An Interview with Richard Bristow, Head of Credit
Over 30 years of lending
An Interview with Richard Bristow, Head of Credit at Liberty Leasing Limited
Richard Bristow has been in the business of lending for over 30 years, having worked for major players in and out of the City and been through two major recessions he has a unique insight into the world of lending. In this interview we delve into Richard’s work history and his view on lending and how it’s changed in that time.
In 1976 Richard embarked on a degree in Banking & Finance at Loughborough university, which was only the second year of the degree. Graduating with a 2.1 he left University and worked as a Clerk in London but by the age of 27 in 1984 he became a Branch Manager of HSBC (formerly known as Midlands Bank) in Broadstone, Dorset. By the age of 30 he was a Corporate Banking Manager with an impressive £250,000 lending authority back in the late 1980s, dealing with a wide range of customers from farmers to engineers to Hotel owners.
Between 1990 and 1992 Richard was dealing with his first of two major recessions where he dealt with a challenging property portfolio. Post this time he witnessed ‘a tightening up of the lending criteria’. His perseverance paid off and led to a career with Lloyds Asset Finance Division where he stayed for 12 years. He managed a team of approximately 14 underwriters and senior underwriters and progressed to Head of Credit and oversaw a lending authority of £3m.
Richard commented on his time at Lloyds:
“In my time as Head of Credit I was responsible for ensuring we were writing good business. You can’t be in a position of saying no to everything as that wouldn’t be commercial but it’s important to operate with a good level of responsibility.
When lending you are constantly assessing risk and juggling between the Primary Security which would be the customer’s ability to pay you back with the value of the security. One must tread a middle path between continuing lending to keep customers happy but not at the cost of losing the company money.
By 2004, the Lloyds merger with TSB saw the Asset Finance function moved over to the Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance Department. I took on the role of Senior Manager Business Solutions, where essentially I remained in an overseeing capacity and would work on any new opportunities and issues within the asset book.
This was certainly a different role, especially having managed a team of underwriters it saw me transition to more of a fringe role where I acted as an ‘independent mind’ for colleagues to check in with and help give them a different insight and perspective. But come 2007 I was ready for a new challenge and was presented with the opportunity of joining the Bank Of Scotland dealing with a variety of commercial businesses as a High Risk Director.
As I joined another major recession was about to hit and I found myself witnessing time and time again levels of debt that were unsustainable but businesses were rationalising the level of debt with their need to survive and continue trading. More than not I was dealing with genuine customers who were quite simply caught up in lending they couldn’t pay back.
The period between 2007 and 2010 was arguably the most colourful time in my career and in that time I built up a bit of a reputation for dealing with somewhat complex deals but I enjoy taking the complex and making it simple. It was my responsibility to engineer a lot of settlements between customers and the bank and achieve an outcome where the business could keep trading but minimising the lost for the bank.
By about 2010/11 the market was certainly recovering which led to a position I was a bit more familiar with as Head of Credit function at Hitachi Capital Business Finance with a lending authority of £1million. ”
Richard has also been a member on Asset Finance committees that dealt with some high profile Insolvency cases and having networked (before the days of LinkedIN) he was recommended to apply for a position with United Trust Bank who were keen to diversify into Asset Finance but need someone who knew it inside out which was Richard
What attracted you to Liberty?
“Having met Allan and Paul at various Annual Dinners as well as being aware of Tony and Greg’s background, Liberty was a company I had observed and seen go from strength to strength. As a lender I like the fact that Liberty look at deals from a reality point of view and I wouldn’t class them as a conventional lender. They don’t deal with the same deal day in and day out or follow the same formula so when asked to work for them I was attracted to the variety and commerciality.
On another note it’s refreshing to see a business where the sales team have a genuine interface with the customers. I’m genuinely impressed of the relationships they have built and maintain especially when how easy it can be to rely on a broker network or latest in online technologies.”
What do you feel you contribute to Liberty?
“As mentioned earlier I enjoy taking the complex and making it simple. It can be very easy to look at a set of accounts and make judgments but you need to know the circumstances. I’m fortunate to have dealt with various industry sectors and I draw upon my experience to understand the whole picture, which is the business and not just what is presented in a set of accounts.
I believe I’m able to pick apart the numbers and understand what I’m reading and in turn I’m able to help others share this understanding. Hopefully, with my experience and skills I’m able to help Liberty do a deal, particularly in cases where they would not be comfortable to do so but I am used to taking the exposure and can reassure them.”
What do you enjoy about this industry and have you learned over the 30 years?
I’ve been in a fortunate position to have met many customers from a wide range of industries over the last 30 years and this is something I do not take for granted, as I’ve learned so much about the business of lending and people. There is an art to lending and I feel those who purely analyse the figures and accounts are missing a trick. I pride myself on knowing my assets and customers as well as understanding the accounts presented to me but from my experience one should never underestimate the importance of continually making an effort to get as much background information as possible. I always aim to get behind the figures and make them real in order to create an accurate picture of the business.
TIMELINE OF RICHARD’S CAREER
Banking & Finance Degree at Loughborough University | Sponsored by HSBC (formerly Midlands Bank)
Branch Manager Broadstone
Corporate Banking Manager in Bath (£250,000 lending authority) – Farmers, Engineers, Tourism, Hotels etc
Humberclyde Finance Group
1992 – RECESSION
Senior Underwriter led to Head of Credit (Lloyds Asset Finance Division)
2001 – Head of Credit
Senior Manager Business Solutions (Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance
High Risk Director (Royal Bank of Scotland)
Head of Credit Function at Hitachi Capital Business Finance
United Trust Bank – Lending Manager (Asset Finance)
November 2016 – Liberty
Head of Credit