One to One: Mario Berti, head of Octopus Property

berti_mario

A recent metamorphosis to enable moves into new sectors, plans to utilise technology to provide new products – and another life as a mean pool player

Dragonfly recently rebranded as Octopus Property. Why was the change made now? 

It felt like the right time to bring Dragonfly into the Octopus brand family.

The change is particularly relevant as we are entering an exciting new chapter in the development of Octopus Property. Not only are we setting out to grow our share of the property finance market but we are identifying other opportunities in the UK property sector where we can make a real difference to our customers.

Octopus Choice, our new peer-to-peer lending platform powered by Octopus Property, is a great example of the innovation we intend to bring to this market, and underlines our goal of continually introducing new products and services for our customers.

What are the main focuses since the rebrand?  

The short- and medium-term finance division of Octopus Property will continue to do what it has done for the past seven years – namely, lend. We will continue to provide market-leading service to our customers, who are the lifeblood of our business.

We are more driven than ever to grow our market share and be the specialist lender of choice for brokers around the UK. We will remain focused on providing our clients with certainty and flexibility of lending, which we believe truly differentiates our offering.

Over time, Octopus Property will move into new areas, using technology to provide new products to our customers, such as Octopus Choice. We regard UK property as a huge growth sector.

What impact do you think Brexit will have on the specialist property finance market?

It will have a limited impact. Octopus Property launched as Dragonfly in 2009, in the midst of the global financial crisis. The sector thrived in that climate of uncertainty and I expect it to do so again. Also, the sector is a lot more mature than it was back then.

How long have you been in your current role and where were you previously? 

I joined Octopus in 2010 as head of specialist finance and I have been in that role ever since. I also chair the Investment Committee.

I joined from Rothschild, where I had been for nearly 10 years.

What are the main positives and negatives of working in specialist property finance? 

The positives are that bridging is fast paced, innovative and exciting. Every deal is different and we see a huge variety of clients, properties and transactions. The industry retains many positive traits that have been lost by mainstream lenders: expertise, flexibility and service. I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing specialist property finance evolve from a niche subsector to sitting confidently alongside mainstream property finance.

The negative point is that the industry still has a bit of an image problem. Historically, there’s been bad press, mainly driven by a lack of understanding of the sector, which can be frustrating. Like so many things, it takes a long time to change perceptions. However, as more people get first-hand experience of using our services, I’m sure the industry’s professionalism and flexibility will shine through.

If you had not chosen this career path, what else would you have liked to do?

As a boy, I always wanted to be a rally driver.

Who is your all-time hero, and why? 

I admire anyone who truly believes in something, takes a stand and sticks to their course.

Do you have any secret talents? 

I play a mean game of pool.

How do you spend your spare time? 

I really enjoy sailing with my children.

What is the best advice you have received? 

You only live once, so go for it.

If you were chancellor for a day, what would be your priorities?

Addressing the huge problems in housing and energy generation, and seeking ways to bring these two crucially important sectors together.

COMPANY PROFILE

Year established: 2009
Headcount: 36
Address: Octopus Property, 33 Holborn, London EC1N 2HT
Tel: 0800 294 6850

Background
Octopus Property is a short- and medium-term finance provider that has lent over £2.2bn. It is part of Octopus Group, a UK fund management business with positions in several specialist sectors, including property finance, healthcare, energy and smaller-company investing.

Octopus was founded in 2000. It manages over £6bn of funds on behalf of more than 50,000 investors.