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Do you expect to see less or more second charge mortgage lenders in 2018?

In the Spotlight with Kerry Bradley of Together

In the Spotlight with Kerry Bradley of Together

Loan Talk caught up with Kerry Bradley, business development manager for north London at Together, to find out more about the lender’s next phase of growth.

How do you stand out in an overcrowded market?

At Together, we are constantly reviewing and updating our product range to ensure that it meets our customers’ needs and that we remain competitive in the marketplace. We serve customers that are often underserved by the mainstream lenders and have specialist knowledge and niche products that can help us deal with complex cases, unusual properties and less-than-perfect credit profiles.

We take a commonsense approach to lending and assess every case on an individual basis, working with brokers to deliver the best possible outcome for our customers. We also have a great online system – My Broker Venue – that is unique in the flexibility it offers brokers. It makes it quick and easy for them to do business with us and helps to speed up the process, so we can give a decision as quickly as possible. That’s essential in the fast-moving world of a broker.

What has been the most successful product you have launched in the past six months?

We’ve been enhancing a lot of our existing products over the past six months. For example, we’ve lowered our rates for both first and second charge mortgages and changed criteria to make it easier for self-employed applicants, or those who have recently changed jobs.

We’ve also improved our buy-to-let offering, removing the maximum age limit. In fact, we saw buy-to-let lending hit a record in June across both first and second charges, proving that the recent tax changes haven’t deterred investors. In July, we completed our largest second charge buy-to-let loan to date, at £1.44 million.

What were your reasons for joining Together?

Together is a business with a family feel, yet it has a strong governance structure and I found its culture and vision very appealing. Also, its innovative product range and approach to lending is very refreshing, which made me want to join the company.  

You’re always made to feel appreciated and Together supports colleagues when it comes to their own career progression. There’s also a large focus on giving back, not only to colleagues, but also to the local community, as well as charities.

In recent months, Together has donated over £26,000 to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to help with the refurbishment of its bone marrow transplant unit, and over £15,000 to St Ann’s Hospice in Greater Manchester.  

What developments can we expect to see from Together this year?

Already this year we’ve seen extensive changes across our products and criteria, with multiple rate reductions, and we’ll be continuing to review and enhance our offering as we move forward. 

We’ve also changed the governance structure of the business, separating it into two divisions for retail and commercial, each with their own independent board, and there have been a host of senior appointments to support the new structure and really set us up for the next phase of growth.

Did you always want to work in finance?

Yes, I’ve been working in finance for 17 years now. I began working as a broker desk specialist when I was 21 and then moved into underwriting where I progressed to team manager within a customer care team. Prior to joining Together in 2014, I was a commercial business banking manager, before taking a two-year career break to have my son. My role at Together really allows me to put my skills to best use; combining my financial expertise with solving problems and building relationships. 

What will be the biggest hurdle for the second charge market this year?

Given the impact of the Mortgage Credit Directive earlier this year, I think the second-charge market has seen its biggest challenge already, but we’ve worked closely with our brokers to help them adapt to the changes that this brought about.

Brexit is a hurdle for the whole industry, not necessarily in a negative sense, but it has caused uncertainty. However, recent industry figures showed that property prices rose in August, and RICS have predicted continued growth for the next five years, so the outlook is positive.

Plus, for the second charge market it’s possible that Brexit could actually encourage growth as those that may have been put off moving house may now improve their existing home, using a second charge loan. 

What is your opinion on new lenders launching into an already crowded market?

Competition is healthy for most industries, including the specialist lending market. It pushes lenders to keep improving their products and can drive down rates. Giving customers choice is essential, and if your company is good at what it does, it will continue to grow, even in a crowded market.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I’d like to be invisible; to be able to fight crime and move around without being seen or heard. It would be great to be able to make positive change – but invisibly! 

How has Together grown in the past few years?

Together has traded successfully for 42 years, but in recent years we’ve seen significant growth. This is thanks to our range of products, our understanding of the market and our network of broker partners, as well as the growing demand for alternative finance. 

Our team has grown considerably to support this demand, and we now have over 460 colleagues at our head office in south Manchester. Alongside this, we’ve invested heavily in our IT and infrastructure to help us sustain this growth.

We’ve just announced record lending for the year to 30th June 2016, breaking the £1bn mark for the first time and our current loan book stands in excess of £1.8bn, so it’s fair to say the business is in a really strong position.

What is your favourite aspect of your role at Together?

I like the fact that every day is different and that I always feel challenged. Also, my job gives me the opportunity to travel and meet new people, developing long-term working relationships and friendships with people along the way. 

Our vast product offering means that there’s always something available that will be beneficial to brokers and their clients and it’s rewarding to be able to offer clients exactly what they need. 

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