Luke Jooste

An interview with Luke Jooste: 'current uncertainty creates real opportunities for well-funded, agile and fast-moving lenders'




Following his recent appointment as CEO at Merchant Money, Luke Jooste (pictured above) outlines his plans for the company and how he intends to leverage the business for future growth.

As the new CEO of Merchant Money, how do you intend to leverage the business for future growth?

I’m very fortunate coming into Merchant Money in that it is a well-established, profitable business with a good core product set and a strong operational capability. And also with an exceptionally talented team of staff members. So leveraging the business for future growth will be centred on building on what we already have, putting our customers at the heart of everything we do and having the strongest possible value proposition we can in order to be competitive in an already crowded market. I think, if we focus on relentlessly doing the right things for our customers, our staff and our shareholders, then future growth and success will follow as a natural consequence.

How do you feel the business finance sector is performing at the moment?

People will have different views on how the sector is performing, largely based on what their expectations were going into the current period. My reference for a similar type of macroeconomic shock to Brexit would be the 2008 credit crunch and how it affected UK SMEs back then. So, relative to that, I think the sector is holding up remarkably well and despite the obvious sector caution, there does seem to be an underlying tone of business confidence and resilience which is very encouraging to see. But without a doubt, the economic uncertainty is delaying investment, growth and funding requirements for the majority of UK SMEs.

Do you think business finance providers should adopt more of a cautious approach to lending at this current time?

By definition, risk means uncertainty. And it would be difficult to argue that at the current time things are more uncertain (riskier) than they have been in a long while. So, I do think it prudent and responsible that lenders account for this when making lending decisions and setting the longer-term strategy for their businesses. But I also think that the current uncertainty creates real opportunities for well-funded, agile and fast-moving lenders, such as Merchant Money, to take advantage of, and have no doubt we will see those actions play out in the market over the next 12 months.

How did you get into the industry?

I’ve been in the financial services industry since I left university, over 24 years ago now. I ended up in the alternative finance space of the UK market after leaving Barclays to join Funding Circle when it was still in its relatively early stages back in 2013. After leaving Funding Circle in 2018, I spent a year with a boutique investment bank before joining Merchant Money. I’m thrilled to be back in the space supporting UK SMEs with their funding needs because it is such an important and financially underserved sector of the UK economy.

If you didn’t work in finance, what would you be doing?

I would be a wine farmer, believe it or not. I hold an undergraduate degree major in agricultural economics, which I’ve sadly never put to good use. It may still happen in my later years when I’ve done what I can in the UK financial services sector and can afford to start slowing down. Although I can’t see that being any time soon.

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