I’ve never enjoyed working so much.
Even on Zoom people I’ve known for years are commenting on how happy, refreshed and enthusiastic I seem. Of course, this begs the question: How the hell did I come across before?—but I don’t press. It vindicated my decision to leave Lloyds, my employer of 11 years, to start a new stage of my career at Reparo Finance.
I had a fantastic decade at Lloyds, but increasingly it felt more and more like we were looking for reasons not to invest. There was little flexibility around the lending criteria and I often found myself rejecting strong loan applications. I don’t mean this as a criticism—Lloyds has a business plan and risk appetite that exists for a reason—but as an individual in that system, it meant saying no to entrepreneurs more than I liked.
Over the past ten years, I’ve come to hugely respect the entrepreneurs we work with and the incredible difficulties they face every day, and I began to crave more flexibility to help them find lending solutions. When I first met the team at Reparo, it felt like the perfect opportunity to work in an environment where we’re 100% focused on finding solutions.
It’s been a bizarre start to my time at Reparo. Within a few weeks of joining the lockdown began and my meetings and networking events became a series of Zoom calls—not how I pictured my first few months.
However, immediately I felt at home working with the team. The atmosphere is different from working at a large lender; it’s much more collegiate. Every day I’m having fascinating internal conversations with hugely experienced people where we’re analysing a deal from every angle, and I feel like I’m learning and developing my skills again.
It’s been refreshing to spend so much time looking at businesses in more detail. When we look at a deal, it’s more about the business case than set criteria—we look at the people behind the business, the industry, the plan and the risks.
For example, I was recently working on a deal for a travel agent—a sector that on paper is having a horrible time. But when we looked at the business case, it was not your typical travel agent. While most lenders wouldn’t touch the deal we took a closer look. Due to the type of travel (business) and the demonstrable cash flow we felt lending was viable.
In another case, we’re working with a contractor to find a solution. The business is working on government contracts that are still going ahead, albeit at a slightly reduced level. The director made a decision to furlough staff which the traditional lenders take as an indicator the business is struggling. We took a look and felt it was a sensible measure given the current business environment —again, we felt lending was viable.
One aspect of working at Reparo that has been very different from my previous role is the process of making lending decisions. Because we’re willing to be flexible, it’s crucial we understand everything about the business and getting involved in this detailed analysis has been fascinating. It’s my job to distil the business proposition down to its fundamental principles – harder than it sounds.
I’m looking forward to the next three months and beyond. The broker community has been receptive; every broker has a chunk of cases that aren’t right for traditional lenders, and we’ve had really productive conversations about how we can provide lending to those businesses.
I feel like I’m learning a lot and as we come out of lockdown, I’m looking forward to getting out to meet more brokers and businesses.
* To discuss a commercial loan between £25,000 and £1m email the team on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0161 451 5710