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Business Now Features

Steven Clark-Together

Steven Clark-Together

BUSINESS NOW's editor gains insights into specialist finance over a flat white

Together have been delivering specialist finance for over 40 years. They use their wealth of experience and industry know-how to consider individual circumstances and find a way to help. Keen to learn more, I met for coffee with Steven Clark, regional development director, to chat over coffee.

“Hi Steven. Could you begin by telling our readers about yourself and what your role involves?”

“Well – I’m 37 and married with two young boys, aged four months and three. If that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I’m Together's regional development director for Scotland, and spend much of my day on the road.

“Together specialises in property finance, and it’s an industry I’ve been working in for the last 13 years. As a lender, Together works with everyone from private home buyers needing a mortgage, to commercial builders needing to raise funds for a new housing development.

“It’s my job to build awareness of the Together brand among people in the Scottish property industry. I think there’s often a feeling that support for projects or development is no longer there, because quite often lenders focus all their attention on the Central Belt and M8 corridor. But it is there – we’re 100% open for business and want to help people across the length and breadth of Scotland.

“Day to day, I work almost entirely with commercial clients – like property developers who need to raise money for upcoming projects, and SMEs who need to secure new premises or raise money to invest in their business. Often these clients are introduced by high street banks who’ve referred the case to us because the circumstances mean they’re unable to help.”

“Could you let our readers know what makes Together different?”

“In short, we put the common sense back into lending. We don’t have complicated lending policies, and you can build up a two-way relationship with us, like you used to have with your bank manager. In many respects, it’s like how lending used to be.

“We ask ourselves if we’re happy with the property being used to secure the loan, and if we’re happy with the person asking for it. If we are, let’s do business. Keeping it simple like this allows us to make really quick decisions, and that can make all the difference. Time is money, after all.

“Our flexibility means we can support in all sorts of transactions that some other lenders could only dream of. Whether it’s your timescales, the property or your personal circumstances that they baulk at, we’ll always take a look. It’s what we’ve done for 45 years.

“What’s especially important to us is that we support customers across all parts of Scotland.”

“So, is it just property investors you work with?”

“Not at all – I also work with other professionals in the finance and property industries, who turn to us when a client of theirs needs our help.

“I’m talking about conveyancing solicitors, accountants, estate agents, architects, and – perhaps surprisingly – other lenders. Sometimes they refer a client to us because they can’t find another lender willing to consider the merits of the application. And sometimes it’s because their chosen lender can’t move quickly enough.

“In those instances, we’ll often step in with a short-term solution that bridges the gap between the client’s deadline and the granting of the necessary mortgage or loan.”

“Okay! I understand, but perhaps you could give us some examples.”

“I can think of one customer who had to raise £600,000 in a fortnight to settle a significant bill from HMRC. If they didn’t, HMRC were threatening a six-figure penalty.

“Fortunately, they had five properties (with plenty of equity) that they could use as security for a bridging loan. And while that two-week timeframe would have been an issue for many lenders, we were able to step in.

“We agreed the loan, subject to valuations, and issued legal papers all within 24 hours, so conveyancers could work on the legal aspects. We received valuations a week later, and they were all in line with expectations – meaning we could fund the case in eight working days and save the client a small fortune. Once the tax bill was settled, our customer was able to access longer-term funds and repaid our loan within a month.

“Another example, which is very typical, was a customer who was looking to buy a sizeable commercial unit in Edinburgh for around £1.4 million. A high street bank had initially agreed to provide a commercial mortgage, but moved the goal posts with only 30 days before completion was scheduled to take place.

“The customer found another option on the high street but completion would have been delayed, and they didn’t want to risk the purchase falling through. We provided a short-term bridging loan, allowing the client to complete their purchase as planned; the customer simply repaid us with the funds from their commercial mortgage when that was granted.”

“So, does that mean it’s just short-term loans you offer?”

“No, we offer all sorts of commercial finance options, including buy-to-let and commercial property mortgages. One key point of difference is that we place no limit on the size or value of property portfolios, so we deal with a lot of big landlords – whether they’re buying many properties in a single transaction, or refinancing away from their current lender for one reason or another.

“Our range of products means, in a situation like this, the customer suddenly has several options. We could provide a long-term facility for the whole portfolio; a bridging loan while they break up their portfolio into several smaller ones; arrange short-term finance while some properties are sold off; or any combination of these.”

“Could you tell our readers how you see the lending marketplace in Scotland developing in 2020, and why?”

“I think the lending marketplace will look a lot like it has in the last two years or so: more and more challenger banks and specialist lenders like us, putting an additional focus on Scotland.

“And I think this is being driven by a stagnant offering from the high street and mainstream lenders – I don’t see any significant changes from them in the short term, at least. So, we challengers will continue to plug that gap.”

Enlightened by my chat with enthusiastic Steven, I drained my coffee and thanked him for giving me his time and insight into the lending industry. I left our rendezvous excited at the prospect of sharing his vast knowledge with you.

So, if you’d like to learn more, you can contact Steven by calling on 03717 052066 or emailing him at: steven.clark@togethermoney.com

Any property used as security, including your home, may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage or any other debt secured on it. Together is a trading style of each of the undernoted companies, which have their registered office address at Lake View, Lakeside, Cheadle, Cheshire SK8 3GW. Together Personal Finance Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) | Registered in England and Wales – Company Registration Number 02613335. FCA number is 305253. Together Commercial Finance Limited | Registered in England and Wales – Company Registration Number 02058813.