SPECIAL FEATURE: Lenders are from Mars, brokers are from Venus

We all knew lenders and brokers sat on different sides of the fence but I was interested to see the findings of a straw poll done recently by Rob Jupp, Brightstar Financial managing director and chairman of the Association of Bridging Professionals.

He asked bridging brokers what was important to them when arranging a deal for a client and found they ranked in order: certainty of funds and decision, rates and product, proc fee, service, relationship and speed.

When he asked bridging lenders the same thing the answers were practically upside down, with them ranking in order of priority: service, speed, relationship, rates and product, certainty of decision and funds and proc fee last.

Perhaps I’m naïve but I thought lenders would be a bit more on the same page as brokers. It’s not really surprising that brokers rank proc fees higher than lenders but what was surprising to me was that certainty was right at the top of a broker’s list.

At Fincorp we look at a deal, make a decision and then stick to it. It really is that simple. So hearing that a lender’s reliability is so important makes me think that there are lenders out there failing to follow through on a decision in principle.

In bridging finance you look at the security, the terms, the borrower and then if you’re happy, you lend the money. A lender’s ability to do that relies on two things though: experience and investor confidence.

It’s a cliché but it’s true: it’s easy to lend money and much harder to get it back. But if your investors have confidence in your ability to underwrite a deal and bring their money back because experience tells them you will, then as a lender you’re always in a position to say yes to the broker and borrower and mean it.

I suspect that brokers’ frustration is that there are too many lenders out there saying yes and meaning maybe, maybe not. Nothing makes a broker more annoyed than having promised their client the deal is done and then having to go back to them empty handed. It’s humiliating.

More often than not it’s not even the broker’s fault but it is him (or her) who ends up running the risk of looking unprofessional when the lender fails to deliver. Particularly in the bridging market where deals need to be turned around pretty quickly and a loan that falls through can really put the screws on a client.

I’ve often thought the bridging market rather a cosy one with certain brokers frequently using the same clutch of lenders and lenders having their “favourite” brokers – some even going so far as to reward certain brokers with override commissions for bringing them a target amount of business.

It is interesting then that lenders view that dynamic as “strength of relationship” when brokers may in fact view it as reassurance they won’t let their client down.

From a broker’s point of view it has to be a balancing act between trying a new lender out to get better terms or a different appetite for specific types of deal and not getting burnt by a lender that might just be too good to be true. There is a large degree of uncertainty when you’re dealing with someone you don’t know and the risk is that it’s the client who suffers if the lender doesn’t deliver.

There’s no silver bullet for brokers faced with this conundrum – in a sense every deal is different and for that reason it’s impossible to know if a lender will approve it in the first place until you’ve tried them. But there are things brokers can do to help improve that certainty.

Choosing a lender that has a steady and large pool of funding and investors will greatly increase the chances they won’t renege on a decision in principle because a particular investor who had said they’d lend the cash has since bought a Ferrari or a racehorse. And choosing a lender that gives brokers access to its directors and underwriters is also critical because a salesman isn’t actually where the buck stops.

In some ways lenders do come from Mars and brokers from Venus. We are both obviously doing a different job. But we also have one very important thing in common: the client. Lenders may say service when brokers say certainty but what we both mean is doing a good and reliable job for the borrower.