Property developer Taj Ubhi so liked his first taste of doing business with challenger bank Cambridge & Counties that the investor has been back for a second helping. Taj refinanced his Six Degrees development of student accommodation in Nottingham with £1.85 million from Cambridge & Counties Bank early in 2014 and returned later in the year for another £1.5 million deal on a portfolio of 15 buy to lets.
After initially being courted by five banks – including some of the biggest names in banking – Taj trusted Cambridge & Counties to be the bank to deliver for him, despite not having heard of it before he was approached by one of its managers. It’s perhaps not surprising that Cambridge & Counties was not previously on his radar; the Bank only opened for business in summer 2012. It exists solely to serve small and medium sized businesses, often ventures spurned by bigger lenders.
Taj, who bought his first property aged 21 and a full-time investor since 2007, watched as one by one the other potential lenders for the 46 bedroomed new-build Six Degrees pulled out. “I got a call from Carl Ashley, who I knew from his time at another bank.
“He told me about this new bank, Cambridge & Counties, and that he was interested in talking to me. Every other lender bar one dropped away in the course of six months.
“One felt there was saturation in the student housing market in Nottingham – but we have been fully let since opening for business. At another bank the underwriter changed and so did the rate. Another suddenly stopped lending. “But right from the start Cambridge & Counties was able to do what they said they would, including being flexible on the Loan to Value.”
Soon enough there were only two possibilities left – Cambridge & Counties and another of the newer banks. “The other banks just hadn’t been able to come up with the goods,” said Taj. “I looked at the last two left, at the managers I was dealing with and the potential hurdles from that point on to completion.
“I always had more confidence that Cambridge & Counties could deliver for me in the timescale I wanted, that they would be true to their word. I wasn’t certain the other contender would deliver.
“I didn’t want to go with them to find out two or three months later that it had cost me dearly. I wasn’t keen to take a gamble on the timing so went with Cambridge & Counties.”
What happened next surprised and delighted Taj, who lives in a village north of Nottingham. “The process wasn’t different to other banks – application, valuation, due diligence. But a big difference was I got a much quicker decision.
“Being a smaller bank enabled me to get a feel within 48 hours for what they could deliver, including rates. After that I wasn’t hassled or put under any pressure to make a decision. It was a case of ‘when you are ready, Taj’.”
The next step was the legal one, which can often mean a grinding pace and expensive delay. “The legal work to enable completion was done really quickly.
With Six Degrees that was important. “The development funding was costing me a lot of money each month and we got the refinancing over the finish line much quicker than I expected. Four weeks instead of the months I was expecting,” said Taj.
So what else, for Taj, means he feels he can do more business with Cambridge & Counties Bank? “It’s very simple. Cambridge & Counties Bank delivered what they said they would. I’m a man of my word and I like dealing in that way. “As long as the Bank is comfortable with your proposal then there is flexibility to talk about the details. The Bank is smaller, they have more time with each client. They got to know my business and my plans. It’s old fashioned relationship banking.
Taj said: “The ongoing relationship with Cambridge & Counties is very good. It’s down to the manager at the Bank – it’s great to know there are other people who work the same hours we do.