Signature Private Finance is a member of the Association of Short Term Lenders (ASTL), which acts a bit like a trade body, designed to protect and promote the interests of its members and to instil confidence in borrowers and brokers that they can trust members like us to do right by them.
Members must abide by a strict code of conduct and our peers are typically other bridging and secured loan companies, with most providing loans and mortgages for periods between six months and one year; many like Signature specialise in property finance.
A meeting of minds
Bearing all that in mind, it was a good experience to sit down for a networking lunch with a number of members, with a view to discussing hot topics in the sector and for us to talk through issues that might affect others; a sort of best practice workshop.
In no particular order, the main topics of discussion were; members’ experiences of charging higher rates on defaults; Brexit and its impact on our industry; whether the bridging landscape is changing and how to increase ASTL membership.
As you can imagine, with such a diverse range of alternative lenders in one room, a lively debate was enjoyed with a lot of information and opinion freely exchanged, demonstrating that despite the unique nature of our businesses, the issues faced are similar.
One point on which everyone present agreed was that Brexit and all the talk about it had dragged on for far too long now and it was time for it to be resolved.
There were ‘remainers’ and ‘brexiteers’ offering differing opinions, but united in a belief that with the mainstream lending landscape likely to become more difficult in the months ahead, it will help us alternative lenders.
Experience of the uncertainty
Businesses like ours have always operated in a world of uncertainty, whether it’s the rise and fall of global economies affecting Sterling rates and the state of the UK economy or levels of inward investment and interest rates.
Brexit just delivers more uncertainty, but worrying about what might happen, when clearly everyone is only guessing, will not help the property developers we provide funds for, who still want to buy, refurbish, develop and convert properties across the UK.
Those with experience of the finance industry in all its forms are used to the uncertainty and like many in our sector, we will take it in our stride and continue to grow our business.
Give the enduring shortage of housing in the UK and increasing need for accommodation for students at our universities, whether domestic or visitors from overseas, there will be a continuing demand for the good quality rental properties much of lending supports the development of.
It was a meeting where pessimism might have been expected as the overriding feeling in the room, but I left with a spring in my step and a renewed optimism for the future of alternative lenders like Signature; the UK needs more housing and we have the funds to help it happen.