"There will and should be more emphasis on sustainability and exit routes. "
We spoke to Marieke Eskens, head of case management at Fiduciam, about why sustainability is a massive opportunity for SMEs and what brokers should consider when looking for a short-term loan for their clients.
CR: As head of case management at Fiduciam, what does your role involve and what does a typical day look like?
My role involves underwriting loan transactions and providing guidance to eleven case managers across a number of different countries. Being a lawyer and having been closely involved in the drafting of our upgraded security documentation set for all countries, I also assist with legal documentation reviews, legal questions and complex, cross-border deal structuring.
Fiduciam now provides loans in Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and Luxembourg as well as the UK. As we have become busier across all countries since I started two and a half years ago, I’m currently only directly underwriting Dutch and German deals, where previously I was also underwriting loans in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain.
I try to stay in touch with the different markets as much as possible so on Mondays and Tuesdays, I take out some time to attend the different country team meetings. Attending the country team meetings is particularly helpful to apply good practices from one country to solve problems flagged up in another country. I then discuss these in the weekly case management meeting.
No doubt Thursdays are my favourite days when we have a case management meeting and training sessions. Our in-house IT team has created a fantastic system to manage our pipeline, so I always know what the pipeline looks like across all countries and therefore how busy the case managers are. This makes it easier to allocate our case management capacity.
CR: What are Fiduciam’s main aims or focuses over the next 12 months? Do you have any exciting news or plans you can tell us about?
Fiduciam continues to grow rapidly, 2019 lending volumes will be double those of 2018, and to achieve this we have to integrate 25 new hires this year. To do this successfully, we have implemented a very ambitious training programme.
To increase efficiency, we will roll out Fiduciam Loan Builder. We are currently using a beta version which is mainly focussed on Anti Money Laundering and Know Your Customer information gathering. The new version will become the workbench for loan origination, bringing together all parties that are involved in a loan application: the underwriter, case manager, borrower, solicitors, etc.
CR: What underwriting trends are you seeing in 2019 and what advice would you give to brokers in the current environment?
There will and should be more emphasis on sustainability and exit routes. We provide short-term loans to property developers, entrepreneurs and SMEs but as an underwriter I will not bring a loan to credit committee if I’m unsure it will assist the SME or entrepreneur in the long run. Our loans are short-term solutions for long-term goals, and it’s my job as an underwriter to assess whether our loan is actually assisting with this or whether it’s a temporary reprieve. Typical questions that brokers should consider when looking for a short-term loan for their clients are: Will the client be able to find long-term banking finance at the end of the bridging term or will they be able to finish the development project and sell the properties to repay us? What contingency plans do they have in place if things don’t go to plan?
CR: What opportunities and issues do you think SMEs will face in the next twelve months?
I think consumers are increasingly looking for solid companies they can trust. Therefore, embracing the trend of sustainability is a massive opportunity for SMEs. Sustainability can relate to a company’s products but most importantly, it relates to the company itself. Offering sustainable products with reduced environmental impact is an absolute trend, but consumers want more. As it has become relatively easy to set up a company, create a smart website and organise slick business cards, consumers are increasingly prepared to pay more for companies they know they can trust, which they feel will be around for longer and have the relevant experience inhouse.
This is also where the main issue lies: companies can only thrive and be built on excellent employees. Hiring and retaining employees is becoming increasingly difficult (without mentioning the B-word!) with the increase in number of competitors; in particular through the online world and the way it has become so much easier to set up a company. Sustainable growth requires patience – something I struggle with myself – which is a virtue in this fast-paced world.
CR: Our sister website Financial Reporter recently launched its second Women’s Recognition Awards, what changes would you still like to see in the industry and what advice would you give to someone starting out in financial services?
It is great seeing the Financial Reporter’s initiative being embraced by all the most important players in the market. Financial services is still a considerably male-dominated business; this could make women who are passionate about finance, abstain from starting a finance career due to the fear of potentially having to fight for their job, an equal salary and/or respect from clients and co-workers.
Companies obviously have the main responsibility to create a positive working environment which embraces gender equality, but we women can also play a major role by acting as role models to attract more women into financial services. Financial Reporter’s Women’s Recognition Awards help to get the message out that women are doing well in financial services.
To anyone starting out in financial service I would say: stay close to yourself and be critical.
CR: If you could see one headline about financial services in 2019, what would it be?
‘First award introduced for international bridging lending’ – won by Fiduciam of course!