This month we met broker Julian Stafford to learn about what makes him tick, his typical day at his business Commercial Finance Services and an inside look at a construction client that he referred to MarketInvoice.
Loves: Football, I’m a massive Spurs fan. A long suffering Spurs fan…
Hates: Cricket. I don’t know why anybody watches cricket…
Can’t live without: My two boys… and my iPhone – it feels like I’ve lost a limb.
Currently reading: Duncan Bannatyne’s autobiography
Favourite place in London:Regent Street at Christmas
How I relax: I go running. I run a lot. I take my Jack Russell.
Hero: Definitely Clint Eastwood!
So where do you live and work?
I’ve got an office in Worthing and then I live in Angmering – a little village not too far from there.
Do you work for yourself then?
Yeah, it’s just me and then I have another guy that works for me a couple of days a week – he does a bit of telemarketing. I did previously have a business partner but when I moved down to the coast to be with my fiancée I set up on my own. I’ve been a broker for 9 years.
How did you learn the trade?
I started at RBS, worked for a bit in banking but then in the invoice finance team for nearly 7 years. When I left the bank, I knew I wanted to work for myself and then just sort of fell into the role that I do now. I had some shares that I cashed in at just the right time – before the banking crash – and so I took a few months out and then started off specialising in invoice finance. More recently I’ve broadened out into lots of other things as well – now I do asset finance, secured and unsecured loans as well.
So how did you get into business finance originally?
I did a business degree In London but it was more of a retail related course – actually it was part of the London College of Fashion, the printing and distributed trades department. Years and years ago I worked for a fashion company, which is why I did that degree, but I haven’t ever really used the retail part of it.
So, tell me about a normal day…
I do most of my work from my office, I don’t jet-set around the country as it were – if I need to I will but you won’t find me charging around meeting clients all over the place, it just isn’t how I work. If I need to though I do travel for a face-to-face meeting but I tend to stay local. I definitely think it’s important to build relationships and I dedicate time to building them with local accountants. At least once a day I’ll have a meeting with a potential introducer.
I need to chase people for information a lot. That takes up a lot of my day!
I’m working on three deals at the moment and I need to get all the information to put them together. I’m collecting everything on behalf of the lender and they’re trusting me so I like to be diligent. They then meet my clients at the point where they sign the documentation.
So what kind of size are your clients?
Mainly small and medium sized businesses – that’s the area I tend to work in. I do have a few bigger clients but half a million to two or three million turnover is my sweet spot. Plus with smaller deals, it keeps it interesting. That’s what is so great about alternative types of lending as well it’s really very interesting. It’s great to be able to provide more different types of lending to one customer.
What do you love about your job?
Definitely the independence of working for myself but also I really enjoy working with businesses – putting financial packages together and helping them grow their business is really rewarding. I work in an industry that I enjoy, that’s the truth.
Having an impact on a business’ growth is a great reason to go to work!
Let’s talk about how we work together, your relationship with us…
It’s really refreshing, you and a couple of other companies have come in to the market and it has really made a lot of the regular invoice finance providers rethink what they do – it’s shaken things up a lot.
MarketInvoice in particular is a really good offering. Alex Kyriacou is great. I’ve come across quite a few businesses that really love your product, they don’t want to be tied in to a long contract and it’s great they can use it as and when they need to.
Is there a business you referred that has traded recently? What’s their story?
Yes, actually, a couple of weeks ago – and they’ve just traded for the second time. It’s a construction firm with a turnover of about £800,000 – they had a big job come in. They needed some money up front to cover their costs. Once I referred them to Alex, then Ricky Shafier guided them through their first trade. Originally they had a funding limit of £120,000 – but as they’ve grown, and now that the first invoice has been settled, you’ve been able to offer them an increased limit of £170,000.
What impact has alternative finance had on the broker industry?
In terms of the market there is a lot of uncertainty where it’s going to go. I’ve got quite a few clients, particularly in the engineering space, who are seeing an upturn in trade. What MarketInvoice offers is flexibility – no need to commit to a long-term facility – you aren’t tied in.
Alternative finance has meant that traditional lenders have had to rethink. The change is slow but in particular, regarding termination of contracts and more flexible, spot factoring. The lenders have had to focus more on their customer service and relax.