Australian-born Mark Stephen created a lender with no rate card in 2013. £375m later, Mark shares some honest realities of entrepreneurship with BQ.
What is it the company does?
Reditum Capital was created to be a lender that didn’t operate off a rate card. We provide bridging, development, mezzanine and asset backed finance to investors and developers and since inception in 2013, we’ve lent over £375m for both commercial and residential projects globally.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I founded the company in 2013 and in that time, I have played every role from accounts payable, to IT troubleshooter. I now spend most of my time focusing on the expansion of our investor network and liasing with institiutional funders.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I first started in Melbourne, Australia working for a large property investment company focusing on the use of real estate to build passive income for high net worths. I completed a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne majoring in financial derivatives. I then made the move to the UK in 2006 to pursue a career in investment banking.
Here, a stop gap job working for a boutique property company led me to sell a large property portfolio to an investor and steered me away from the banking sector. Three months later, I started my own firm assisting developers with the sale of masterplanned developments through an international sales network.
This led me to property development as principal and I completed various residential projects throughout London, as well as several commercial asset management opportunities. Asset backed lending was a great way for me to combine my financial background with my property expertise and manage internal cashflow for the business. It is now the major focus of our business.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I have been successful in my career thus far by surrounding myself with people who are like minded, tenacious, conscientious and loyal.
I’m not sure that I would class myself as a great leader, but I’d like to think that I lead by example, not taking no for an answer and creatively approaching the issues that come up in our business everyday.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
In all honesty, the management of large numbers of staff. I came to realise that I was sometimes not the most empathetic of people, a little slow to congratulate for a job well done and jumped straightonto the next deal. This has been a learning experience for me over the last ten years and something I would like to think that I continue to improve on everyday.
The people I work with are the biggest asset in my, and most other businesses, and need to reminded of this more often.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I try to get out of London and to the country as often as I can for the weekend. I miss the wide open spaces of Australia in stressful times and escaping to the countryside provides me with this respite. I love the Cotswolds particularly and my partner and I spend many weekends exploring this fantastic corner of the world. I also enjoy travelling abroad and try to fit in at least four trips a year for a week of relaxation.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a barrister. I spent a lot of my days at school as part of a very successful debating team and thought that this career would allow me to do something similar for a living. In the end my life didn’t go that way but I still enjoy the negotiation of a deal and getting into the nitty gritty of contracts.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
In truth, people who think that you owe them a living. I was taught from a young age that whilst you can accomplish anything you want in life, no one is going to give it to you and you have to go and do it yourself. I have always worked on the premise that I would work myself into a position where I was indispensible and then put my hand out, not the other way around. I respect people that are self starters, hard work gets you a long way in today’s world.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I’d like to to see our loan book significantly increase with further diversity across asset classes and I’d like to maintain our current performance that we have built up over the last four years. I have no aspirations to take over the world, I just want to do business that interests me and work with people that I can learn from.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
There are two main things:
Firstly, you are never going to know everything. Surround yourself with people that know more than you, not less. Business is a learning experience and the minute you stop adapting and changing is the minute that your business is in trouble.
Secondly, don’t talk about it, do it. Too many people talk about how they could make a better product or provide a better service but never put their money where their mouth is. Building a business takes risks, put yourself out there, back yourself and make others believe in your vision.
With a team that believes in their leader’s vision and a leader that is tenacious and willing to risk it all for the sake of their team and vision, you only need a little luck and you’re on your way.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Building and running a business is not for everyone. Many people see it as an easy way of life but this could not be further from the truth. Often a business takes everything that you have in every sense of the word and it is not a commitment that anyone should take lightly.
I wish someone had told me at the start how difficult a road this would be so I was better prepared. Although perhaps if they had said that, I may not have started. Maybe it’s one of those things you have to learn for yourself.