News & Views

Bridging industry must unite

Bridging lender Fincorp is urging the short-term finance industry to unite and move towards an era of professionalism and co-operation. The lender says strides have been taken in the past 12 months to bring the industry together to work towards improving professional standards and behaviour in the sector. Spearheading this move has been the Association of Short Term Lenders (ASTL) which has been headed up by chief executive Benson Hersch since July last year.

But Fincorp believes there is still a lack of will to recognise the excellent job done by Benson and the trade body, with some notable short-term lenders still reluctant to join and work as a united front to better the industry.

Nigel Alexander, director at Fincorp, said: “Fincorp has been in bridging for 25 years and it’s gone through many twists and turns as a sector in that time.

“But recent years have seen competition between lenders become much fiercer and it’s brought out some less attractive aspects of the sector. As a result I think it’s fair to say bridging has been criticised for failing to behave as professionally as it should. But as an industry I think the ASTL and Benson in particular should be congratulated for the steps he’s taken to get everybody on the same page. There are still some kinks that need to be worked through so that lenders are giving consistently good standards of service and offerings but it’s much more likely to happen if we all talk to each other and allow the ASTL to do its job in helping us achieve that.”

Fincorp goes on to suggest that the sector is running the risk of not using the clout it could have collectively to encourage intermediaries and the wider property finance market to use bridging more.

“Part of the beauty of bridging is that it’s a diverse sector with a lot of strong and charismatic personalities,” said Alexander. “But there’s a danger, I believe, that we are allowing too many splintered voices to influence how people outside the short-term market view us and that weakens us. We all want the same thing – a healthy, growing sector with lots of strong and professional players in it so that the customer is served well. We are more likely to achieve that if we show the world a more united front.”

Benson Hersch, chief executive of the ASTL, said: “There are many pre-conceptions in the wider community about the role of bridging; and the way that bridging firms conduct their business – not all these pre-conceptions are positive ones.  It makes sense that we all work in a more integrated way with the wider market; and abide by the ethical principles set out in the ASTL’s Value Charter and Code of Conduct.   This gives confidence to introducers that, when they deal with an ASTL member, cases will be dealt with in a correct and ethical way.   The ASTL will present a conference in October to discuss Bridging present and future and explore how we can all work together better for the good of the industry and its customers.”