Laura Carr, head of underwriting at Hope Capital is In the Spotlight with the Financial Reporter.
As a head of underwriting at Hope Capital, what does your role involve and what does a typical day look like?
Job descriptions are a funny thing, what’s laid out on paper is rarely a true reflection of what a job actually entails. I can tell you that there really is no ‘typical’ day, no two days are ever the same, and that’s what makes my job so interesting.
Since starting at Hope Capital as a part-time underwriter, covering maternity leave, I have worked my up to head of the underwriting team. However, my role isn’t just to manage the team of underwriters. I am also responsible for stakeholder relationships, working with our clients and their representatives, carrying out due diligence, assessing applications, identifying business risks and reporting directly to the board.
As part of my management duties I also run the recruitment and training for the department which I have put in place and review all the policies and procedures that entails. I’m very hands-on and I think my years working through the ranks in various roles have stood me in good stead with my team. I’ve always been a ‘doer’ and that hasn’t changed.
What trends do you expect to see within the lending market in 2019?
The first quarter of the year we were seeing plenty of applications, but there was a dip in completions in the market. Judging by the increase in Q2 and looking at the way business is at the moment in Q3, especially since we launched our lowest rate ever, I believe that we will be busier than ever in Q4 and that the number of completions will increase, bringing it more in line with the number of applications.
I also think that an increasing trend that Hope Capital has always promoted, is transparency. More lenders are talking about transparency in their terms and I believe this is a real shift. One that I hope will become an industry standard.
What are the biggest issues facing advisers in the current economic environment and what should they be aware of when dealing with clients?
One of the biggest problems we’re seeing is valuations and borrowers having unrealistic expectations. Brokers understand that managing their clients’ expectations is key, however there is also the need to make clients aware of pricing and the true, and total, cost of borrowing.
One thing that really helps this, from the start, is digging deeper in the initial fact find and making sure that each client not only gives enough information, but the lender is presented with the full picture at the outset to help manage those expectations.
Financial Reporter recently launched its second Women’s Recognition Awards, what changes would you still like to see in the industry and what advice would you give to someone starting out in financial services?
I would say that I am lucky that I work for an employer that recognises the value of gender diversity in its business and has actively worked to ensure a diverse workforce. Hope Capital signed the Women in Finance Charter (WiF) last year and the targets the business has set are being achieved. I have been fully supported throughout the five years that I have been at Hope Capital.
As far as changes are concerned, there is no denying that this is still a male dominated industry but things are changing and companies, like Hope Capital, are leading the way. It would be good to see more spokeswomen in the press and on panels. I have seen a few reports recently with all male panels, which are no longer representative of the workforce in financial services.
My advice to women coming into the industry is to do your research, look for companies that have either signed the WiF Charter, or have a policy in place to promote gender diversity and career progression. That’s important, we need more women in management and on management boards. So, set your own goals, be an ideas person, measure your own success and you make yourself part of the success of the company you work for.
If you could see one headline about financial services in 2019, what would it be?
It’s hard to ignore the fact that we have been living under the pall of Brexit for the last three years, investors have been stalling and everyone is willing there to be an end to it. So, the headline I’d like to see is:
“At last, an end to Brexit limbo and the property market is bouncing back as investors once again back Britain.”