London brokers increasing their amount of international bridging loans

Based on observations and conversations over the past year, there appears to have been an increase in the search for international funding coming through London brokers.

A growing number of London brokers it seems, are being asked to access money by borrowers keen to do one of three things: either purchase an international property, carry out work on a property based overseas or, increasingly, release money from a property based in continental Europe in order to spend on property or business in the UK. In each of these cases there is another property that is being leveraged on a short-term basis in order to satisfy a development or business need.

There could be a number of reasons for this uplift, but it increasingly seems to be the case that if you have an international property and can’t find funds abroad then you look to London as an international finance centre. For flexible, short-term funding, London is still the place to come, even despite Brexit.

What is interesting is that the people turning to London brokers for help are not even all UK nationals, they are a number of different nationalities all of whom have property on the continent that they need to leverage on a short-term basis.

It makes sense that international brokers like Enness and Knight Frank will be approached for this business as they have international connections so may be contacted in multiple jurisdictions, but the demand seems to be wider than this with a much wider range of brokers being approached. It is not exclusive to London brokers either, but the demand does seem to be predominantly in this region.

The key reason seems to be that short-term finance is not generally available across the continent, but as awareness grows of bridging finance and how useful it is, this is increasing demand. And the key place to realise this demand for international bridging loans is in London and the UK.

There has also been an uplift in UK business people releasing capital from properties they may own abroad in order to capitalise on business opportunities here. Many UK business people, especially developers, will have unencumbered property abroad. They are now seeing the opportunity to leverage it for their business or for property development. It is this segment of the market that is showing the greatest potential. This fast turnaround of short-term money can really make a difference to businesses needing to invest, or even needing working capital.

International bridging loans is an exciting market segment and which looks set to increase throughout the year as awareness of the possibilities increase, not only in the UK but across Europe.

The importance of knowing your lender – Part II

In part one, we discussed why it is important to know your lender. Now, we explain why this is even more relevant today and what can be done to reduce lender risk.

In our opinion, 2019 will be a challenging year for the bridging industry — for three reasons:

Widening credit spreads:

We have benefited from a very benign credit environment for the last few years and this will inevitably change. This may dry up the funding sources for some lenders.

Falling property prices:

We have not really had a proper real estate correction in the UK since the early 90s. We may be witnessing one in London right now. 


If there is a hard Brexit, we believe the UK economy could go into recession and major dislocations and disruption in the capital markets could occur, also directly affecting the credit markets. It is also possible that the can is kicked further down the road, in which case the ongoing uncertainty could cause investment to be subdued. The ongoing Brexit situation also means that politicians may come to power who otherwise would have no chance.  

As a result of this environment, we believe that other lenders could become more conservative, making it impossible for certain borrowers to refinance. 

In good times, the choice of lender may not be that critical but, in bad times, it is. 


What can borrowers do to avoid lender risk? 

The key is to use a well experienced broker which understands the health and reputation of the different lenders, and which can lead the borrower to the right one. While as a broker, you need to really get to know the different lenders, to help establish those that will treat your client right.  

Pick a lender with stable funding

Lenders that are excessively funded by wholesale funding, hedge funds or leveraged vehicles may face serious balance sheet pressures when the going gets tough. They may therefore be more likely to trigger default as this is one way to reduce balance sheet pressures.  

Select a diligent lender

Yes, there may be a few more forms to be completed and information to be provided as part of the application, but a diligent lender’s loan book is less likely to get into trouble.  

Select a sustainable lender

Glitzy offices may be nice, but you want to make sure the lender is cash-flow positive.

Consider the reputation of the lender 

Choose a lender that truly cares about long-term client relationships. 

Resist the temptation to over leverage

It may make it more difficult or impossible to refinance if the lender which accommodated the very high leverage disappears.

Make sure the exit strategy is realistic with enough buffer embedded in the loan

Delays are normal, but you do not want to be in a situation where the loan expires before the exit has been achieved.

Have the borrower meet with the lender to develop a relationship  

Not only will this make it easier for the borrower to work out problems if they occur, it also helps to get a better feeling for who your lender really is.

Diversify across lenders

Never become too dependent on one single lender.

In conclusion, in the current environment, knowing your lender is as important as ever.

The importance of knowing your lender – Part I

Last year, we suddenly received an increase in loan applications from developers in the midst of projects who wanted a new loan.

Such applications make us wary as typically a borrower looking for a new loan in the midst of a project means something has gone wrong. We soon discovered the reason was that the borrowers could no longer make further drawdowns under their existing facilities as their lenders had funding issues.

The press has widely reported the fate of Amicus, but we have also seen other lenders which seem to have funding issues. As everybody may remember from the RBS small business loans controversy, a lender with problems can destroy a lot of businesses.

There are principally three types of lenders that can threaten a borrower: those that lose their funding, and those that are either not sustainable or not ethical.

Lenders who lose their funding

Some bridging lenders depend on bank funding lines, some on P2P funding and some on institutional funding. Bank lines can be pulled easily, while P2P funding can dry up rapidly as a consequence of negative press and herd behaviour.

This will usually happen at the worst moment for a borrower: when it is difficult to get a loan from another lender. It may leave a borrower with a half-finished development, unable to make drawdowns or with an inability to extend their loan if the exit is delayed. The consequence is enforcement with a loss of equity in the process. 

For borrowers, it’s often impossible to understand a lender’s funding model, but brokers frequently have this insight. Lenders with non-diversified funding and loan book performance problems are most at risk of losing funding. 

Non-sustainable lenders

The fintech and P2P boom meant a lot of venture capital came flowing into our sector. This meant a lot of lenders were able to pursue a cash-burn business model.

The problem arises when venture capital investors run out of patience before the lender has become cash flow positive. A lender fearing something like this happening can create a vicious circle: the lender, knowing it needs to demonstrate growth to meet its original business plan projections, grants loans it should never have granted and portrays a much rosier picture than reality — until the card house collapses.

An enormous number of bridging lenders have been established over the past few years, and not all of them will prove to be sustainable. The broker plays an important role here, as he or she knows from industry gossip who is doing well and who is in trouble.

Non-ethical lenders

Unfortunately, we believe that some lenders’ business models are based on making money out of defaults or, even worse, lend-to-own. This does not mean they break the rules. It is easy enough for a borrower to have a project or exit delay, or to fail to comply with an administrative covenant. Indeed, the loan documentation is typically drafted to protect the lender, allowing it to easily declare a default.

Ethical lenders will work with the borrower to resolve the issue; others find it hard to resist the temptation to charge default interest and hefty fees. We continue to be amazed by the number of borrowers who fall into this trap. Clearly, more education is required on an industry level, although associations such as the ASTL have done good work to improve standards.

In part two we will look at why, particularly in 2019, knowing your lender is important, and give some practical steps for avoiding lender risk.