There has been much talk about the recent rise in size of the bridging market, with a number of new lenders coming into play. With a sector becoming larger does the role of a trade body, or association, become more relevant?
We are often hearing about associations and lenders are often advertising that they are a part of them, but what exactly do they do?
Adrian Bloomfield is the Chief Executive of the Association of Short Term Lenders (astl) and he shares his thoughts on the role an association plays: “We are a not for profit organisation and we do not seek to gain anything from our role. We exist merely to represent members as we are set up and operated by our members.
“Our main role is to promote those who are a part of our association and we strive to protect them from any threats. Many sectors, such as payday loans, can attract a bad reputation – this is not to say these reputations are justified in any way but they are there.
“The trade body is there to elevate the image of the sector and develop respect for our members, so that people can go to them with business and have confidence in their dealings.”
There are other associations, such as the Association of Bridging Professionals (AOBP), which is one of the newer ones – it celebrates its first birthday on October 6 and says this about its role: “The AOBP provides a service to intermediaries, master brokers and packagers in the Bridging industry by providing a forum for discussion on non-competitive issues, acting as a trade body to help promote a favourable operating environment and providing information to assist them in their business.”
But what do the members think? Is there really great value in signing up to a trade body?
Gavin Diamond, Finance Director of Cheval Bridging Finance, said: “We are part of the NACFB (National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers), ASTL, AOBP and CML (Council of Mortgage Lenders).
“Being part of them provides us with credibility, allows us to discuss issues and topical items with similar companies, it gives us the ability to lobby other trade bodies, associations and regulators. Where we are associate members, it allows us to market and publicise our products to relevant members of that organisation.”
Duncan Kreeger, Chairman of West One Loans: “We’re part of The Association of Short Term Lenders, we’re a patron of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers, and we’re also an affiliate lender member of the Association of Bridging Professionals.”
He also spoke of the benefits they believe they gain from being part of certain associations: “Being a member of lender bodies also give confidence to people who do business with us. Our broker partners can gain comfort from West One being part of an organisation like the ASTL that has introduced a code of conduct to the industry.”
Gareth Lewis, Head of Business Development at Tiuta PLC, had this to say: “Tiuta have always been strong believers in the adage ‘strength in numbers’ particularly when you are looking to promote the sector and to promote the highest of standards across the sector.
“Association membership also puts is at the forefront of many industry debates and it puts us in front of a variety of existing and potential partners. We are committed to the sector and association membership has a significant part to play in proving this.”
So it seems as though lenders feel being part of a trade body brings some semblance of solidarity to companies who are otherwise competitors.
Adrian Bloomfield summed up the importance of this togetherness in a certain market or sector that a trade body like the ASTL can give: “The trade body is there to elevate the image of the sector and develop respect for our members, so that people can go to them with business and have confidence in their dealings.
“If we did not exist, there would be no way of talking to the industry. It is very difficult to speak with 50 or so lenders, you would have to go to each one individually, so we act as an interface.
“We are essentially the conduit between the industry and the outside.”
Speaking to various different lenders, we can gather that a trade body is like the club everybody want to be in and the service they provide is becoming more and more important as the industry grows.