Real estate, alternative real assets and other diversions

An interview with Mark Davies Tim Green speaks to Mark Davies, Managing Director, Link Mortgage Services Limited

The Headhunter

Link Mortgage Services are a specialist third party servicer of mortgage loans now owned by Link Group PTY. The business employs some 190 staff servicing a range of residential, commercial and housing association loans for a number of client banks, investors and hedge funds.

Mark Davies is a Chartered Accountant by qualification and has worked in Retail Financial Services and the Lending Industry specifically since leaving KPMG in 1994.

Prior to joining Link Mortgage Services in 2015, Mark has been an Interim Manager, completing long term assignments as Head of Finance for Hermes Fund Managers Limited and The UK Debt Management Office, where he was actively engaged on supporting the Debt Guarantee programmes launched by the UK Government at the height of the credit crisis. In 2007 Mark was part of the Executive Team that successfully built and launched a specialist SME lender for AnaCap, the private equity investors, and which was used as part of the operational platform to create the new challenger bank, Aldermore early in 2010. Prior to that, Mark was Finance Director of Rooftop Mortgages Limited and was also Director of Group Finance for the Spicerhaart Group for 5 years from 2000.

Married to Helen with 3 children who have now all left school, Mark lives and works in Suffolk. He considers himself a proud bowel cancer survivor who still plays competitive club and over 50’s hockey and, under duress, has completed 3 half marathons since his treatment was successfully completed in 2014.

Q: What was your first job and what is the worst job you’ve ever done?

Manually manufacturing wall cladding tiles in a farm outbuilding in Rutland when I was 16 or 17. No health and safety in those days and very little quality control as it got in the way of production volumes on which we were paid! The worst job was hand cleaning the inside of an empty swimming pool in the summer Florida heat with some noxious chemicals that are no doubt banned now.
 
Q: Was finance your first career choice and what were you doing before?

Nope I spent over 2 of my 3 years at Durham not wanting to follow the family accountancy line. But Geography wasn’t going to meet my income aspirations and in the end I figured out that the professional firms would effectively pay me to learn about business, study and to get a qualification – if I worked hard along the way and kept my nose clean!
 
Q: Why did you choose a career in the real estate/mortgage lending sector?

I guess the lending industry found me, really, it certainly wasn’t a planned career path! As an auditor I always ended up on the asset side of the balance sheet, spells in insolvency in the early nineties and corporate finance after that brought me wider skills and perspective – good and bad, and from that the rest followed. I have had two spells in loan servicing (residential and commercial),exposure to the capital markets and structured finance, estate agency, property valuation and mortgage broking culminating in me be asked to build a lender for a PE firm, just as the credit crisis broke.
 
Q: Why do you enjoy the sector?

A US cash investor once said to me that the reason investors like UK real estate is simple. We have a stable economy, our legal system is the envy of the world, we live on an island with an ever increasing population, we don’t build enough houses and we aspire as a nation to own property. That all translates into supply, demand and price. In a nutshell it means that lending and loan servicing is an interesting place to be, all be it that volumes are right down and the disparity between the value of property and affordability and the availability of credit continues in some areas. At the same time the dominance of the institutional lenders means there is opportunity for entrepreneurism, innovation and for new entrants to disrupt the market, plus, the need for new technology, improving the borrower experience right from the point of sale to loan maturity is firmly on the agenda.
 
Q: What’s a typical day like?

Is there such a thing for senior leaders and execs these days? I am not sure, so I work on expecting the unexpected mostly! Invariably though something catches me out most days and it can be good, bad or indifferent. The good is when something I care about happens, for example most recently when our IT gap year student won the Star of the Month, something voted for by the staff. The bad is often when we get the really simple things wrong as a business, things that impact our clients or their borrowers; as an FCA authorised business our conduct is fundamentally important to us. The indifferent invariably involves the stuff that adds little or no value to us, our clients or our gross margin – bureaucracy, politics, admin for the sake of it.
 
Q: Who or what has had the biggest impact on your career?

I was appointed to my first big role by Caroline Burton, the Investment Director of GRE Plc when she was I think the only female FTSE100 main board director. Her brief to me was – I expect good news only once, no surprises when it comes to bad news and you should take all of your holiday and claim all your expenses. She is one of 3 female bosses that I have had the privilege of working for, all of whom have influenced my view of the world, my way of working and taught me a great deal after I left the profession in 1994.

Working for those ladies changed my perspective on the world of work. At the same time 2 years of not working whilst be treated for Bowel Cancer has also changed my perspective on what is and is not important when it comes to work and why. I take a very different view of some things now and the attitudes of some of those I have to do business with. Some things are simply not worth it!
 
Q: What advice would you give to people at different levels on developing their careers?

The Headhunter

About Tim Green

Tim Green

Tim has been helping real estate businesses with their senior recruitment needs for over twenty years. He has worked with a wide variety of businesses both in the UK and overseas. Curious by nature, Tim has developed an exceptional network, and numerous people have benefitted from his positive contribution to their careers. Businesses have benefitted from his ability to source exceptional talent. He also runs a quarterly Real Estate CFO Breakfast Forum with BDO Real Estate.

Articles by Tim Green

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