Page 78 - Bridging & Commercial Magazine Issue 5
P. 78

    Backstory   ‘NED appointments are critical for bridging lenders’ Glenhawk’s new non-executive director (NED) discusses building loan books in the regulated and non-regulated space, why there should not be short cuts on valuations, and how NEDs can bring fresh eyes to a business  Caroline’s vibrant career has seen her working in director roles at Sydney-based Allco Finance Group, Bear Stearns International, Mòrgij Analytics and, most recently, as chief operating officer and NED at Pamplona Capital Management and Octane Capital, respectively. She decided to join nascent bridging lender Glenhawk in June this year. In her new post, she will provide strategic operational and governance counsel to Guy Harrington (CEO) and his team, and will be available as a sounding board in order for them to excel. What has been your biggest achievement to date while working in the specialist finance market? I have not been in the specialist finance market for all my career, but I learnt very quickly what a fast-moving and dynamic industry it is. I would have to say that moving into the boardroom as an independent director in an industry I am incredibly passionate about is my biggest achievement. I think it takes a unique skill set, which I have managed to acquire. How were you approached for the role at Glenhawk? Guy contacted me soon after I stepped down as COO at Pamplona Capital, and as good timing would have it, I had recently resigned as non-exec director of Octane. I had heard a bit about Glenhawk in the market, so was intr igued to meet with him. What they had achieved at that point and the people behind Glenhawk was very impressive. He went through its future plans for product expansion and funding, and I was really impressed by everyone I met. Why are NED appointments important to bridging lenders, and do you expect this type of role to become more prevalent in the bridging market in the near future? NED appointments are critical for bridging lenders as well as many other sectors. They bring fresh eyes to the business and because many of the participants in bridging are entrepreneurial by nature, they can be run by imbalanced boards that are too focused on the day-to-day performance, losing sight of the culture-building and ethics. NEDs can rebalance that by focusing on how the company functions and not just what it does. Not many young companies have the foresight to appoint NEDs who have an unbiased and honest external view. Glenhawk deserves credit for identifying this early with two NEDs on the board. How does having over 20 years of commercial and residential real estate experience help you in your new role? My experiences have provided me with the opportunity to work across a diverse landscape. I have worked internationally, for start-ups and established institutions, with multiple cultures with different personalities. I can now detect industry weaknesses, such as prying open gaps in regulation, as well as recognise strengths such as ingenuity, credibility and reputation. All of these come into play at some point in the boardroom, where you can quickly identify issues and problematic scenarios, but equally recognise talent, good strategy and, most importantly, honesty. Glenhawk is targeting further loan book growth, product launches into the regulated and long- term space and additional funding sources. How will your support help to scale up the business? I will provide guidance and ideas management to executives. I have had quite a bit of experience in building loan books in the regulated and non- regulated space and been on the funding side for more years than I care to admit, so that experience coupled with knowledge of orchestrating governance to support lending volumes, should allow me to be able to give Guy and his team honest feedback, and challenge their ideas so that the business growth is controlled, valuable and sustainable. Above all, ensuring his expansion plan is legitimate and achievable with the team in place, and able to create true enterprise value. What one thing does the industry not know about Glenhawk? The company at one point was going to be called Vention. Also, the average age of the whole company is 35. As a lender which is trying to increase gender representation at board level, what needs to be done industry wide to encourage others to follow this initiative? All credit goes to Guy; he recognised long before I joined that embracing diversity, especially at senior level, will trickle down and influence the culture of the organisation. In the wider market, I have seen that there has been a shift where senior managers are at least opening the conversation about gender diversity at board level. I think the industry needs to embrace the regulatory changes that support diversity, and think ahead and start building an effective succession plan. The bridging industry has attracted younger entrants, more recently, who are naturally more open to a balanced board, so it shouldn’t take too long before it becomes more widespread. If you could change one thing about the bridging industry, what would it be? Reckless lending and short cuts. Also, no short cuts on valuations. It happens increasingly more often because of pressure to win the deal.           Bridging & Commercial 76 How did you spend your very first pay cheque? I am Australian and I remember starting work in the Australian winter months and all I could think of was a shiny new pair of skis, so I think I bundled the first three pay cheques together to put towards some new ones. Most memorable moment from your time in the industry? My first job was in Sydney and my first business trip to Paris—how could I forget that? What is your favourite venue for meetings? For brunch it would be Lantana in Charlotte Place—they do good, old-fashioned healthy Aussie breakfasts. Drinks would definitely be Dukes Bar. For a business lunch or dinner, Le Boudin Blanc in Mayfair. Favourite industry event? The Global ABS conference in Barcelona. It is amazing how it has survived through more than one financial crisis. If you didn’t work in finance, what would you be doing? A tough one. I had a one-track mind when I finished university to work in finance, but if it hadn’t been possible, then I think I would work in sports hospitality. I love hosting and making people feel special.         

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