Bridging needs an effective trade body

Sarah Davidson

January 11, 2012

Colin Sanders, chief executive at Omni Capital, said: “I hope 2012 is the year in which we see the emergence of truly effective and representative trade bodies for the sector.

“The basis for this already exists and the more mature bodies, such as NACFB, perform a sterling service for their members.

“But more can be done and as short-term lending continues to emerge from its previously ambiguous past, there is a pressing need for our trade bodies to evolve from ‘clubbiness’ to become the serious, vocal and articulate champions of the sector.”

There are currently three trade bodies that operate in the bridging sector including the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers, the Association of Short Term Lenders and the Association of Bridging Professionals.

Adrian Bloomfield, chief executive of the ASTL, said he felt Sanders’ comments were “almost unfair” given the lobbying he has done on behalf of members in the past four years.

Bloomfield said: “We want to reinforce and continue the work we have done over the past three or four years to raise awareness of the short-term sector as different from long term lending.

“If there had been no effective trade body in the run up to the Mortgage Market Review there would not have been a section dedicated to the short-term sector.”

He added that he felt this showed the ASTL was “very effective” and “highly regarded” by the Financial Services Authority.

Mark Posniak, head of marketing and operations at lender Dragonfly Property Finance as well as a member of the ASTL executive, agreed that the bridging lender trade body had achieved “a hell of a lot” in the past few years.

He said: “It is difficult to have one voice in bridging because the different trade bodies have different agendas but to discount what the ASTL has achieved is not entirely fair.”

Posniak added that he thought there was room for the ASTL to “widen its scope” to make it more representative of the short-term market however.

“I would also agree with Colin that we do need to move away from the perception of clubbiness,” he added. “I think the ASTL is making an effort to be active and widen its membership.”

Adam Tyler, chief executive of the NACFB, said he agreed with Sanders that further discussion to agree the responsibilities of each bridging trade body was needed.

And he also voiced concern that bridging had been singled out in such detail in the latest MMR.

He went on to say: “The latest MMR consultation paper dedicates just three pages in its data pack to business lending.

“From that we can only conclude that the NACFB has been doing its job properly over the last 20 years.

“We engage with the FSA whenever we need to. This is how a trade body should operate.”

Meanwhile Lucy Hodge, executive committee member of the AOBP, said recent growth in the bridging sector meant more regulatory scrutiny was inevitable.

She said: “Whilst the AOBP does not believe short-term finance forming part of the MMR will be particularly helpful to the sector we do see it as a good thing that it has at least been recognised as a niche product.”

Hodge added that the AOBP has “certain initiatives planned” to ensure it represents the sector effectively “despite certain hurdles we will no doubt be faced with”.

Robert Sinclair, director of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries, said given the increased focus on bridging by European regulators and the FSA, having a coherent trade body voice was important.

He said: “A simple and cohesive voice will have much more traction with the regulator.

“Given the increasing focus on the short-term sector, it’s important bridging and short-term lenders have a consistent voice representing their interests.”

In the last year the NACFB reported a 180% increase in short lending introductions by its members, of whom around three quarters are unregulated by the FSA.

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