GRAPEVINE: Property Bridges spreads its wings with commercial lending product; + other business news

Property Bridges, already very successful in peer-to-peer property finance, has a new commercial lending product for SMEs and property investors

GRAPEVINE: Property Bridges spreads its wings with commercial lending product; + other business news

Specialist peer-to-peer property finance company Property Bridges has launched a new commercial lending product that is set to change the landscape for small to medium-sized businesses and property investors.

Since its launch in October 2018, the Irish-owned and managed company has enjoyed huge success in managing 12-month secured loan arrangements between investors and small-scale property developers.

The vastly experienced finance team at Property Bridges has delivered an average 8.3% return to investors on projects completed during 2019.

All projects went through rigorous assessments and risk checks, with each stage of their performance closely monitored. The high returns and 12-month turnaround have proven very attractive to the investment community.

Individuals, investing from €500 to €100,000 across a series of projects have also been attracted by the hassle-free access to property investment that this model offers

— a shorter-term and lower risk than investing around €350,000 in a buy-to-let property, as well as avoiding tenancy issues and the stresses of property ownership.

Property Bridges encourages everyday investors to back projects from small developers requiring finance of between €300,000 and €3m. It aims to lend around €150m to developers over the next three years.

“We have recently hired a commercial manager who is currently building out a commercial lending product.

“Similar to our residential product, we will now be providing short-term funding options of €250,000 up to €2m for the commercial sector, loans which have a property as security.”

Property Bridges has taken off at such a pace that it may also consider developing an international wing in the coming years. More immediately, the company will continue to capitalise on the considerable appetite among Irish SMEs and investors for its peer-to-peer property finance services.

Property Bridges is growing rapidly. It raised €4.5m for projects in 2019, plus another €4.5m so far in Q1 of 2020. It will raise around €25m in 2020, and €100m more during 2021.

Of that 2019 total, 80% came from individual investors, with the other 20% from institutions. In 2020, the balance is shifting towards 50:50. By 2021, it may be 70:30 in favour of institutions, who clearly see the value of the model.

A soaring business, Property Bridges has the potential to do a lot of social good, offering a source of funding to the smaller-scale developers largely ignored by the mainstream banks in the 10 to 12 years since the global economic crisis, at the core of which were overinflated property values and free-range mortgages.

Into this low and mid-scale finance vacuum entered Property Bridges. Along with his finance experience, David Jelly is also the son of a builder, so he understands why investors like to see a solid property that can at least be sold off should they need to recoup their investment.

The appeal of the P2P property lending model was also evident to David’s senior business partners. For instance, James Twomey, head of lending, has vast experience acting as lending manager for high net worth clients with Anglo Irish Private Bank.

With Anglo Irish Assurance, James managed a portfolio of property funds, worth over €2bn, across over 200 commercial, retail and residential properties in Ireland, the UK, Europe, and the US.

Paul Curran, head of commercial lending, brought 25 years’ commercial lending experience in Ireland and abroad. He has held senior roles in ICC Bank, ICC International Consulting, Bank of Scotland and Certus. In recent years, he has managed loan portfolios with values of over €1.5bn.

Marc Rafferty, head of community, came from Linked Finance. Marc initially came to Property Bridges as an angel investor, then decided to join the company.

Last July, Lagan Investments, a fund founded by the North’s biggest house-builder, Kevin Lagan, took a 10% stake in Property Bridges in exchange for €5m in lending capital.

With the European P2P lending market thought to be worth around €10bn annually, the European Banking Authority (EBA) is leading a drive to introduce new regulations for the sector within the EU by 2022.

The European Crowdfunding Network, whose members include firms such as Funding Circle and Rebuildingsociety, has backed plans for cross-border P2P rules within EU member states.

Property Bridges also supports plans to harmonise regulations within the P2P lending sector within the EU.

“We are closely monitoring upcoming regulations and in time will look at getting a consumer credit licence,” said David Jelly, founder and CEO of Property Bridges, who founded the firm following several finance roles, notably as an equity trader with Jefferies International in London and as a senior manager with data-driven investment pioneer Eagle Alpha in Dublin.

While some people still rightly support crowdfunding as a driver for social good, a recent Property Bridges survey of its members suggests the company’s high returns and 12-month returns are a bigger factor for its investors.

Asked for their key investment motivations, 64% of investors cited the company’s “far higher financial returns” versus bank deposit accounts, a similar number citing the low-risk nature of the investment.

Respondents also said the Property Bridges model did not have the typical pain associated with real estate investment. Some 48% said they were happy their investment was contributing to the provision of residential housing, while 52% said this was not a factor for them.

“Well, 48% is still fairly high in terms of doing social good,” said David Jelly. “I think that if we did that survey 10 years ago, 90% would have said they were just interested in the higher returns.

“Who knows, in the future that might rise to 70%-80% who see doing social good as a motivation for investment. People do want to do social good and do their bit to help create more housing. They also want to get good returns on investment.”

Among the latest projects whose funding is being managed by Property Bridges is the €400,000 conversion of a dilapidated commercial property in Shandon Street, Cork, into four modern apartments.

The contractor on the project is DNCF Building & Civil Solutions, Charleville, Co Cork, who expects to complete the refurbishment works within six months. For investors, this leaves a six-month cushion for an early return on their investment.

Property Bridges is also managing the finance on a similar-sized development in Ballincollig, with others on the horizon for Cork City, as well as for its suburbs and satellite towns.

The company has also managed finance for projects in Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford, Cavan, Limerick and Monasterboice, Co Louth.

Shane Casey, star of Young Offenders, launches the CUBS Conference 2020 with UCC students Sophie O’Sullivan, Lisa Fox, Orla Donegan and Clodagh Lynch.
Shane Casey, star of Young Offenders, launches the CUBS Conference 2020 with UCC students Sophie O’Sullivan, Lisa Fox, Orla Donegan and Clodagh Lynch.

Young Offenders top table at CUBS event

Television industry events manager and UCC finance graduate Eleanor Hayes is among the guest speakers at Cork University Business School’s fourth annual conference on Tuesday, March 10, from 9.30am in Cork Opera House.

Eleanor is a senior events manager at ViacomCBS, the televsion production firm which owns Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, Showtime as well as Comedy Central.

She will tell attendees at the CUBS event (which is sponsored by KPMG) how she went from being an MTV-obsessed teenager to landing her dream career in TV production.

Fellow UCC finance graduate Sharon Cunningham and Orla Ryan — the co-founders of Shorla Pharma — will speak about their innovative oncology products to aid the administering of breast, ovarian and paediatric cancer drugs.

They have been named Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs for 2019 in a Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) competition.

The conference will discuss how the next generation of business leaders can “future-proof” their careers against a backdrop of dramatic change across industry.

The event will also feature executives from Vodafone and Ryanair joining cast members from The Young Offenders on stage.

Caoimhe Doyle, Jenny Redmond, Saoirse Trought, Ciara Hickey and Katie Phelan, recipients of UCC scholarships from Johnson & Johnson.
Caoimhe Doyle, Jenny Redmond, Saoirse Trought, Ciara Hickey and Katie Phelan, recipients of UCC scholarships from Johnson & Johnson.

Five students win scholarships in J&J awards

Five students have been awarded UCC scholarships as part of the Women in STEM2D 2020 award programme hosted by the Johnson & Johnson family of companies in Ireland.

The award recipients are: Jenny Redmond, chemical sciences; Saoirse Trought, mathematical sciences; Ciara Hickey, chemical sciences; Katie Phelan, biological and chemical sciences; and Caoimhe Doyle, mathematical sciences.

The programme refers to women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, manufacturing and design.

The J&J programme supports female students undertaking STEM2D degree courses at UCC and in universities around the world.

Last year award recipient Alice Noel said: “After receiving a bursary from J&J, I was able to significantly reduce the hours in my part-time job which allowed me to focus more on college work.

“With the women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, manufacturing and design programme I received a mentor who was able to offer invaluable advice and overall support throughout the year, both professionally and personally,” she said.

This year’s five award winners were chosen via a rigorous application process and one-to-one interviews.

Four runners-up in the scholarship awards will be assigned a J&J mentor as part of this year’s programme. A further seven students have received a bursary award, and will also be assigned a J&J mentor this year.

The mentors will support the students in their studies, afford them the opportunity to visit J&J sites, and help them to develop their networks.

In a recent survey among UCC students, 76% agreed that women are under-represented in science, technology, mathematics and engineering.

A focus for this year’s programme looks to address this by embracing the concept that an equal world is an enabled world.

This is particularly true for young women pursuing a career in STEM2D. A further 85% of respondents agreed that mentorship is critically important to developing a career in STEM2D.

The programme offers young women studying STEM2D courses the opportunity to engage with women working in those careers. First-hand experience of site tours, mentoring, project and career workshops enable students to visualise exactly what it is like to have a career in STEM2D.

Sharon Sheridan and Olivia McLoughlin, lead roles with Dealz and Poundland.
Sharon Sheridan and Olivia McLoughlin, lead roles with Dealz and Poundland.

Discounter appoints two lead Irish roles

Sharon Sheridan and Olivia McLoughlin have taken on lead roles with discount retailer Pep&co, trading as Dealz in the Republic and Poundland in the North.

Sharon Sheridan has been appointed as country manager for trading. She is responsible for trading decisions, including buying, merchandising and supply chain. She has led trading in the Republic of Ireland for the past seven years.

Olivia McLoughlin, who joined last October from Dixons Carphone, has been appointed as country manager for retail, with responsibility for the supervision of 99 stores. She was previously responsible for ROI, NI & Scotland with Claire’s Accessories and all of Ireland with Carraig Donn.

Austin Cooke, retail director, said: “Dealz and Poundland are transforming at pace and we’re excited about Olivia and Sharon leading the exciting development of our stores across the island of Ireland. Between them, they’ll be responsible for the operational, and trading performance north and south of the border.”

The group trades from 66 Dealz stores in the Republic of Ireland and 33 Poundland shops in the North. Last year, it announced plans to open 10 more stores in the Republic this year.

Alan Murphy, managing partner Eversheds Sutherland Ireland, with partners Gareth Planck, Lisa Bryson and Matthew Howse in the firm’s new offices in Belfast.
Alan Murphy, managing partner Eversheds Sutherland Ireland, with partners Gareth Planck, Lisa Bryson and Matthew Howse in the firm’s new offices in Belfast.

Law firm continues to expand in Belfast

Law firm Eversheds Sutherland has taken up larger offices on Montgomery St in Belfast as part of its plans to grow its footprint in the city.

The firm has rapidly expanded in the North since launching a Belfast office in 2015.

The office now has 15 full-time employees — led by partners Lisa Bryson, Gareth Planck and Matthew Howse — working across real estate, banking, immigration and employment, procurement and litigation.

Alan Murphy, managing partner of Eversheds in Ireland, said: “We have an ambitious growth strategy and we recognise the role Belfast and Northern Ireland has to play in that. Since 2015, we have led the way in changing the face of legal services and have provided a service that meets the needs of businesses.”

The firm’s Belfast office works with its Dublin office, offering expert legal services including a specialist ‘Brexit-hub’ across the island of Ireland and the UK.

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