Meet John O’Donnell, Lending Director Development Finance

What was your background before joining HTB?

Prior to joining Hampshire Trust Bank I worked at Investec for almost 15 years, spending most of that time in the Property Finance team. I initially provided internal support to established lenders, working my way up to originating my own loans.

Following the financial crisis, I spent 3 years focusing on recovery positions, comprising of distressed developments, planning plays and asset management strategies. This gave me invaluable experience to start lending again through 2012/2013, until the chance to be part of the HTB Development Finance start-up opportunity presented itself in 2014.

 

What does your role entail?

My role entails managing existing relationships, generating business through my existing network and growing that network to assist in the continued growth of our business.

Everyday is different and can range from reviewing potential opportunities on email or phone, through to donning my hardhat and boots to visit our developments at their various stages.

Whilst the role is predominantly about business development, it comes with significant credit responsibilities as the first line of defence in our lending process.

As well as being the main point of contact for my clients, I work closely with my colleagues to ensure a collaborative approach is taken to servicing our clients and to support the growth of the up and coming lending managers within the team.

 

What is unique about your approach to working with clients?

The only way to ensure the continuation of the success delivered to date is to maintain the strong bonds between myself, our team, our clients and appointed professionals.

The level of repeat business that I have had over the years is hopefully testament to the importance I place on my relationships.

I aim to build and strengthen these relationships wherever possible. Much of this comes down to face-to-face contact, so we have been somewhat fortunate to support an industry that has allowed work, and many of these meetings, to remain possible through the ups and downs of 2020 and the pandemic.

The level of repeat business that I have had over the years is hopefully testament to the importance I place on my relationships. For developers, it is essential that they can place their trust in who they partner with, to ensure a smooth funding process throughout the life of their projects.

 

What are the challenges you face in your role?

The nature of development finance means that no two projects are the same, and therefore each project has the potential to throw up new challenges for me and my clients.

In recent months, we have seen numerous lenders enter our space – both new entrants and those returning to the market having stopped or paused during 2020. Whilst most of our borrowers and brokers are likely to stay loyal given the HTB experience, the level of competition is bound to put pressure on bringing in new-to-bank borrowers.

On top of the day to day lending challenges, the full impact of the pandemic (and Brexit) is still to play out and we expect to see significant upward pressure on construction costs.

 

What are some of the key things you expect to see for the housing sector during 2021?

I very much see the housing market playing a key role in the Government’s plan for post pandemic recovery. The recent mortgage support announcements and continuation of the Help to Buy scheme will hopefully enable many more first time buyers to climb onto the housing ladder and to keep liquidity in the housing market.

There will undoubtably be some pain in certain sectors of the market but I am hopeful that there will be support and incentives to minimise this pain and create opportunities.

Freeing up the small scale development land and planning permissions that our SME borrowers so rely on will be very important. These SME developers can really help to close the housing shortage gap and help to improve our towns and villages across the country.

John O’Donnell is a Lending Director in our Development Finance team. To speak to him about your requirements, contact John via email on [email protected] or call 020 7862 6272 or 07500 988 257. Find out more about HTB Development Finance.