The Five Minute Interview with Michael Grant

Michael Grant, head of sales, bridging & development finance, West One

West One Loans has been a leading specialist finance lender since 2007, renowned throughout the industry for its expertise in bridging and development loans, and latterly for seconds and buy-to-let.

The specialist lender has just announced its quarterly results for Q1 2021, reporting record results across all areas of the business from broking to lending.

West One also recently relaunched its website which significantly raised the profile of its proposition to the whole market, including networks and clubs in the four product categories of bridging, development finance, BTL and second charge mortgages.

What is the best thing about being in the bridging/development finance business?

One of the best things for me is being able to see a deal complete, from end-to-end, and be able to move quickly to get it over the line. It gives me great job satisfaction to play a role in making that happen. And as part of that, having a great range of brokers and clients to deal with on a daily basis. Our industry is built on existing and new relationships, so this is key for me.

What keeps you focused?

Having a close eye on the competition, both externally and from within, is something I find keeps me focussed on my objectives. We are in an industry that is highly challenging and competitive, as there are always new products coming to the market and at the end of the day, brokers and their clients will go after what they feel is the best deal. So, it’s vital to try to stay on top of that and give brokers reasons to come to West One, rather than any other lender. That in itself helps to push West One to the fore, which is the main objective that always has my attention.

What qualities do you look for in your employees or colleagues?

I read a quote online recently about how it’s important to hire somebody for their attitude rather than their skills, because you can always teach skills. I think there’s a lot in that actually and one of the key qualities we look for is that drive to succeed, which has to come from within. Of course, we also look for someone who is able to structure deals effectively, can think on their feet, and be a team player. But whilst we can incentivise and provide training and mentoring and all of that career development, the individual needs that initial spark.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Well, I’m an Arsenal fan, and I work in sales, so that most definitely makes me an optimist!

What did you want to be as a child?

Like most kids all I wanted to do was play football all day, every day and dreamt of nothing more than becoming a professional footballer.

What will be the greatest challenge facing the bridging/development finance industry in the coming months?

The way I see it, in many ways the bridging/development area of the property market is much like the vanilla resi world in one sense, in that we rely on people having the security of an income behind them to make big financial decisions. So, personally I feel the end of the furlough scheme is going to be a big test for the sector because of how it will affect employment. Even though it’s been extended to October, it raises so many questions about what will happen when people come off furlough. What we hope is that the vaccine rollout continues at the same, or greater pace, to enable business to open up again and bring an all-important shot of confidence back into the economy. By the time people start coming off the scheme in great numbers, we need the recovery to have advanced sufficiently so that there are other jobs to go to, or even to go back into the role they had been furloughed from.

Who or what makes you laugh?

I’d say my daughter makes me laugh most of the time. No matter what’s going on in the world, she’s always able to cheer me up.

Do you dread Monday mornings?

Actually, I don’t dread Monday mornings, I enjoy Mondays. Essentially I see Sunday as my Monday. I always take Mondays as an opportunity, a new start, rather than have the mindset that it’s the end of the weekend and I have to get back on the treadmill.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change anything about myself personally. Our makeup and how we are generally makes us the person we are, which is integral to everything. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve myself and to continue to learn and develop, and having a young child provides that opportunity! But change? I would say nothing.

With whom would you most like to have dinner?

Given the current climate and the way everything’s been over the last year with the coronavirus crisis, the people I would most like to have dinner with right now would simply be my family.

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