Starting a new job in the middle of a global pandemic isn’t something that any of us would plan for, but this is exactly what happened to Lewis Banford, when he started his new role, as the Regional Sales Director for the South, with Praetura Asset Finance back in May.

We recently caught up with Lewis to find out more about how those first three months have been, in times that are unlike anything that any of us have lived through before.

Q: How have you found the first three months working with the Praetura team?

A: Obviously it’s a bit bizarre starting a new job remotely having not visited the head office since January, but I honestly have to say that so far, it’s been great!

I’ve spent lots of time on the phone and on Teams calls with people from every department, plus we’ve had Zoom quizzes for a more informal chance to get to know people. With help from other members of the team, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of getting used to the systems and processes and hopefully made some friends too.

I am really looking forward to meeting everyone in person though and spending some time at HQ – especially with our Operations and Underwriting team as I know how much we depend on them in Sales.

Q: You joined in not the most normal of circumstances with the country in lockdown, how did you cope with that?

A: It was very strange indeed, but everyone was very welcoming, and I was pleased that I could come on board regardless of the lockdown and be able to help out where I could.

I actually think getting involved in supporting Praetura’s existing clients, through the impacts of the pandemic on their businesses, really helped me learn my way around the systems and get some early insight into how the business works.

Q: What are the standout positives from your time with Praetura so far?

A: I can sum this up in three words: people, systems and direction.

Everyone I have worked with at Praetura across all departments has been knowledgeable, personable and supportive.

In terms of the systems, it’s obvious to see where major investments have been made in our systems to future proof the business and ensure that it is scalable as the company grows. This also allows us to ‘work smart’ as we’re not spending unnecessary time on administration and paperwork (which is all the more important when working from home).

Finally, from my initial talks with Mike Hartley and Peadar O’Reilly, there was a real sense of direction. This is echoed when talking to other members of the team and senior management – everyone knows what we are trying to achieve and the direction we’re heading in and there’s a real sense of unity to work together to realize those goals.

Q: Have there been any obstacles that you’ve had to overcome?

A: Despite over 15 years in the industry, I have never regularly worked from home before. I used to find that when I did, there was only so much I could get done from home and the rest would build up for when I was back in the office.

However, at Praetura everything is set up to run seamlessly if everybody has to work from home (as has been the case since towards the end of March). This has meant our ability to support our clients and brokers and continue lending hasn’t been affected by whether we are or aren’t in an office.

Working from home though means you can’t shout a question to someone across the room, chat to the person opposite to bounce an idea off them and my cats aren’t that great when it comes to providing any ‘office banter’. But with everyone set up with Microsoft Teams it is really easy to get hold of people and it does give you the ability to ask a question or bounce an idea off someone face to face. During lockdown I’ve also conducted a number of broker and client meetings on Zoom; it’s surprising how much more personality you can portray compared to on a phone call. As our job is largely about people and personalities and building relationships to provide the best service we possibly can, this is a very important tool.

Q: What are your hopes and plans for the coming weeks and months, both for yourself and your Southern Sales team?

A: I’m looking forward to spending some time at Head Office – particularly with the Underwriters. That time will enable me to gain a real insight into how they do what they do, which will help both me and my team of BDMs in the South with pre-qualifying and packaging proposals.

I’m also really excited to get my team together in person soon; to set out our stall for the rest of the year and beyond. I’m looking forward to this new team working closely together to support our brokers and clients in the South. Praetura prides itself on its ethos as a consultant lender and I can’t wait to get out and start meeting brokers in person again to spread that message!

 

To find out more about asset refinance, hard asset funding options or the benefits of working in partnership with a consultant lender, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Praetura Asset Finance by calling 0333 323 7830 or emailing enquiries@praeturaaf.com.