Simon Stern, business development director at Prestige Finance, shocked the industry in December when he revealed that he would be leaving the firm on January 16.
He speaks to Loan Introducer about the highs and lows of working at Prestige and what he will miss most.
Q, Why have you decided to leave Prestige Finance?
A number of reasons. The company ceased to be ‘our’ company when we were acquired by One Savings Bank in September 2012. Corporate life has many benefits and OSB has done a great job of bringing Prestige up to a corporate level in terms of structure and governance. However, I struggled with several elements of working in a corporate environment having been used to making decisions without the need for committees. I also wanted to leave the company on a high and feel I am doing so, given what we have collectively achieved this year. I also don’t mind admitting that although I am fully supportive of the regulatory changes, the thought of having to go through those changes leading up to March 2016 and having gone through several regulatory changes in the past 30 years is not something I was especially looking forward to doing.
Q, Was the decision something you had been thinking about for a while?
The short answer is yes. However, when I discussed it at length with my wife and brother, there were several reasons to both stay and leave. Ultimately it was very much my decision and having made it, I have absolutely no regrets.
Q, What will you miss most about working at the lender?
That’s easy – the people. I have said it on many occasions that what makes Prestige so special is the people that work in the company. They are a unique group right from the very top with my brother and before he retired, my closest friend Howard Sheldon, through to the senior management team and then the rest of the staff. They have always made coming into work so worthwhile and enjoyable. Externally, again it is the very special people that work at many of our accredited brokers and at all levels. I have been very fortunate to have made some wonderful friends in this very special industry and that’s why it will always be the people that I will miss most of all.
Q, What have been some of your highlights of the last 30 years?
So, so many, it is very difficult to narrow this down. I was privileged to work in a family business for 28 years that not only survived some very challenging times but throughout, the relationship between initially the five partners (when the fathers were involved) and then the three sons never suffered as there was complete trust amongst us all. Then it has to be seeing staff develop from juniors to accomplished senior members of the team because of support and encouragement we have given them and through their own hard work. Punching above our weight is another highlight when as the industry grew and especially in the early 2000’s despite restricted funding lines, we still managed to get good levels of business through our excellent service proposition and relationships that we developed at that time that still in some cases are in place. Recognition of the industry which I know is still on-going is another highlight. For far too long, there was an unfair stigma attached to the second charge market. Through a lot of hard work by several key people in the industry that stigma has, at last (I believe), been removed and as a result the industry should thrive in the coming months and years. It is also very gratifying to see brokers and lenders not only meet regularly to discuss the issues but now work together to make it an even better industry as we embrace more and more regulation in the next 18 months.
Q, Have there been any low points?
Definitely, mainly as a result of a certain high street bank that could no longer support us because ‘It no longer wanted to be involved in consumer finance.’ This almost cost us the company and credit to OSB who recognised both the platform and team we had, coupled with the fact we had continued to lend throughout the recession and therefore saw us as a great opportunity to lend in the second charge market.
Another low point was when our partner Howard Sheldon discovered he had cancer and it completely changed our whole prospective on both life and the way we ran the company. Fortunately he is fully recovered. The other (very) low point was in 2008 when we had to make several redundancies. Fantastic and hard-working people lost their jobs through no fault of their own, undoubtedly the hardest thing we had to do as directors of the company.
Q, What are your plans going forward?
To remain sane and open minded and cope with waking up on the 19 January and hopefully finding something to do. In the short term spend some time with my wife and take a break to somewhere warm. Those who know me well will know where that is.
Q, Would you like to stay in the industry?
Again the obvious answer is yes because for 30 years I have known nothing else other than this industry. However, if I am to work again in an industry that I genuinely have an affection and passion for, I would want it to be with people who I can genuinely get on with and like and whom will hopefully benefit from the experience and knowledge I have of the industry.