Common sense will prevail over Brexit trade talks, says Aldermore's CEO
Common sense will prevail when the UK negotiates a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union, according to the chief executive of Aldermore.
Phillip Monks also said that Yorkshire has become an important base for Aldermore, the specialist lender which offers products to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), homeowners, landlords and individuals.
He confirmed that Aldermore now manages its Scottish business out of Leeds, and plans to keep growing in Yorkshire.
Last month, Aldermore forecast strong loan-book growth in 2017, after reporting a better-than-expected 34 per cent jump in profit for the previous year.
Speaking during a trip to Leeds, Mr Monks said: “When we talk to customers, there’s still a degree of optimism, and we are seeing no tail off in demand whatsoever.”
He said SME customers were still planning to make investments, and a number of them are benefiting from the weak pound.
When asked about his views on Brexit, Mr Monks added: “I may be being naive, but I think common sense will prevail.
“There will be a huge amount of noise for a couple of years, but I honestly think it’s in everybody’s interests to have sensible trading agreements in place.
“And it’s in our interests, just as much as it’s in the German’s interests; with their car industry and the million or so cars they export into the UK every year.
“Clearly, we’ve had a vote, but we haven’t had an exit yet. Time will tell, but I remain quite optimistic.”
The UK-based bank was founded by ex-Barclays executive Mr Monks, with backing from European private equity investor AnaCap, during the height of the financial crisis in 2009.
Mr Monks said the Leeds office was a really important hub because “it’s not only looking up into the Scottish market, it’s looking up to Newcastle; so there’s a massive geography.”
He said the Leeds office now had a lounge area so clients could come in for meetings with staff.
He added: “We’ve got a good capability here as well, to do business and broaden relationships with customers.”
“This (Leeds) is a microcosm of Aldermore,’’ he said: “We have about 6.5 per cent of our lending business here and I would like to grow that.”
Mr Monks added: “I think..that going forward, we don’t need to be dogmatic about growing purely organically.
“So it may be there are anything from small portfolios which we might be interested in, to joint ventures, which either give us some distribution benefit, or give us some capability benefit.
“And you never know, as Brexit negotiations develop, we might find there are some orphan assets of overseas companies here, and frankly, we will be on our toes.”
Mr Monks stressed that Aldermore did not have a “myopic focus on growth”.
He added: “As a business, we are very much focused on shareholder returns, and if the economy does turn down, then we can slightly retune our growth and still provide the great shareholder returns that we are (doing).
“There are no signs of that at the moment, but I think it’s right that as a management team, we have a degree of prudence in our forecasts that we give to the market place.
“Which is why we think this year we will continue to grow at about 10 to 15 per cent.
“Our ambition is to be the strategically important bank in the UK, and in the region for the SME community. At the end of the day, they are the lifeblood of the UK economy.”
Aldermore’s underlying pretax profit rose to £133m in 2016, beating analysts’ consensus by 6 per cent and topping the £99m reported for 2015.
Aldermore employs around 900 people, including more than 20 staff based in Leeds.
It has no branch network but serves customers and intermediary partners online, by phone and face to face, through its network of regional offices around the UK.