Opportunity knocks for finance sector in the region

Mel Fourie

Mel Fourie believes there are “huge opportunities” for financial services companies to drive the North West’s further economic growth.

She is North West regional development director at Together – a Cheadle-based specialist lender, offering short-term finance, auction finance, personal, commercial and buy-to-let mortgages and secured loans.

She points to the region’s strengths, including its leading universities, law firms and other professional services companies.

Looking at Manchester, she says: “There are a large number of technology and FinTech hubs in the city, employing thousands of workers, two of the country’s leading universities and reliable tram links to Salford Quays, home to the BBC and ITV, attracting more people.

“On Merseyside, there are huge opportunities for property investment, because of major schemes like the multi-billion pound Liverpool Waters regeneration project, which will transform the city’s World Heritage site on the banks of the River Mersey.

“However, it’s not all about the big cities. Businesses in more rural areas in East Lancashire and Cumbria are benefitting by becoming Northern Powerhouse partners.”

Fourie says there is room for growth: “The UK financial sector contributed £119bn to the UK economy last year – 6.5 per cent of the total economic output.

“However, 50 per cent of this output was from London with a contribution of seven per cent – or £7.9bn – from the North West.

“Although a strong London economy is good for the regions, there’s still work to be done to narrow the gap between the capital and the North West.

“We believe this can be achieved through strong leadership from authorities in the Northern Powerhouse, and by nurturing the strong entrepreneurial spirit which already exists in the region, by making finance available for businesses to thrive.”

Fourie adds: “We’ve seen phenomenal growth in our financial services operation across the UK since our business was founded 44 years ago and, earlier this year, announced record lending levels, with our loan book standing at £2.78billion in March.

“This success has been achieved by steadily expanding our commercial and residential lending across the UK, to make sure that individuals, companies and SMEs have access to finance, sometimes in more complex circumstances, and in situations where banks may be reluctant to lend.

“For instance, there may be opportunities for a developer to buy premises which are out-of-the-ordinary, such as flats above a shop, or former office blocks, which they want to change into apartments.

“We also provide development funding to kick-start construction projects which otherwise might not happen, and short-term loans for business acquisitions or to release capital, among many other purposes.”

She adds: “The economic outlook remains mixed, with continued uncertainty because of Brexit. However, we are seeing a demand from businesses to finance residential and commercial development and believe this will continue.”