John Davies, head of lending at Wellesley Finance, shares his daily routine before, during and after the pandemic…
On a typical day, John Davies, head of lending at Wellesley Finance, would catch up with his emails, get into the office between 8am and 10am, attend meetings, and visit one of the many property development sites that Wellesley is funding, or planning to fund. This routine has been crucial to the growth of Wellesley Finance – allowing the platform to maintain a hands-on approach to each and every one of its loans, which in turn reduces the risk for each and every investor.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has forced all alternative lenders to make major changes – and Davies is no exception. “Pre-Covid I spent quite a bit of time out of the office,” he says. “So working from home on a full-time basis was quite a novel experience – it took me a while to get into a routine. It was quite difficult for the first six weeks when we weren’t allowed out at all, but then there was a relaxing of the lockdown restrictions and we were able to visit sites again while observing social distancing which almost brought my job back to normal.”
Davies admits that at the beginning of lockdown he was not sure how effectively Wellesley’s lending business would manage. But despite the challenges of remote working, the platform has bounced back remarkably well. “We’ve adapted to working from home exceptionally well at every level,” says Davies.
“Some of our sites were temporarily shut down but it was only for a matter of weeks rather than months.
“We’ve seen much less than expected delays in construction which we’re very pleased about because there were some doomsayers who thought the end of the world was coming, which clearly hasn’t happened!”
In recent months, Davies has been back onsite again, and he has been originating new loans for the platform by tapping into his extensive base of contacts.
“I am in constant touch with probably a few dozen people who are a reliable source of new business,” he says. “Typically, I will get an initial email or call saying this is the bare bones of the deal, does it fit Wellesley? If it’s a goer I will then spend time going through the documents, checking prices, checking the background of the developer and so on to the point where I’m comfortable that it’s a deal that’s doable.
Then I will go to the site just to make sure its suitable for what’s being built, and then I will arrange a face-to-face meeting with the prospective borrower.” Post-pandemic, Davies expects his team to spend two to three days a week in the office rather than four to five days; and he predicts a possible fall in property prices towards the end of the year when the unemployment figures go up. But the fundamentals of his job won’t change.
“The hands-on element of property development schemes is absolutely vital,” he says. “From a pure control basis, the physical attendance on site is absolutely essential.” This is what property lending comes down to when everything else is stripped away – experience, knowledge, and extensive oversight.