Mint targets quarter-of-a-billion-pound loan book with plans for regulation

As part of an ambitious three year commercial strategy, Mint Bridging aims to grow its loan book to over £250m, and is set to add longer term loans and regulated mortgages to its offering. The bridging lender’s founder and managing director, Andrew Lazare, discusses how the business intends to reach these goals, why championing the underdogs of the borrower community is key, and how the introduction of product panels will help expand its routes to market.  

What key opportunities and market gaps will you be looking at in 2021 and why? 

Mint takes pride in the fact that we immerse ourselves in the market. Our senior team has first-hand experience of all aspects of property finance, be that from the position of borrowing, developing, building, or managing properties; we have an in-depth understanding of the challenges, as well as the opportunities. When looking specifically at prospects in 2021, we firmly believe that our increasing ability to ‘champion the underdog’ will position us well for even further growth. In a changing landscape, traditional lenders are looking for more reassurance in a market where there is, put simply, less. So, as a privately funded lender, our ability to back borrowers and loans that make commercial sense to us in a way that other lenders can’t is a real opportunity for the year ahead. In terms of the type of borrowing that we are gearing ourselves up to do more of, we believe there will be an increasing shift through 2021 towards traditional bridging products. We are already strong in this area and our move towards more specialist teams, the use of title insurance, and the employment of new technologies will see us continue to drive down the time period from enquiry to completion to less than a week.  

How are you evolving the way you work with brokers? 

We work extremely closely with our brokers and, this year, we will be introducing a number of ways to strengthen those relationships. It’s important for intermediaries and lenders to have a symbiotic relationship; our brokers have a thorough understanding of the Mint product offering, just as we have a proven and established knowledge of their requirements. It’s important that brokers understand the values and USPs of each lender they work with and how they differentiate themselves from the crowd. As a lender, it is our job to equip them with that knowledge. 

Having continued to lend throughout the pandemic, what were enquiries and completion levels like for you in 2020 compared with 2019, and what lending targets do you have for 2021? 

Whereas some lenders have been required to press pause during the pandemic, we’ve been pleased to [maintain] the momentum of our business—with overall enquiries down by less than 1% compared with 2019 and with no sign of slowing down in 2021. While our conversion-to-completed loans slightly reduced as a function of the uncertain economic landscape— particularly during the second and third quarters of 2020—overall value of loans has remained strong and continues to rise. 

Our aspiration prior to the third lockdown was to lend £175m this year in new originations. As you would expect, our initial progress towards that figure will be slower, but we’re confident we can pick that up by the end of the year. 

How will Mint be innovating in a bid to increase distribution this year? 

We have started the new year in an incredibly strong position. Through significant investment in proprietary tools and systems in 2020, we’ve achieved an even better understanding of our commercial relationships and, in turn, further possible routes to market. We have already begun exploring these to drive broader distribution across the sector, and will be introducing a number of new approaches to business this year. These include relationship audits to uncover improved ways of working together with our broader spectrum of partners; regular virtual roadshows to showcase our products and services to partners old and new; and developing a programme of product panels to ensure Mint remains at the forefront of delivering innovative and timely products to the market. All of this is designed to further strengthen our relationships with partners and provide a platform through which to ensure all parties have an in-depth understanding as to the breadth of our products, and also through which to invite essential feedback. It is important for us to listen to our partners and to understand their specific needs.

You currently offer novaluation loans, bridging and development finance, second-charge specialist, and refurbishment loans. Where are you currently seeing most demand and why? 

Last year saw a slight change in our product mix with a minor shift from development to bridging. It’s a pattern we expect to see continue throughout 2021 and beyond, and one that we have already readied the business for in both structural and operational terms. The shift can be put down to several factors, including increased demand for BTL properties and our competitive rates for bridging products. Our no-valuation 60/65% product was really well received in the market, particularly among specialist bridging brokers. There has been a slight reduction in second-charge loans over the past 12 months, but we are expecting to see this recover and grow in 2021 as people seek to raise money for investment purposes from their existing portfolio. 

How exactly does the novaluation product work? 

Our no-valuation product does exactly what it says on the tin. It was born out of our significant experience in lending and sees us deliver an innovative product to a section of the market that needs it. There’s minimal risk. We ensure that we deliver against the tight timescales that our collective clients demand, so when our team are happy with the loan, the comparables and the borrower, we provide a product with no valuation necessary, saving both time and money. We were one of the first to bring the no-valuation product to market and it has been exceptionally well received. 

What new products can we expect to see from Mint this year? 

The programme of product panels that we are developing will, through 2021 and beyond, allow us to even better listen and react to the needs of the market. Early fruits of this labour include a number of new products that will be launched in the next few months, among them a 100% purchase price loan to allow experienced borrowers to undertake refurbishment works without the need to seek further drawdowns from us. We are also close to launching interest roll-up on some of our products—which means we will be able to offer serviced, deducted and rolledup interest options to our borrowers. 

How will the business be marketing itself differently this year and why? 

Since our launch in 2011, we have been proud to enjoy consistent yearon- year growth, which we believe is a sterling testament to our people. 

As we embark on our next phase of expansion, and look to increase our presence in the market, we are pleased to have appointed specialist consultants in the fields of digital marketing, PR and communications, and senior business leadership to support us in our continued growth.

We’ll be dialling up our approach to marketing, delivering an efficient and effective integrated sales and marketing strategy that drives further quantifiable commercial return for the business. You can expect to see more of Mint across social media and other digital media channels, as well as in the press. 

Mint has recently restructured internally, including new specialist bridging and development underwriting and dedicated completion teams. Who have you hired, why did you decide to do this, and how has it helped the business to lend during uncertain times? 

We have great commercial ambitions, but we understand that we can only achieve them through the delivery of a fantastic service—this requires us to invest in people. In recent months, we have made several appointments across our senior team, including Amy Brown and Danielle Comer who join our completions department, and Mariela Loján who joins our finance team. We have also split our underwriting team by products, so we now have a bridging team and a separate development team, providing bespoke and specialist expertise closer to each deal. 

Furthermore, we now have a dedicated asset management team, a product-specific legal team, a committed and knowledgeable portfolio management team, and a new completions team. By investing in expertise at every level of our business, we can ensure that all aspects of the loan are dealt with professionally and to the highest standards. 

Our people are key to Mint’s core business values. We’re extremely proud of our workforce and low staff turnover rate. This further contributes to the high level of personal care Mint’s customers enjoy. 

Over the next three years, how will Mint be looking to increase the scale of the business and its loan book, and is becoming regulated part of your plans? 

We have ambitious plans for the future. Over the past 10 years, we’ve been proud to grow to a 45-strong, trusted team, with a loan book exceeding £100m. During the next three years, and through the continued development and expansion of Mint’s proposition and products, our mediumterm commercial objective is to grow our bridging loan book to over £250m. 

Our three-year commercial strategy focuses on maximising the relationships that we have, introducing new routes to market and, in the next 12–18 months, following approval, introducing a range of regulated products to our portfolio. This will include launching longer-term loans and mortgages. 

We are proud of the products and services that we bring to the sector. We are now of a size and scale that sees us defining the plans and strategies that will deliver our ‘next level’ growth ambitions—and we look forward to being a more visible and vocal lender in the months and years to come.

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