The short-term lender that led the way when the mainstream banks all but disappeared

Name: 

Jonathan Samuels

Role and company: 

CEO of Dragonfly Property Finance

Employee numbers: 

16

Growth forecast for the next three years: 

Our goal is to grow our loan book to £1bn. It is currently at just over £300m.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace?

Firstly, we like to think that we were the short-term lender that led the way when the mainstream banks all but disappeared in 2008 and 2009. We are now the biggest short and medium-term lender in the UK by both market share and loan volumes, and offer a far a wider product range than our competitors.

What’s the big vision for your business?

To continue to lend more than any of our competitors, to continue to grow our product range to meet client needs and to continue to play a key role in the evolution of the alternative finance movement. The traditional high street banks no longer have a monopoly on lending.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

We are currently UK-based and, for the time being at least, have no plans to move overseas. We know the UK market very well and it’s this that has enabled us to ensure that not one of our loans has defaulted since we launched in 2009. The area of finance we’re in can be high risk if you don’t know the market inside-out and therefore we prefer to stay in territories we understand. In any case, the demand for short- and medium-term finance is still growing rapidly in the UK. There’s a lot of growth potential yet.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

Spending weeks and weeks pacing the streets of London in support of a backer to help me set up Dragonfly was probably the toughest part of my career to date. You get a lot of knock-backs and need a thick skin to make it through. I learned to persevere and that even if a meeting was clearly not going to be successful to at least emerge from it with another possible funder to contact. Raising money and finding backers can be extremely demanding but I got there in the end.

What makes you mad in business today?

Poor customer service. It doesn’t matter what area of business you’re in but poor customer or client service is unacceptable. It’s also crazy. Be polite, be helpful, be effective and people will use you again, and again. It’s the basics of business.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

All loans are likely to become regulated, which will mean more administration, and rates will come down as competition increases. But perhaps the biggest challenge will be innovation – it usually is. What can you do to stay different? How can you do things differently to, and better than, your competitors?

Can businesses in your sector access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

If businesses could secure the finance they needed, then we probably wouldn’t be here today. Over the past six years the mainstream banking community has been extremely cautious, shying away from any loans that are slightly left-field or which involve even the slightest bit of risk. We, on the other hand, look at deals on an individual, highly bespoke basis. Our underwriting is not done by computers but people, and this means we will generally be able to offer finance where the high street banks will say no.

How would others describe your leadership style?

I think they’d probably say I just get on with it and like to remain actively involved in deals. These days I still run the rule over a large percentage of our deals because I may spot something that someone else hasn’t. Saying that, our team is highly experienced in the field of underwriting and this happens less and less! Overall, though, I’m not one to make grand speeches but focus on actively building the business and looking for new areas that we can move into. 

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Probably my Japanese whisky collection. 

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