The treasury team is at the heart of the money coming into the business and out to our borrowers.
While a lot of the talk across the sector focussed on new products and rates and criteria, funding these loans efficiently and monitoring the portfolio became an even more crucial part of the process, for our investors, borrowers and the business.
Jono Gomez, our Treasurer, explains how the team responded to the challenges of 2020 and took opportunities to improve its processes.
It was a particularly strange year for all of us, but what was a positive side of 2020 for you?
Personally, 2020 has shown the true meaning of work/ life balance and has proven, to even the most steadfast detractors of WFH, that a 5 day commute is not necessary to get work done.
2020 was a time to take stock of your situation and reflect on what mattered, and for many, the extra time spent with partners and kids made 2020 a really special year. It’s not what you have that matters, it’s who you spend your time with.
Professionally, seeing how resilient we were as a business was a real positive. We were able to continue lending and supporting our borrowers throughout the height of the pandemic, a testament to our relationship with our own funders and investors.
This is the result of years of reliability, transparency, and compliance with all our partners, giving comfort that LI is agile enough to handle such a crisis.
How did you and your team adapt to the volatile market in 2020?
The start of the pandemic was challenging, when everything shut. Construction had to stop on site, valuers could not visit properties unless vacant, so loans couldn’t progress, etc.
However, we still had a full pipeline of valued loans to progress which helped us weather the storm, so to speak. As things settled, and we learned more about the virus, sites opened back up, valuers were able to do socially distanced visits, and third party providers eventually got up and running remotely.
We also started doing things slightly differently. We held more funds on hand in case our funders had their own issues. We even tabled new loan products in our committees and requested approval for alternative valuation methods with our funders. None were required, and none have been utilised, but should something of the scale of the March lockdown happen again, we are better placed to pivot more nimbly to keep supporting our customers.
What improvements did you make in your team throughout 2020?
We got a chance to pick through our processes with a fine toothed comb, and build in greater buffers and redundancy to ensure there was coverage across the team. We’ve amended our financial risk metrics to maintain higher limits, and are projecting further forward across more severe scenarios to plan for the worst going forward.
Nine months in, how has the adjustment to remote working been for you?
I love it! Sure, there are times when it can be frustrating. Things like Poor internet, low engagement on your 10th conference call for the day, or the inability to wind down after work before entering ‘family mode’ are all challenges faced from remote working.
But saving 60-180 minutes from not commuting, being able to take a break from work to play with your kids, or ‘getting home’ at a reasonable hour to see them before bedtime, are all reasons I love working remotely.
I have an awesome team and we all ensure we are fully contactable throughout the day. Transparency and respecting out of work hours is key. We have a WhatsApp group for when offline and a team slack channel for working hours.
Should something out of the ordinary come up, someone can pop it in WhatsApp and it’s never too onerous for one of us to offer to log back on to assist. This team support has made remote working a real success.
What is a success from 2020 you want to share?
March was a month riddled with uncertainty, and the team’s quick reaction to the scenario and the work carried out to put both internal and external stakeholders at ease is easily the success story of 2020. Resiliency planning, scenario analysis, credit risk and liquidity management pivoting, were done with incredible rigour, diligence and speed, to give ExCo and the Board confidence that the business could weather the storm.