demand for is the wrong type of credit on the wrong terms.

Bridging is doing well off the back of this. Whether Funding for Lending bites into our market remains to be seen, but I doubt it will have a significant effect. More likely, the banks will remain focused on their many internal problems while re-building their battered balance sheets. Lending isn’t a priority for them right now, at least not the type of lending the politicos at the Treasury and the BoE have in mind.

I’m the first to acknowledge that bridging isn’t a glowing land of milk and honey where all is golden and good. Funding is a constant concern for many lenders; and consolidation within the sector is a real possibility as competition heats up. But a lot of good work is being done, not least in bringing liquidity to where it is most needed.

I’m not a little proud that Omni Capital is playing its part. Sure, we’re here to make money first and foremost, but I and my colleagues derive much professional satisfaction from our role in helping fund property investors. We plan to put some substance on these fine words by shortly releasing details of our half-year performance. We’ll be revealing proper lending figures – not just PR fluff about how many AiPs we’ve done – by way of evidence. Watch this space.

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