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One to One: Stephen Wasserman, West One Loans managing director

Wasserman on the future for bridging, company expansion, admiration for Sir Alex Ferguson and secret golfing talents

The sector often suffers from an image problem. Do you feel this image is improving?

Absolutely – bridging has evolved in recent years and is no longer seen as a last resort. Borrowers are now recognising this unique type of financing for its benefits. At West One, we’ve witnessed a five-fold increase since 2011, which, in our view, has been driven by an increase in investor confidence. The formation of bodies such as the association of Short-term Lenders (ASTL) has also helped bridging to build a strong reputation.

What do you feel is the bridging sector’s role within the mortgage market?

It ‘bridges a gap’ between making a purchase and other funds becoming available. As a combination of a fast turnaround time and short-term window, coupled with underwriting that differs from mainstream mortgage financing, bridging can be a good fit for a wide variety of situations, enabling investors to capitalise on opportunities or resolve emergency funding situations.

Do you have any big plans for West One Loans in the next 12 months?

We’ve recently announced that we’ll be launching a second charge product in Q3 this year. The proposition is currently going through a pilot programme and, initially, it will be launched through master brokers, before going to the wider market. The market fails to adequately support borrowers who don’t fit the default type and we believe it’s time this changed – one size doesn’t fit all and a tailored approach to underwriting is needed. We’ve also designed a new lending system and broker portal, to make sure our broker partners can meet client demand in a way that is a fast and easy as possible.

What one change would you like to see in the market overall?

There needs to be a greater education and awareness among brokers of specialist lending within the wider market. There’s a vast amount of products out there, for borrowers of all shapes and sizes, and being aware of each and its benefits will mean brokers are able to best advise their clients accordingly.

How long have you been in your current role and where did you join from?

As one of the three co-founders, I’ve been at West One since inception in 2007 and starting the business was more-or-less my first job. In a small start-up my role was naturally doing a bit of everything, from selling to underwriting. After West One’s acquisition by Enra Group in 2014, we have progressively integrated the businesses and expanded West One’s size dramatically. My role then became managing director in 2016.

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

I would always have loved to travel and explore the world, but in reality probably would have become a solicitor or accountant.

Who is your all-time hero, and why?

I’m a lifelong Spurs fan, but I would probably say Sir Alex Ferguson. He was a hugely successful football manager – one of the greatest. By starting from the bottom, setting high standards and daring to rebuild his team, he helped Manchester United to win 13 league titles and 25 other trophies. He observed the opposition meticulously and was able to adapt accordingly.

Do you have any secret talents?

I’m secretly a scratch golfer. I don’t think I’ve broken 100 since 2013 but one day I’ll drop the act and unveil my genius. Until then I am keeping it well hidden.

What is the best advice you have received?

Always surround yourself with good people.

 Company history

Year established: 2007

Address: West One Loans, 3rd Floor, Premiere House, Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire WD6 1JH

Tel: 0333 123 4556

History: West One Loans is a specialist bridging loan provider founded by Duncan Kreeger and Stephen Wasserman, established in 2007. It is part of the Enra Group, alongside sister company Enterprise Finance, which specialises in second charge mortgages.

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