Nattalie Weeks’ Journey: From Banks to P2P
Nattalie Weeks started her career in banking during the “Big Bang” - the sudden deregulation of financial markets in 1986. Witnessing some significant changes in regulation from inside the banking sector, as well as the crisis of 2008, she now occupies a crucial role as Head of Collections at Kuflink.
My career in the banking sector started right after grammar school at the early age of 16. It was the start of the “Big Bang” - a sudden deregulation of the financial markets by Margaret Thatcher - and banks were expanding really quickly. The abolition of fixed commission charges and the significant changes in how the stock markets worked resulted in a surge of market activity and banks were taking on a lot of staff. I was amongst those newly hired staff.
The Start of My Career in Banking
My first ever job in banking was in what is now known as the Wealth Management Division of NatWest. I worked as a Financial Services Officer, overseeing the settlement of our customers’ share trades and thus helping them achieve their investment goals. In 2000, after a period managing share portfolios for Corporate entities including large charities, I moved into a part of the bank that was looking after Sterling and USD bonds - here I became the Securities Settlement Officer.
In March 2000, NatWest was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in a £21 billion deal. At the time, this was the largest takeover in the history of banking. My colleagues and I got the option of redundancy, but I redeployed as a Mid Corporate Credit Committee Assistant. My job role included arranging all logistical aspects of Committee meetings, collating papers, and taking and agreeing minutes - most of which I didn’t understand at all at that stage.
“Instead of managing portfolios of stocks and shares, I’d suddenly entered the realm of corporate and commercial banking, lending money to companies.”
It was a very steep learning curve, but I’ve always been of the mind that if I don’t know something, I’ll ask. By continuing to learn and ask questions, I finally made it to Operations Manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The 2008 Financial Crisis
In 2008, the deregulation of 1986 had started taking its toll. It became apparent that many of the mortgage-backed securities that banks and private securitisers had been lending amongst each other actually had very little underlying capital. Especially in the United States, loans and mortgages had been made available to pretty much anyone, regardless of whether they would be able to pay off their debt. This very unethical practice harmed countless individuals as well as the banking system. Once the mortgage bubble burst, it resulted in a full-blown international banking crisis.
Inside the Royal Bank of Scotland
2008 was a horrible year for the staff at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Our team was working very hard to look after our customers, but we sometimes felt like a lot of things were out of our control.
“Initially, lots of people lost their jobs. Then, the lay-offs came in waves.”
In London, the crisis was keenly felt, as it’s an expensive city in which to operate, and many of our offices moved to other UK cities such as Birmingham. From 2008 onwards, underwriting standards of mortgages tightened, and banking regulations became stricter again. Borrowers and banks had to prove that their mortgages were viable - something which I feel they should have been doing all along.
I was lucky to keep my job for eight more years, and finally left the Royal Bank of Scotland in December 2016.
Switching from Banking to the P2P Sector
By the time I left my job at the RBS, I had been working in the banking sector for over 30 years. I was keen for a new challenge and started looking for opportunities closer to home, near Gravesend. I put my CV out there, and when a role became available at Kuflink, I applied. As the peer to peer lending sector works differently than the banking sector, the role constituted another learning opportunity for me. That said, the nature of my role is pretty much the same: in the end, it’s just adding up numbers.
“The work environment at Kuflink is very friendly. It’s a family-run company, where everyone is very much part of a big team.”
When working in the banking sector, you are a small cog in a big machine - you never get to see the whole process that you’re part of. Here at Kuflink everyone is in one building, which changes everything. I sit right next to Sales and Investor Relations, and I can easily walk over to colleagues of any department to ask a quick question.
More Accessible Finance
When compared to banks, Peer to Peer lending services are much more accessible to investors as well as borrowers. Although we have strict underwriting processes, we are open to borrowers that a high-street lender might not consider - for example, loans for property investors with limited experience and loans for different kinds of properties (commercial, residential, buy-to-let).
“We’re passionate about helping people who might want to start their portfolio.”
Getting a loan from a bank can take a long time. Peer to Peer loans can bridge the gap, allowing borrowers to get up and running. We offer short-term loans and can deliver quickly. This makes our lending services more agile than those of traditional banks.
Investing in small business loans is much more transparent and accessible in the P2P sector as well. At Kuflink, our minimum investment is as low as £100, allowing inexperienced investors to dip their toe in and start seeing the benefits. With the rise of innovative finance ISAs - otherwise known as IF-ISAs - investors don’t pay any tax on the interest they make via peer to peer lending. This helps them to maximise their earnings.
Making It Work Together
In my job as Director and Head of Collections, I welcome new investors and onboard new loans, working with borrowers to ensure they meet their commitments. We have clear written-down rules around loan servicing, repayments and (in the worst-case scenario) asset recovery to keep our investors safe and follow the Financial Conduct Authority’s rules and regulations.
That said, we offer a much more personal service than a bank would. Our Collections team makes contact with borrowers throughout the term of the loan, and checks in when a payment is late. If a borrower is struggling to service their loan because of unexpected circumstances, we will work together with them to find a suitable solution. It’s in the best interest of everyone - investors as well as borrowers - to get the borrower to where they need to be. I really like the attitude at Kuflink of making it work together.
“At Kuflink, we want to make our borrowers succeed.”