Property Development Finance - Game of Loans: Let your client see the whites of your eyes
In an increasingly digitalised world, most lenders would admit to being heavily reliant on technology in communicating with clients. Long gone are the days when your bank manager would ring you up and take you out to lunch in order to discuss banking and any potential borrowing you might require. The beauty of this is that business was done face to face; you could see the whites of the eyes of the person representing the company you were borrowing from. For consistency it was usually the same person you dealt with, and lending was agreed quickly.
This practice is of course almost extinct and everything nowadays is done over email, phone or a medium somewhere in between the two. This is where we are aiming to roll back the clock by getting to know the client. "Old fashioned" is a term used to describe something dated and outmoded, however when I explain what our lending service is like to potential clients I always aim to point out that we have "old fashioned" principles.
As a matter of course, we always invite all our new clients into the office for a meeting when they agree to progress with a loan. We discuss their project and aspirations over a bite to eat and give them a chance to meet the team, ask any questions they like and see the whites in the eyes of the people they are borrowing money from and working with to grow their business. Every client has a different level of expectancy when they work with lender, in terms of speed, service and general responsiveness. Some like to stay in constant contact, others don’t like to be called or visited too often. The point here is that by getting to know the client you get a healthier understanding of what they expect to receive from the transaction.
In the last 12 months at Regentsmead we have made a point of visiting every single one of our clients on site. With many miles clocked up and just a few sites to visit remaining I have learnt how appreciative people can be by doing business with another human being, rather than just through phone calls, Skype or emails. Clients certainly appreciate you taking an interest in their building project, and turning up with a bottle of champagne or a box of chocolates makes the visit all the more sweeter. Getting to know our clients’ business and understanding them is paramount to the service we offer.
Consistency isn't much of a problem at Regentsmead either. James Bloom will start most new client meetings by informing them that he has now been working at Regentsmead for 28 years. We recently produced a case study about a client whom we first started dealing with 20 years ago and through a bit of personal service and the occasional trip out to lunch together we are now funding some substantial building projects for them.
Whilst we make a point of having "old fashioned" principles we always try to distinguish ourselves from a modern banking approach to lending. Yes, phones and emails are important, just like any other business. However, when we are funding and helping to grow our clients’ businesses it we make sure it becomes a personal matter as we are perceived as a partner rather than a lender.
Who knows, if you came back in another 28 years, you might still be dealing with James Bloom.