10 Questions with... Graham Allen

10 Questions with... Graham Allen



Graham Allen, Managing Director of master broker, Commercial Money Matters, and Chair of the Commercial Funding Alliance (CFA) takes his turn in the hot seat:

B&C: How long have you been at Commercial Money Matters?

GA: 21 Years in July.

Where did you come from before CMM?

I’ve been in the finance industry since 1980, I’ve always worked in finance… you have to take the rough with the smooth in this business.

Did you always see yourself working as a specialist packager / master broker?

No I didn’t. We planned our entrance carefully, we’d been doing commercial business for some time before brokers started noticing our work and started coming to us with business. So it evolved from there and was a natural process; our approach was a careful and methodical one.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?

Ha! Not really sure... probably working full time for Mines Advisory Group (MAG) – a neutral, humanitarian charity that clears landmines and other remnants of conflict for the benefit of communities worldwide. At present I do a lot of voluntary work with them, I give talks and visit parts of the community, such as schools and colleges, to promote the work of MAG and explain how people can get involved.

I believe it’s the responsibility of us all to do something for charity – no matter how small – everyone should do something.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be a graphic artist! They’re called graphic designers nowadays, but that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to work in advertising. I love art but sadly I don’t have time for it, when I relax it's often with film though, visual art helps me unwind.

How do you think the broker industry, and you specifically, has survived the recession?

The brokers, badly. Us, well we’re still here so we’ve done something right! I think the key to surviving the recession is diversification. We’ve branched out into other areas; we’ve adapted to suit the changing market.

What trends within the industry have you noticed in the last 12 months?

We can’t get any money!

No, seriously, there is a major trend which I don’t think has been properly understood. This is the shift from conventional, asset based lending – banks lending based on an LTV rate – to income based lending. There is no longer a treadmill of cash; clients must be able to prove they can repay the money based on what they earn. Equity doesn’t carry the same weight it once did. When brokers bring me clients I have one thing to say: “Show me the income.” And yet brokers haven’t really taken this on board, this goes for both the residential and commercial sectors.

What do you predict for the specialist sector in the next 12 months?

A slow crawl out of the dung heap.

Is the quality of enquiries improving now? Have you had any memorable case studies recently?

No. I think there are still some complete nutters out there! People who think it’s still 2006. They don’t understand that it’s no longer just about equity, lots of people still lack reality in the market today.

To new players entering the market, what advice would you give?

Don’t do it! There’s not enough to go around as it is!

No, in all seriousness, I would warn them, there are still difficult times ahead. With regard to banks, I’d advise them to be very careful about who they team up with – experience is important in this industry. I’d advise them against teaming up with a broker that hadn’t been through a recession already and didn’t have experience in the market place as it moves out of a recession, because that is crucial. As chair of the CFA this is what I would advise.

Err... Sorry to any new brokers reading this...


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