January 2, 2019
The plan was to pick an Australian beach, catch up with his best friend and, for a while at least, kiss banking goodbye. At a time when lending was the last thing on the minds of the high street’s biggest names, a frustrated Paul Griffiths parted company with a major UK bank and set about planning his big trip Down Under.
“That was five years ago,” he explains. “And I still haven’t made it over there!”
So what changed? “After 13 years in banking I’d always planned to take some time out, go travelling and then return to the UK to take a position at another bank,” reveals the Teessider. “But before
I had chance to pack my bags, an independent financial adviser friend of mine asked me to help him with a London-based client as they sought to restructure the commercial side of their business.
“They appreciated the one-to-one service I could offer and that’s what I’d always enjoyed about the job. In the end, they asked me to look after their finances across the board and it persuaded me to set up Marlin.”
Marlin Corporate Finance started out as a one-man band working from a box room in Paul’s Middlesbrough home. Fast-forward five years and the firm has moved premises three times to meet growing demand and will look to employ three further members of staff in 2019. Expansion into other areas of the UK is also a key part of the short-term plan. Marlin invested £400,000 into the business last year – securing its new Stockton base, expanding its workforce and integrating cutting-edge IT equipment to enable even swifter expansion and evolution.
“The business has snowballed,” admits Paul. “But I always knew the work was there and I knew I could fall back on relationships with trusted clients who appreciate my approach to the job.
“We also work closely with the banks. They have tightened up their credit controls and so we get referrals back from banks who are unable to help their clients. The banks want to help them – and are keen to retain them as clients – but their hands are often tied when it comes to doing specific deals.
“That’s where we come in. We deal with bespoke funders and not just the high street banks. We work with a lot of the new challenger banks – I know how they operate and how they want to operate. Marlin works with them on their products and we can identify the right deals for our clients as a result of that industry knowledge.”
Marlin’s ethos reflects its founder’s personal approach – a philosophy based on clear communication, an ability to source the right
deal for the right client and the value of long-
term relationship management which historically underpinned the service offered by the very best of the traditional high street lenders.
“We focus on that personal touch,” he agrees. “It’s old-school banking relationship management with a modern twist. We’re still focused on getting the very best out of new technology and I’d like to think we’re ahead of the curve in that respect.”
In a bid to offer the full financial package, Paul brought on board Gary Lumby, a former head of Yorkshire Bank, as a consultant and introduced Stewart Williamson to the Marlin team in September.
“Stewart is a respected lawyer who has experience working with several law firms on Teesside,” adds Paul. “We’re constantly adding to the overall pool of experience and skills within Marlin and looking to cover all bases.”
A period of austerity, coupled with lingering uncertainty around Brexit, could have proved challenging for Paul and his fledgling team but he explains: “I worked through the recession in 2008, which was a very difficult time for the banks and their customers, so I’m in a strong position to offer the best advice now.
“We stress the need for businesses to plan for the future – even when the future might appear to be unclear. We can advise our clients on investment in new premises and equipment, restructuring existing debts, raising capital and acquiring other businesses but planning is pivotal.”
And as for Brexit? “We’ve actually seen a rise in clients looking for higher returns from property,” he says. “They’re investing in areas outside of London and returning higher yields from investment in the North of England. It’s not all bad news.”
Whether talking business or pleasure – Paul is a Middlesbrough Football Club season ticket holder – Marlin’s main man screams optimism and the future looks bright for one of Teesside’s biggest success stories.
“This year, we’re actively seeking more business north of the Tyne and we’re keen to expand into Newcastle,” he adds. “That’s just one of the areas in which we’re hoping to source a satellite office. We have clients across the North East, throughout the UK, in Spain, eastern Europe and America and we recognise the need to be closer to all of them.
“We’ve carefully positioned ourselves as the conduit between property investors diversifying into different types of property and high street banks facing increased competition from a raft
of new to market lenders aiming to increase their market share. There is a level of trust on both sides and a recognition that Marlin can make deals happen.”
“But we’ll always be based on Teesside because that’s where we built the business. The transport links are improving all the time and the operating icosts are so much more competitive here. Our commitment to the North East mirrors our commitment to our clients and I think that loyalty counts for something.
Marlin Corporate Finance