Sirius Property Finance’s new senior associate discusses the advantages of a lending background in brokering, the difficulties of managing current market instability, and why she wants to ban the phrase ‘whole of market’
Kelly joined the real estate debt adviser in April, having spent the previous three years at fellow brokerage Vibe Specialist Finance. She has worked in the sector—on both the lending and brokering sides—for over 15 years and has held roles at major names such as Santander and OneSavings Bank. In her new role, Kelly will be helping Sirius structure the best solutions for a new group of clients.
Why did you decide to join Sirius?
I was specifically on the hunt for a London-based firm and wanted to work for the best business in the city. Given the experience and longevity the Sirius and Brightstar team have, it was clear that they were the front runners. Sirius is such a well-established company that I was initially worried I might feel I was just a number working for them. Instead, it feels like I’ve joined the biggest family of successful brokers. Everyone is valued on their own merits, which has been so warming and reassuring.
What one thing does the industry not know about the brokerage?
They are extremely family-oriented and look after their own. At other jobs, I tended to just get my head down and work through lunch. But here, everyone stops working around 1pm to sit down to eat together. We usually have a different cuisine each day, then go back to our desks to carry on getting the deals done!
You describe yourself as a problem-solver—why is this skill more important now than ever?
If you’re looking for a mortgage and it’s relatively straightforward, then many people can do at least some of the research themselves through their own bank or online. When the property is a bit out of the ordinary, or circumstances are unusual from a complex income or residency point of view, then it’s nigh on impossible to find a solution this way. You need to rely on someone who lives and breathes this every day to ensure they are finding the most suitable and competitive option for you. Our clients’ day job is to develop or invest in properties… Mine is sourcing the finance.
How do you use your previous experience of working at a lender to the best of your advantage?
That experience is key. From working at a lender, I’ve witnessed hundreds of deals through credit and come to learn what a good one looks like from a lender’s point of view. What elements are risky? What gives them the most return on interest? This has really helped me identify the best projects that meet these requirements. A lot of decisions are still made by a human, and these are down to individual judgement. They can be challenged, though—as long as you are armed with the right tools. I don’t think I would be as confident as I am today to push back on certain verdicts without the lender knowledge I’ve gained along the way. I’ve also built some very strong relationships across the industry, which I can call on if I really need to.
What do you foresee as the biggest challenge your clients face this year?
The market uncertainty has been difficult to manage; it’s very hard to provide advice when the industry is so volatile. My clients are faced with rising base rates and the unknowns of what they’re likely to be at the end of their development in a year’s time, or what reversion rates will be on offer at the end of their five-year fixed term. They are keen to keep these as low as possible, which is tough to manage at the moment.
If you could change one thing about the specialist finance industry, what would it be?
Not allowing anyone to use the term ‘whole of market’. Nobody is whole of market! The sourcing systems only look at mainstream lenders and don’t include all challenger banks or private offices. Unless you’re networking the entire market on a regular basis, then you won’t be aware of which lenders are launching new products and criteria. The more ears you have to the ground, the better.
Were you surprised by any of the figures in the latest EY ‘UK Bridging Finance Market Study’?
I was surprised to see that 34% of lenders are not intending to use AVMs. The survey talks a lot about the positive impact Covid-19 has had on the marketplace, and I would’ve thought this would be a hot topic to speed up application turnaround times and save costs, especially on lower LTV and less risky BTL transactions.
How did you spend your very first pay cheque?
When I was 16, I got my first summer job in an office before I started my A levels. My first pay cheque was £600 for a month’s full-time work—and I think I bought a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, lent £20 to my best friend, and then became anxious and saved the rest.
Your dream job—if you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
I’d be a journalist, as I really enjoy writing. I don’t do it enough; I never have the time. But I would love to be somewhere remote with no clock, a book of blank white pages, and a really good fountain pen—and just write away until I get cramp!
Office, WFH, or hybrid?
Hybrid for sure. I’m too sociable to be locked up in my house five days a week.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I can name all 50 US states within three minutes—but I haven’t done that in about a decade, so please don’t test me…
Originally published in Bridging & Commercial magazine.