Fiduciam lends €5.7m for Dutch office portfolio

Fiduciam has granted a €5.7 million loan to enable a borrower to acquire a new office building and extend their portfolio in the Netherlands.

Since the opening of Fiduciam’s Dutch branch office over a year ago, they are seeing demand for their loan product.

The main banks in the country continue to reduce their commercial real estate loan books, which means there is demand that cannot be satisfied by traditional mainstream lenders. Fiduciam is filling this void, offering lower interest rates than the other alternative lenders in this sector.

Funding lines: The risk of excessive risk parameter harmonisation

Many bridging lenders are financed by a funding line provided by a bank or specialist debt fund.

Typically, these funding line providers will finance between 70–90% of the loan, with the remainder being financed by the equity of the bridging lender or through a junior funder.

While most bridging lenders use such funding lines, some are financed on a different basis. An alternative funding route is the P2P model, very popular a few years ago, but maybe less so today. The greatest risk with this is regarding investors’ money, rather than for the lender, which has increased FCA scrutinisation and the recent confirmation of new rules for P2P platforms.

Another alternative funding model is direct institutional funding, such as pension funds and institutional investors taking a direct stake in the loan book, but as there is no fixed template for this model, it takes longer to set up. Finally, there is the route of securitisation, but for such structures to be efficient, a large loan book is required. 

For that reason, many bridging and alternative lenders go for the traditional funding line model. There are many providers, it is a well-known template and it allows new bridging lenders to get out of the starting blocks easily. The problem is the funding lines are all quite similar in what they can offer, which restricts the options available to the borrower. 

In fact, many banks and credit funds have been attracted by the healthy returns of such funding lines and have been eager to find more interested bridging lenders.

The providers of the funding lines typically impose restrictions on the type of loans — for instance, the type of real estate, the loan term, loan size etc — that can be funded with the funding line and impose further risk parameters on the overall loan book. This is normal, after all, they are exposed to the risk of the loan book. Where the losses on the loan book exceed the equity buffer provided by the bridging lender, the provider of the funding line can start losing money.

Some restrictions stipulate that the lender has to buy back the loan after a period of time, say 90 days. In this case, the risk is greater for lender than for the supplier of the funding line. These restrictions mean the lender would need sufficient capital to be able to buy back the loan while continuing to support its business, as well as a robust internal process on the underwriting and servicing side.

Such risk management techniques become somewhat self-defeating, though, if all funding line providers impose similar risk parameters, creating a particular segment. This results in more money chasing bridging loans than the natural market demands in this segment, leading to an erosion of LTVs and interest rates. 

We believe that this is what we are currently witnessing in the UK market. Risk-return characteristics for bridging loans substantially improve when one moves outside of the segment that is backed by funding lines.

Where does the name ‘Fiduciam’ come from?

 ‘Fiduciam’ is Latin for “mortgagee” and the accusative singular of fiducia, which has as its root fido, which means “I trust/I rely upon”. 

Fiducia cum creditore (which should not be confused with fiducia cum amico) was one of the earliest types of Roman mortgage, in essence the property would have been transferred to by the borrower to the lender on trust as security in order to demonstrate good faith (bona fides). Today we might use the term bona fide to mean “genuine”, however a more technical translation might be “reliable/reliability”. 

The fiducia cum creditore created a system of mutual trust between borrower and lender because: 

  • under the pactum fiduciae the lender agreed to return the property when the debt was satisfied; 
  • the lender had possession of the property, their ownership of which would be perfected if the loan was not repaid; and 
  • there was a further clause requiring the sale of the property in the event of default from which the lender, as trustee, would deduct the debt from the proceeds of sale, so that the lender would not be able to keep property with a value of more than the debt owed. 

For this to work there had to be a trustworthy borrower and a trustworthy lender. 

So successful was fiducia cum creditore that despite the advent of pignus (a “pledge”) it not only survived until the late Roman Empire, but it has more or less survived into the modern Dutch law, as bewind, and German law, as treuhand, and in 2007 fiducie was reintroduced into the French Civil Code in a form which require the property to be held by an independent trustee; Fiduciam sometimes uses fiducie when lending against security in France. 

This concept of fides or “trustworthiness”, “faithfulness”, “confidence” (which itself derives from the Latin for “with faith/faithfulness”), “reliability” or “credibility”, was so essential to Roman law that it became a principle virtue of the Roman moral code (the mos maiorum/“ancestral custom”) and deified into a goddess with a temple on the Capitoline Hill, near the Temple of Jupiter right in the spiritual centre of the ancient city between the Forum and the Field of Mars. Fiduciam seeks to embed this virtue right at the very core of who we are and what we do, right in the DNA of the company. A reliable borrower will always find in us a reliable lender with whom they can deal with consistently from one transaction to the next. 

The growing need for development refinancing

There appears to be a growing trend of borrowers looking to refinance a development before it is completed.

This could be due to multiple reasons – the current facility is expiring and the lender does not want to carry on; there have been cost overruns which the lender is unwilling or unable to fund, or because the borrower is looking for a discounted interest rate.

Developments can be challenging even under the best of circumstances, and a ground up development carries a different set of risks to refurbishment or conversion works, while new build extensions are slightly different again. Even the best planned development undertaken by the most experienced of developers can experience issues.

On refurbishments or conversions, there can be issues with the building, including underpinning requirements, asbestos, or structural issues with the property.

On ground up developments, there is ‘in-ground’ risk including potential contamination on brownfield sites – while all developments can suffer from the need to increase specifications on developments. Issues with developments such as these, can result in cost overruns associated with the build and also cost overruns from time delays.  Time delays can become a real issue when they extend beyond the term of the loan with the developer still building when the loan term runs out.

From a lender perspective, it is important to make sure the developer has the extra time needed to complete their development as this presents the best opportunity for a successful outcome for both the borrower and the lender.

Despite this, some lenders are unable to roll, or extend, their development loans, or may be unwilling to do so.

Across the market there is anecdotal evidence that some credit lines are tightening.  Sometimes therefore, the best solution for a borrower can be to refinance the part-complete development with a new lender.

Lenders such as Fiduciam are happy to provide development refinancing for part-complete developments, and we have on multiple occasions provided funding for this type of scheme both in the UK and abroad.

However, it is important the developer can show that the works to date are in good shape and that they have the ability to complete the remaining works.

If a developer wants to take this route, the new lender will want to check that the development works to date are compliant, with both planning permission and building regulations.

If you have a client in the situation of refinancing a part-built development therefore, it is wise to advise them to have a building surveyor and their architect ready to provide this evidence.

Often, a new lender will be happy to take this advice from the current lender’s monitoring surveyor.

The role of brokers has arguably never been more important than it is currently, in understanding who the savvy lenders are: which are the ones that truly understand what is involved in a development and have the financial strength to support the borrower.

While interest rate is important for the development refinancing, what is more so is for a borrower to be with a flexible lender who understands the risks, can help a borrower to complete a development if they hit difficulties and who is flexible enough to ensure that they have a loan term that really is long enough for a project to be completed, no matter what unforeseen events may befall.