Bridging the Gap – Supporting Small House Builders through COVID-19 and Beyond

The UK’s well documented housing shortage, and the efforts made to address it, have not prevented the marked decline of small house builders in recent years. COVID-19 has posed additional challenges, although lenders have been able to assist individual firms with products under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

The market share occupied by small house builders fell from 28% in 2008 to 12% in 2015 [1]. Previous research from the NHBC Foundation lists (a) the planning process, (b) the availability and cost of land and (c) the availability of finance as the main factors inhibiting growth [2]. 

Since 2015 Fiduciam has endeavoured to provide relationship-based project financing for a range of SMEs, including house builders. We have sought to assist developers grow by offering flexible finance solutions that help accelerate their project cycle through the transfer of equity from one project to the next.

The typical Fiduciam house builder is developing three to ten units. We like to see a track record of completed previous projects and a willingness to engage with a lender. Works are funded through drawdowns approved by the appointed project monitor. Loan terms are generally 18 to 24 months for ground up projects and a little less for other schemes.

COVID-19 has impacted house builders in a variety of ways. We have seen borrowers affected by closed sites, limits to the number of workers on site, the reduced availability and higher cost of materials, and planning and utility connection delays. These construction delays, accompanied by the impact of social distancing restrictions on viewings, have prompted cash flow headaches and the risk of development loans running overtime.

Fiduciam has provided fresh funding to developers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including facilities under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This scheme seeks to assist SMEs with their additional liquidity requirements prompted by the disruption. Fiduciam has utilised the scheme to help provide individual house builders with the time and resources they require to finish existing projects and confidence to start works on new sites. The full impact of COVID-19, and support schemes such as CBILS, on house builders and housing supply will not be known for some time.

Fiduciam has been accredited by the British Business Bank to offer loans under the CBILS. Delivered through British Business Bank accredited lenders, CBILS is designed to support the continued provision of finance to UK smaller businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak. The scheme enables lenders to provide facilities of up to £5m to smaller businesses across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.

References:

[1] Department for Communities and Local Government (2017). Fixing our broken housing market.

[2] NHBC Foundation (2017). Small house builders and developers.

No Time to Zoom

2020 has been a challenging year for so many. Whilst we look forward to 2021 filled with the promise of vaccines, treatments and recovery, we would like to take a moment to look back at 2020. The pandemic brought us together and showed the best in humanity. However, it also claimed many victims and caused enormous destruction. We did our bit to fight the crisis by standing by our SMEs throughout the entire pandemic and granting interest payment holidays and new loans.  Whilst a number of lenders shut their doors, our employees did an extraordinary job to maintain an efficient lending operation and our institutional investors showed their strong commitment and humane engagement by continuing to advance funds.  Our company continued to grow in 2020 both in terms of number of employees and loan book.  We were honoured to become accredited by the British Business Bank as a lender in the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.  In our tradition of making festive fun, our Jane Bond captures some of the zeitgeist in our end-of-2020 holiday film.

Fiduciam provides £1.18million loan to fund Cornish hotel beyond Covid

Fiduciam, the institutionally funded short-term lender to SMEs and entrepreneurs, has just completed a £1.18million loan to finance a popular hotel in Cornwall.  The loan which falls under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), will enable the hotel to continue operating and investing until the end of 2022.

2020 has been a year of contrasts at Hustyns Hotel and Spa in Wadebridge. After closing for three months during the lockdown, it reopened in July to experience its highest demand for rooms in recent years, only to be affected once more by this second national lockdown.

Fiduciam’s loan provides Hustyns Hotel and Spa with secure commercial funding for 24 months. Financing costs have been reduced thanks to CBILS, and the absence of early repayment charges gives the borrower added flexibility.

Ravi Gupta of Hustyns Hotel and Spa, comments, “Covid-19 has posed unique challenges to the hospitality industry – it’s been a real year of volatility. 2020 was expected to be a significant year as we had invested in the hotel with a refurbished restaurant and a new ‘glamping’ offering coming on stream.

“We know that we have a good business model and strong demand, but after strong revenue and profit growth in 2019, the lockdown meant we experienced a difficult spring and early summer 2020 when we couldn’t let out rooms or lodges. Once the lockdown was lifted, we had to immediately scale up operations and staff levels for full occupancy. The loan from Fiduciam means that we cannot only weather this latest lockdown, but we can make the investments we want into our resort and know that our business’s future is secure for the next two years.”

Marc Morris, Underwriter at Fiduciam, says, “Hustyns is the perfect fit for our CBILS offering. Pre-COVID the hotel was performing well. The CBILS loan provides 12 months of space for Hustyns to maintain resilience and rebuild its accounts before the borrower returns to servicing interest. In the medium term, the borrower plans to refinance onto a term product.”

Fiduciam has been accredited by the British Business Bank to offer loans under the CBILS. Delivered through British Business Bank accredited lenders, CBILS is designed to support the continued provision of finance to UK smaller businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak. The scheme enables lenders to provide facilities of up to £5m to smaller businesses across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow. All economic downturns cause significant economic scarring in addition to any structural change. Short-term liquidity problems faced by even the best placed firms can quickly become solvency concerns, particularly as the result of an asymmetric shock such as a pandemic. Within this setting, Fiduciam continues to see pro-active businesses seek robust provision for their liquidity requirements over a 12 to 24-month time horizon.

How CBILS boosts local businesses and communities: turnaround for a children’s nursery

Fiduciam, the institutionally funded short-term lender, has just completed a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loan for £840,000.  The loan was to a children’s nursery in Leytonstone, in North East London, called Harvey House. 

The CBILS was designed to support the continued provision of finance to smaller UK businesses (SMEs) that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The loans are delivered through lenders accredited by the British Business Bank (BBB).

CBILS has been playing an important role in supporting local business and communities throughout the Covid-19 crisis, as the case of Harvey House demonstrates well.  Navneet Bansal, who has been a child carer for many years, took the initiative to open up her own children’s nursery, addressing a shortage of childcare in Leytonstone.  It was a proud moment when Harvey House opened in December 2019, but only four months later it was forced to close because of Covid-19.     

This hit the owners hard as they had to make debt service payments of £113,000 per annum, which quickly became unsustainable as the nursery waited months to hear when children could return to nursery care.

Fiduciam provided a two-year CBILS loan which decreases the debt servicing cost by 64% for the next two years.  This puts the nursery on a stable financial footing, also allowing it to deal with potential future Covid-19 hurdles.

The nursery qualified for the CBILS loan because it met the requirement of being a viable business before the outbreak of the pandemic and one that is expected to do very well in a more normal trading environment.  The nursery employs 17 staff to provide a high-quality childcare service, which is reflected in its 9.5/10 rating on daynurseries.co.uk.

Despite such rapid success and Navneet having an excellent personal history in the childcare sector, the high street banks were unable to provide a CBILS loan as the nursery businesses did not yet have a track record for the required length of time.

For Fiduciam, as an alternative lender, this was not an obstacle. The lender got to know the owner, Navneet, and inspected the nursery in operation. Having witnessed the professionalism and passion of the staff and owner, it was clear that such a nursery was very much in need in Leytonstone and therefore offered a very strong proposition. 

The Fiduciam CBILS loan now allows the nursery to establish a track record the next two years so that it can then refinance with a cheap high street bank loan.

Johan Groothaert, CEO of Fiduciam commented, “As a start-up SME, it is difficult to get finance in the best of times.  Thanks to CBILS we have been able to lower the financing costs for such SMEs.  Harvey House is run very professionally by experienced and passionate staff – we love to lend to such enterprises.

“It is thanks to the brave step of Navneet, setting up their own children’s nursery that Leytonstone’s shortage of high-quality children nursery places is being addressed.  We are confident that Harvey House will be very successful and provide an excellent early learning experience for hundreds of children in the coming years.” 

Navneet Bansal, owner of the nursery, commented, “We are very glad to have received the Fiduciam CBILS loan.  Without it, finance costs would have been overbearing and we did not want to pass on the cost to the parents or cut the quality of our childcare.  The Fiduciam CBILS loan puts our nursery on a very stable financial footing and ensures that all children continue to receive the discovery and learning experience they deserve.  We were also impressed by the efficiency of the Fiduciam CBILS loan application process.”

Case Study: Fiduciam’s CBILS loan helps housebuilder get back on track

Fiduciam is used to dealing with the unexpected, so while Covid-19 has been a particularly unwelcome shock – both for people’s health and for the economy– it is something we have tried to take in our stride as far as possible.

Successful short-term lending is all about being flexible and adapting to circumstances as you find them, so our team has been well placed to react to the challenging situation presented by the coronavirus.

Fiduciam was quick to see the potential of the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). The scheme is designed precisely to help businesses whose plans and finances have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak, and this seemed to us to be an excellent match for the flexible short-term finance options Fiduciam offers. The construction sector has been particularly hard hit, with figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that output fell by around two-fifths at the height of lockdown. The restrictions put in place to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 have derailed a number of development and refurbishment projects. When Fiduciam was accredited for CBILS by the British Business Bank last month, we therefore anticipated strong demand from this sector.

As it turned out, it was not long before we were approached by a housebuilder, who had seen a development project thrown off track by Covid-19. They had taken out an initial loan to purchase two adjacent properties in an up-and-coming town on the south coast of England, with a plan to convert them into a range of residences attractive to both first-time buyers and families. Covid-19 threw these plans off track and they came to Fiduciam aiming to refinance their existing loan and to procure additional funds to complete the conversion project.

From the borrower’s perspective, there are clear advantages to taking out a loan under CBILS. Firstly, the loan allows the housebuilder to resume the construction works immediately which were halted when the lockdown was introduced. Whilst the housebuilder had obtained leverage at the outset of the project, none of the housebuilder’s usual lenders were willing to finance the continuation of the project. Furthermore, under CBILS, the Government pays the fees and interest for the first 12 months. This turned out to be critical to make the loan affordable, in light of the much lower profitability of the project than the pre-Covid projections.

The scheme is also advantageous for lenders, who benefit from a partial guarantee from the Government, enabling us to unlock institutional funding more easily. This also means we are able to offer a lower interest-rate, which also provides an added benefit to our borrowers. Through the CBILS scheme, we were able to offer this housebuilder a £1.1 million topping out at 70% loan-to-value at an interest rate of around 0.8% per month, which is low for higher-risk development loans to small family-run housebuilders.

There are also direct benefits for the Government from the CBILS scheme. As well as helping to keep the economy moving and providing jobs, which is the primary objective of CBILS, this loan also served another Government objective, easing the current housing crisis by tackling the undersupply of residential accommodation. This project will create four new flats and three houses in place of one habitable property and a derelict farmstead.

The loan was not without complications, as the deal requires the transfer of land between the two properties, and the farmstead, although derelict, is also a listed building. However, Fiduciam is accustomed to dealing with all manner of complex lending scenarios and overcoming tricky issues, making us the perfect lender for this situation.

Our experience of CBILS so far has been extremely positive. Over the coming weeks Fiduciam is looking forward to helping many more high-quality businesses across the economy to get back on their feet, and return to growth, as the country gradually recovers from Covid-19.