After starting in pensions and eventually moving into real estate, Jamie found his niche following the Great Recession, advising firms that had become trapped in credit that was no longer viable.
What is it the company does?
Conduit Finance is a boutique debt advisory firm – the company serves SME and property borrowers seeking alternative finance options. Our core service areas are fundraising and restructuring.
The property sector is a key focus area for our business - we provide access to a range of creative alternative finance providers, most of whom are new to the market. This is the land, development and the investment cycle of a project. When raising finance, we are instructed by our clients to find them a better option, be that a lower interest rate or a higher Loan To Value rate, or both.
Our restructuring work really kicked off after the credit crunch in 2008. By 2009/2010, a lot of companies were trapped by their retail banks, or had their loan sold on to an aggressive buyer – they were over-geared when they were revalued, as well as in breach of their lending covenant, so we started acting for borrowers in an advisory capacity to help them extricate themselves from banks. Despite the improved economic situation, many companies are still experiencing difficult times, so we continue to support various sector types, the licensed trade and construction in particular.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Day to day it’s leading live deals. At the moment I’m mostly focusing on fundraising, restructuring and advisory mandates. It’s also leading the team, the direction and growth of the business. I’m also a Director of Property Finance Finder, an online search resource for property finance options.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
When my aspirational career as a professional rugby player didn’t work out, I had to re-evaluate my options. I always had an interest in financial services, so I found a role working as a pension/bond administrator for J Rothschild Assurance in Stirling. From there I worked in pensions, bonds and endowments for Prudential and later AEGON before moving into real estate lending, retail banking and SME lending for Clydesdale Bank and Bank of Scotland. It was during my time working for the retail banks that I recognised a gap in the market for an alternative debt advisory firm for property and SME borrowers. In 2007 I founded Conduit Finance to serve this demand. 10 years in my day to day job is as interesting as it was on day one.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Empathy, vision and resilience.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Without a doubt, it was navigating the recession of 2008, only a year after I founded the company. I am in the business of delivering lending options and advise to my clients. This became extremely difficult when major lenders stopped providing loans. During this time, we had to fall back on our advisory work, seeing clients through tricky restructuring cases and acting as a problem-solving intermediary between the banks and the borrowers. The good thing about surviving a recession is that it makes you more resilient as a business and teaches you the importance of being able to adapt to the market conditions. These have proved invaluable lessons going forward.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Going for a swim or a walk on the beach with my dog.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a vet. How times change.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Not getting the basics right such as answering the phone properly or naming and filing documents in the right place. Along with our website, answering the phone is sometimes the first contact we have with prospective customers, so it’s important to make a good first impression. Our existing customers also expect to be working with a professional outfit, so phone protocol is very important. No one loves administrative work, but it is the backbone of a successfully run enterprise.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I’m looking to evolve the business so we can provide a wider range of advisory services as well as generate new revenue streams to increase turnover and profitability. This would come from increasing the flow in our online brokerage and by expanding our UK-wide network. We have the prospect of utilising a wholesale loan facility, so we will soon start a property lending fund.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Ask yourself if what you are doing is genuinely unique. Understand your edge, what makes you different from the competition and make that the core of your business. It’s easy to think you have a market making,
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
It’s ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. A Growth Mindset as Matthew Syed calls it. Banking culture doesn’t allow much flexibility in this regard, as mistakes aren’t broadcast, but in the technology space, it’s about making incremental improvements that come from making mistakes.
Both a business and a person can learn a lot from the things that go wrong.