Invest & Fund’s chairman Robert Burgess explains how his company is exiting the pandemic in a particularly fortunate position, with an expanded team and a proven business model
Invest & Fund’s focus on deep credit evaluation and specialised staff has helped the property lending platform to grow, despite a global pandemic and an economic downturn.
In fact, the peer-to-peer platform is exiting the pandemic relatively unscathed, with no investor losses, a newly-expanded team of industry experts and volumes growing solidly.
According to Invest & Fund’s chairman Robert Burgess, the company’s success is down to its rigorous credit analysis and evaluation process.
“Credit risk is part of our DNA,” says Burgess. “We only employ very, very experienced credit risk managers who have deep credit origination and credit risk experience, all of whom are passionate about Invest & Fund.”
The company has been on a hiring spree recently to support its ambitious growth plans, expanding its origination team by one third. Two new business development managers have been appointed – one covering the North West and one covering the South East. Both have more than 20 years’ experience in their fields.
Matthew Thorbes has been appointed finance director of the firm, while former Financial Services Authority executive Sarah Leech White has been named head of compliance.
The firm has also recruited a new chief operating officer, who is joining later in the year and will be announced shortly.
Because of its strict credit assessment process and emphasis on hiring only the most experienced staff, the platform has not seen any distressed cases, and no impact on lender yields.
“We’re coming out of this period in very good shape,” says Burgess.
“What we started to do was whilst others were still facing challenges with some of the problem loans they had, we were able to start releasing that brake earlier and just testing the water with the sector, so we’ve come out of the pandemic in a great place.
“We had a near record first quarter, and the second quarter of the year will be stronger again. And it’s all down to the strong client focus and effective credit management, from first enquiry through to the exit of every scheme.”
The platform is already starting to see lending volumes pick up as certainty returns to the market, and investors search for opportunities to gain a return on their savings and investments.
“In the early days of the pandemic there was so much uncertainty, we did take a slightly more conservative risk approach but we saw new lending last year and every single developer got funding exactly on time, as you’d expect,” says Burgess.
“And all of those things just gave confidence to the market – both borrowers and lenders. We’ve got that credibility of how we managed through an extreme stress cycle where some much bigger and more established businesses have struggled. And that’s down to the fact that we have such specialisms at hand with so much experience who collectively have been responsible for tens of billions of pounds of lending through all points in the cycle.”
As the vaccine rollout continues and lockdowns start to ease across the UK, Burgess predicts only good things for the UK’s property industry. He points out that the UK is in dire need of more homes, and there is cross-party political support for housebuilding over the next 10 years. This has created a “halo effect” for the property lending sector, which robust companies can use to their benefit.
“I see us going from strength to strength,” says Burgess.
“We have a proven model and a great reputation within the sector. And now it’s all about safe growth. So from our perspective we are taking our foot off the brake, maintaining the quality of credit, and just continuing to grow.”