You recently claimed that you expected the Northern Ireland bridging market to grow. Why is this and what level of growth do you expect?
Over the past 10 years, we have seen the banking sector contract in Northern Ireland, both in the number of active lenders and in the appetite of those that remain, across all sectors, but particularly real estate.
The gap in supply of funding is something which the local economy has struggled to fill to date, a clear demonstration of this being the high number of private investors active in lending.
Our own experience here in Belfast has been very positive and certainly the activity levels we have encountered over the past 12 months, and in particular since we opened the office locally, gives us great encouragement over the prospects for significant further growth.
Forecasting how much growth we expect in the wider sector is a difficult question. At present, there is certainly an unfulfilled appetite to borrow outside of the offering of the traditional banks. As the bridging sector grows, I also think that the customer base will become more familiar with the offering and comfortable with transaction structures. It’s up to our industry to make its own market here.
How important is it to have a regional presence in the areas you lend in?
It has been vital in the development of our brand and business locally.
We are seeing considerably more good quality opportunities come through, not just in Belfast, but across the region, with most of that arising simply through our visibility in the market.
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We are also fortunate to have a very experienced team here in Belfast and work hard to extract business potential from the many relationships we have established over the years.
What major challenges do you believe brokers are currently facing in the specialist finance market?
We work with a great team of brokers in Northern Ireland who have been central to our success over the years. We can see first-hand how hard they have worked to establish their businesses and the benefit of their involvement is key to both the borrower and the lender.
I think the biggest challenge locally for brokers is educating the wider market on the benefits of their involvement and the alternatives to the traditional banks now available.
What are your biggest concerns for the bridging market this year?
Investors are clearly cautious of the eventual outcome of negotiations, particularly for the land border here in Northern Ireland. That said, the local economy has come through a lot of challenges over the years and I am confident that it has the resilience to come through whatever may lie ahead.
How did you get into the industry?
I have always worked in lending here in Belfast, having gone straight to Bank of Ireland when I finished university.
Experience in the early days was a broad mix of property and SMEs, however, as time has passed, my focus concentrated more on property lending.
The move to Ortus Secured Finance at the start of this year was something I was, and remain, very excited about. The personalities and culture of the business were a good fit for me, and our lending model is something which I believe will thrive in the NI market.
If you didn’t work in finance, what would you be doing?
Given my passion for property, it would be difficult to see me working outside of real estate in some form or other.