BestAdvice (BA): What was the thinking behind the brand?
Colin Sanders (CS): There were three main drivers. First, my wife and I are big fans of Italy as a holiday destination in general and of Tuscany in particular. The name therefore has personal appeal. Second, I wanted to avoid a confected, made-up brand identity: I prefer names based on actual words that people can understand. And third, the name and its associated domains were available – a pretty important consideration when creating a business from scratch!
BA: Who are the key personnel?
CS: I’ve deliberately kept the team very lean to begin with. Experience has taught me to keep start-up costs tightly under control and firmly aligned to the business plan. Over-spending at the start can prove a costly error in the long-term.
So, along with myself there is Matt Rogers as head of business development, Dena Thompson as head of credit & risk and Bob Sturges who serves as head of PR & marketing. I’ve worked with all three in ‘previous lives’ over more years than I should remember.
The team is complemented by Andy Reeder – another ex-colleague – who manages broker relationships and our Client Services Desk. He is supported by our business analyst, Henry Bowcock, who is just beginning what I foresee as a long and successful association with financial services.
Finally, I will shortly be announcing the appointment of a highly experienced chief financial officer.
I’m also happy to confirm to BestAdvice that demand for our products means we’re now on the hunt for extra support in both our business development and credit & risk teams, so watch this space…
BA: How would you describe your offering?
CS: Non-prescriptive, elastic bridging finance up to 75% LTV offered across England and Wales in amounts from £150k upwards and at rates from 0.75% per month.
One of my key objectives when launching Tuscan Capital was to avoid a too rigid product offering. I’ve been in bridging long enough to know that a one-size-fits-all mentality just doesn’t cut it. Brokers need – and deserve – flexibility and that’s what we look to provide.
BA: How will you stand out from the crowd?
CS: I know many lenders claim it as a USP (is there really such a thing in bridging?), but one area in which we strive to be a little different is through our service ethic by, for instance, offering our intermediaries direct access to senior mandated decision-makers.
We also eschew cumbersome and too-bureaucratic credit committees. As it has grown, many elements of the bridging world have become increasingly institutionalised. Whilst this has brought many advantages, such as in helping to raise standards, I think it has also diluted that vital entrepreneurial edge that makes traditional bridging so compelling.
Tuscan Capital will not seek to compete with the more-established challenger lenders, but I am determined that we will consistently offer a reliably speedy and decisive service to brokers and their clients.
All this is designed with one overriding purpose in mind: repeat custom. I’m confident we will succeed in this, but I guess the proof will be in the eating of the pudding.
BA: What distributors are/will you be using? Is there an ideal number for you?
CS: So far Tuscan Capital has benefited from long standing relationships with a small number of specialist brokers and packagers whom we know well. Given that our proposition is nationwide we have also successfully engaged with one or two new distributors based outside of the South East, which is something we intend to develop further.
As for an ideal number, I wouldn’t nail my colours to the mast on this one yet, but we intend to grow our distribution as we increase our resources and funding capacity. We are focused on delivering first class service to our broker partners as our priority, so the number will always be carefully limited to our resource capacity.
BA: How are you funded?
CS: When launching Tuscan Capital, I didn’t want it to be beholden to a big institutional fund or committed to lending large volumes at marginal rates. As such, we’re backed by a mix of private capital injected by the directors and funding from a private equity house, Quilam Capital, which invests in carefully-selected entrepreneurial businesses in the financial services sector.
BA: What targets/aspirations do you have?
CS: As previously intimated, we are not and are unlikely ever to become a volume-driven lender. Our early targets are modestly ambitious but highly achievable. I’m conscious that bridging is a finite market with specialist appeal and have tailored our financial objectives to that demographic.
I’m cautious about speaking too soon but our first two months of trading have delivered better-than-expected results. So far, we’re ahead of our target but I won’t be crowing about the numbers just yet. Suffice to say we are actively exploring opportunities to add to our existing funding capabilities with a view to future growth.
BA: What message do you have for those who many have done business with you before? What about those who haven’t?
CS: Tuscan Capital has enjoyed a fantastic reception from some old friends in the intermediary community, many of whom constitute some of the best-known and respected names in short-term lending.
But it hasn’t just been kind words. The broker names associated with both our recent suite of completions and pipeline of pending business is proof, I believe, that our offering is relevant and competitive.
To intermediaries with whom we haven’t worked before I would say that I know you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to bridging. The sector is over-supplied, which means shopping around is essential to get the best deal for your client.
We will never be the cheapest lender; nor are we likely to venture into some of the more exotic areas of bridging. But if you value qualities in your lender such as experience, integrity and a true desire to make deals happen then give us a call.
BA: You’ve run a number of successful businesses in the past. Why put yourself through all this again?
CS: In short, I really enjoy a challenge and in particular building new businesses. I did enjoy some time out last summer, but it wasn’t long before I decided that I wanted to get busy again and try to build a new firm where I could hand pick the team and work with funding partners that I am comfortable with. I’m not sure I will ever fully retire.
BA: Will Tuscan always focus on bridging? Can you foresee ever moving into other product areas?
It’s bridging, bridging, bridging all the way for the time being. In recent years I’ve run businesses that have diversified from vanilla residential bridging into prime real estate development funding, high-value complex structured finance and even point-of-sale retail finance.
Whilst the journey in each case was undeniably fascinating and educational I’m in no hurry to repeat it with Tuscan Capital. My focus for the predictable future is therefore on building a sustainable, profitable and respected lender that people enjoy working for, where we can have some fun, and which brings some honest financial gain to all associated with it, whether employee, investor, introducer or borrower.