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60 seconds with… Colin Bell, chief executive officer, Interbay

Did news that the JC Flowers-owned OneSavings Bank was in advanced talks to buy Interbay come as a surprise?

No, we’ve been working on it for about six months now. Since we withdrew from the market in 2008 we’ve been speaking to potential investors to allow us to return to lending.

What made OneSavings Bank’s offer stand out? Was it the fact that US investment firm JC Flowers sits behind OneSavings Bank or was it that you’d already seen what it had done with Kent Reliance Building Society, which JC Flowers also owns?

It’s both actually. JC Flowers is strong in terms of the capital it can put into OneSavings Bank. But OneSavings Bank also has a strong balance sheet and it is a bank taking deposit money, which allows it to provide money for us to lend.

Before you withdrew from lending you offered self-cert commercial loans. what do you aim to return to the market with?

We’ll come back offering small balance of commercial loans. Our underwriting will be flexible where it needs to be, but not in terms of credit and ability to repay where it needs to be strong. Although in the past we were associated as being self-cert, we always looked at bank statements and really delved beneath the borrower that we lent to. That’s one of the reasons why the performance of our loans is better than anyone else’s.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A few years ago when I was getting into my job at Interbay I was told that my role was to create and maintain an environment where everyone can be successful, and that the minute I stopped doing that would be the minute I was failing.

If you could gain a super power what would it be?

Not to have to sleep – there always seems to be too much to do.

If you could invite three people to a dinner party who would you pick?

The comedian Jimmy Carr – he’d be good to have at a dinner party and wouldn’t hold back. Gordon Brown, to understand why he considered betting on red constantly when he had no money left. Finally it would be great to have the Queen there as well, as I’m sure she’d have some great stories to tell.

Interview by Robert Thickett


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