Loans Insider met up with West One Loans to find out more about its new secured loan operation
West One Loans is no stranger to the specialist lending market, having begun offering bridging finance in 2007.
It was set up by father and son team David and Duncan Kreeger, along with Stephen Wasserman, who is managing director of West One.
The business was acquired in 2014 by the Enra Group, which has fuelled its expansion in bridging.
Since inception, it has lent over £2.5bn in bridging finance, has a current book well over £400m and lends in excess of £50m a month.With West One now a major player in the bridging loan sphere, Enra Group took the decision to enter the secured loans market and to employ Marie Grundy – a seasoned professional in the sector -as sales director earlier this year to accelerate their expansion and exploit opportunities for growth.
Grundy is well-known in the specialist lending arena, with over 15 years experience in the market. She has worked within both broking and lending operations before joining West One.
Most recently, she was managing director of second charge specialist broker V Loans for 10 years and also represented second charge brokers on the board of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries.
Prior to this Grundy was national sales manager for Southern Pacific Personal Loans (SPML) which means she has a network of relationships going back years across the industry.
“The opportunity to bring that experience and those relationships to West One, and shape the launch of West One’s second charge lending, was too good to pass up,” she says.
Grundy is leading West One’s secured loans sales team, who are focused on supporting their broker partners. In the front line, the four business development managers (BDMs) cover the UK.
Jim Nash represents the eastern half of London and the east of England, with Michael Grant covering the western half of London, the M40 corridor and East Midlands. Matt Watson, who has extensive experience in second charges, covers the south coast, south west and south Wales, while John Steel represents northern Britain.
Back in the office, many day to day broker enquiries are handled by West One’s broker support team, led by broker sales manager, Danny Scoltock.
This front office team is backed up by the extensive experience of Paul Simpson, the lending operations director and Ed McAra who is heading the highly experienced second charge lending underwriting team.
Grundy believes West One is bringing not only the expertise within Enra Group to build a highly competitive proposition, but also West One’s skill at underwriting quickly and flexibly to make that proposition helpful for those whose circumstances might be just a little different from the norm.
The lender currently has three tiers of second charge mortgages, suited to those with different levels of credit quality. Its products provide options for borrowers who may have experienced past issues with the conduct of their credit. Grundy explains that the majority of customers are relatively prime borrowers without recent CCJs, defaults or mortgage arrears. However, the lender also has options for those with less-than-perfect credit histories with adjusted limits to LTV and loan sizes.
“The key is understanding from our borrowers the circumstances which led to their current situation so we can make sure their financial position will be improved,” she says.
“As we do not rely on automated credit scoring decisions it means we can build a picture of our borrowers past and present circumstances and how able they are to meet the repayments over the term of the loan to ensure we are putting them into a better financial position. The role of the adviser is key also to this process but that means we are able to consider loans for those borrowers whether they are employed or self-employed and we can also consider older borrowers who have established sources of income.
“We constantly review our range of products and we hope to extend our range of products in early 2018. Watch this space.”
Grundy says that 2017 has been a period of recovery for the second charge market as a whole, in which it has returned to the growth trajectory seen pre-MCD. “For West One Secured Loans, our product launch and bespoke broker portal platform has been extremely well received which was the result of careful planning,” she says.
“Both our product and systems have been designed to ensure we had a competitive and easy-to-access proposition. Partners such as Y3S have adopted our proposition and driven a very successful launch,” she adds.
She says West One has an excellent relationship with Y3S: “I’ve personally known Matt and Barney for 15 years, and it’s a pleasure to be working with them at West One. We were delighted to welcome Y3S as one of our earliest partners in launching second charge mortgages to the market. And it has been a lot more than just a distributor relationship – Y3S have provided useful feedback to help us shape and sharpen our proposition. Y3S and indeed the wider Specialist Mortgage Group are certainly key partners for West One’s secured lending division.”
Grundy’s message to those brokers who have never dealt in second charge mortgages is that there are more diverse options than ever before to access this specialist sector.
The requirements of the Mortgage Credit Directive (MCD) means brokers are obliged to make their clients aware that second charges may be a better option when considering capital raising options. But for borrowers who may be financially disadvantaged by remortgaging, or where a further advance is either not an option or may not fully meet their borrowing needs, a second charge can be their most appropriate method of raising finance.
“What that means is that brokers really should give full consideration to including seconds,” she explains. “Specialist second charge advice firms like Y3S give brokers the option to outsource the advice given in connection with the second charge which means even if brokers have limited knowledge of the second charge market bridging proposition, continuing to take advantage of growth both in the market and in our market share.”
2017 has been a growth year for the industry, with total lending approaching £1bn. So does Grundy believes the market can sustain and support more lenders?
“In a growing market, there is always room for competition and there are plenty of second charge offerings in the marketplace, providing new entrants are offering sufficient value and new opportunities to increase lending,” she argues.
“Healthy competition is good for customers; we have seen previously how this has benefited consumers with second charge interest rates being driven down to their lowest ever level in recent years as direct result of increased competition.”
With a healthy appetite for lending and a willingness to embrace competition in the market, West One has proved that it is ready to take the steps needed – and engage an experienced team – to exploit new opportunities for growth.