By Stephen Hogg, Chief Operating Officer, Enra Specialist Finance
Looking back over 2021 the mortgage market has been extremely busy. For West One loans it has been a remarkable year with record results. Lending has soared across all four of our divisions; bridging, development finance. buy-to-let and second charge mortgages.
Recruitment was very strong in 2021 with staff numbers increasing by a third. To accommodate our growing business we moved into a new, environmentally-friendly office in Watford. The office is SKA rated which means its fit-out has been environmentally assessed by RICS approved assessors and meets our ESG recruitment for a sustainable working environment.
Product development is an important part of our proposition. We monitor the market closely and respond to changing conditions, and we have been able to offer a range of new products this year. It's good to see the industry embracing green mortgages and we are one of several lenders to have launched a green range within the buy-to-let sector. As we move into 2022 our ESG strategy will form a foundational part of our business offering and brand strategy.
We have also made major criteria changes such as raising maximum borrower limits from £1.5 million to £5 million in our buy-to-let division. West One's second charge division also expanded criteria including lifting the maximum LTV to 85% and increasing loan size to £250,000. These types of enhancements provide greater choice for brokers and borrowers and illustrate our flexibility.
Technology is key for West One and we have built our own origination systems in-house. In 2021 we launched a new origination system for our bridging product, which includes improved data capture, automated document production and underwriting control. Significantly, all of our products are now originated on a single common platform. This year we also welcomed a new CTO, Aris Karidis, who will lead the development of our technology to improve customer journeys, increase automation, and support our customers to transition seamlessly between our products.
Our broad range of lending products within West One is designed to supply clients with flexible funding solutions. This works particularly well when we offer a combination of bridging and development finance to acquire sites and then finance new build, conversion, or refurbishment activity. We also structure more complex cases across three or even four products. For example, once a project is completed the client can move onto further bridge to exit the development phase, and take buy-to-let mortgages against remaining units to raise further finance for new projects.
In 2022 we will focus on growing our business through further product development as well as broadening and deepening our distribution relationships. Growth will be supported through continuing investment in our people, and our proprietary technology. West One has delivered remarkable consistency and strong growth through challenging times over the last two years. In 2022 we are absolutely committed to continuing to provide great service, specialist credit expertise, and reliable funding solutions to our brokers and our customers.
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