Secrets of Success: Ian Henderson CEO, Shawbrook Bank

What is your start-up story?
We were formed in 2011 by combining three financial businesses – Whiteaway Laidlaw Bank (WLB), the lending platform of Commercial First, and Link Loans. We wanted to create a bank that was simple, straightforward and transparent to provide funding to UK SMEs and individuals. It’s been an exciting time for us since we launched and we’ve grown incredibly fast. In March 2012 we acquired Singers Asset Finance so that we could extend our lending offer to SMEs.

Last May we broke even after less than 16 months of trading and went on to make profit in each month afterwards. This year we announced that we had passed £1bn in lending, which was a major milestone for us.

What is your turnover, employee numbers etc compared to previous years?
Now we have over 300 employees. That’s 65 more than last year in our Brentwood HQ alone and we’re still expanding. In May this year we announced our year 2 financial results – with an underlying profit of £2.6m.

What products or services do you provide?
We operate on a traditional saving and lending model – deposits from Shawbrook savers are used to fund businesses and individuals in the UK. We offer commercial mortgages and asset finance for SMEs and property investors; secured loans for individual customers; and consumer finance via home improvement suppliers, resorts and retailers who want to offer finance packages to their customers.

What problem does your company solve?
Small businesses in the UK are crying out for funding and the high street banks aren’t providing it. We have a real appetite to lend and the constant demand for finance from SMEs shows that they welcome our loans!

What is your USP?
We see ourselves as a specialist bank. We don’t want to be a bank that offers all things to all people – our teams are focused on being the best in the markets we serve. We know our customers and brokers are busy people, so we created a bank that is flexible and efficient with common sense at its heart.

We pride ourselves on being agile, not bureaucratic. We do all our lending either through brokers or directly with the customers so personal relationships are essential. It’s also really important to making decisions on deals – we do most of our underwriting manually so we need to understand the ins and outs of each case.

Any thoughts on the future of your company?
Well, we’re already planning for 2014 and 2015 and we believe our growth will continue well into the future. We’re aiming to double in size in the next two to three years through stable, steady growth, while delivering excellent service.

What have you done to make sure you get the right people with the right skills in place?
Because we’re a people-oriented business, our staff are really important to us. We’ve been able to find great people and we work hard to keep them. We’ve attracted some very talented staff from bigger banks. People are attracted to our entrepreneurial spirit and genuine desire to be a bank that does things differently.

Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
Quite simply, it’s the relationship that counts. If you have a good relationship with your partners and customers, everything works much more smoothly. Our customers are putting their dreams and livelihoods in our hands so we need to be able to interact with them on a personal level. We’re seeing customers coming back time and time again because they like the way they’re treated.

Any advice for the Government?
The Government talks a lot about supporting small businesses but actions speak louder than words. Rather than relying on big banks that are too big to fail, they need to get behind the smaller guys who are the ones really greasing the wheels of small business.

What is your attitude towards your competitors?
We see ourselves as a disruptive influence in the UK banking landscape. We’re here to shake up the big banks and give them a run for their money. There are other challenger banks out there but we all have different business models so there’s space for everyone. The more variety there is in the banking landscape, the better in our view.