Team in focus series: Q&A with Ben Colling
As part of our ‘Team in focus’ series, we have been holding Q&A sessions with people across our organisation to share the many skills and personalities that we are fortunate enough to have here at Maslow Capital. This week, we talk to Ben Colling, who is a member of our Risk and Portfolio Management Team.
Ben is a dedicated Portfolio Management and Development Finance Specialist with extensive experience stretching across multiple countries. Having joined Maslow in 2018, Ben has established himself as a key member of the team, focussing on our credit/risk reporting framework, portfolio management and prudential lending process.
How many years have you been working at Maslow and what has been your favourite memory at the company?
“I was fortunate enough to commence my Maslow journey in January of 2018. As my other colleagues would testify, it is hard to beat our Christmas trip and celebrate Maslow’s 10th anniversary in Marrakech last year.”
How did you get into the real estate finance industry?
“I joined a boutique commercial real estate firm in Australia as a property analyst. Once I completed my University studies, I then progressed to senior debt funding as part of a managed investment scheme and gravitated towards the portfolio management side of the business.”
What do you think differentiates Maslow from other Lenders?
“Complex and quirky transactions across Resi and PBSA assets have essentially become Maslow’s norm and the level of ‘out of the box’ thinking to structure a suitable proposal is second to none.”
What key challenges do you think the development industry will have to navigate this year and how have today’s challenges changed when compared to what you were seeing 6 months ago?
“The challenges we faced six months ago have been amplified even further now. Contractor, Sub-Contractor and Developer insolvency were quite prolific at the close of 2019. Now, COVID has shone a brighter light on supply chain distress, materials/resource availability and liquidity scarcity. This has been further protracted by a Brexit transition period coming to a close which brings upon urgency to evaluate projects going through the tender stage and projects which are out of the ground as well as the disruptions that may occur as we enter 2021.”
As a member of the portfolio management team, are you reassured by the number of sites that have reopened, and what kind of measures introduced by developers have you seen to be most effective in keeping sites open during the current pandemic?
“It is extremely encouraging to see not only our active development sites return to operability but that of the wider UK housing market. To comply with revised site operating procedures and CLC guidelines, our developers depending on what stage of construction was advanced, were able to remobilise on site at some form of capacity in a matter of weeks when the country went into lockdown. The innovation in conformity to the revised guidelines, and the ability to modify method statements to adapt to the new surrounds has seen several of our contractors recognised in the industry for best practices.”
Maslow recently introduced its debut Loan Book Liquidity Fund; how do you see the fund supporting the market?
“I believe in Quarter 4 of this year we will see a real need for a liquidity injection to reinstate cost to complete facilities and ensure developments are completed to maximise their returns and not left idle. Having a funding partner such as Maslow with long dated institutional funding, gives not only the borrower certainty of cash flow but also the contractor/supply chain certainty overpayment. That is what is going to be the key motivator for developers and contractors in partnering with a funder when entering an uncertain market – who they can trust to fulfil their business plan and that the funder is aligned to their interests. The Liquidity Fund provides this level of comfort.”
If you weren’t in real estate finance, what other profession would you like to have been in?
“I have always wanted to be in property and construction but other avenues such as money markets and investment analysis has always interested me.”
What has been keeping you sane during the current Coronavirus lockdown?
“Overseeing the active portfolio has opened numerous challenges and critical thinking to protect our Borrowers & Developers interests. This has allowed me to stay focused throughout this period and respond in real time. Having a garden with open space has also helped and allowed me to do my best thinking.”
How have you adapted to today’s work from home shift?
“I haven’t really had an opportunity to worry about my surroundings during this lockdown given the work the risk and portfolio management team have absorbed in this challenging market. The transition to a home desk has been very straightforward as our business continuity plan ensured we had all the necessary connectivity to various staff portals and IT to support a functioning business remotely.“
Is there someone in the industry you particularly look up to?
“Inside the industry, I have a mentor in Australia who showed me the do’s and don’ts of development finance. I am indebted to him and the success of my career to date.”