Hugh, you started Enness with your business partner Islay Robinson, please tell us everything we need to know about you and the company.
My interest in property started at a young age as my family has always been involved in the sector. I also spent my summer holidays working in a mortgage brokerage which gave me an insight into the industry and I knew it was a career I wanted to pursue.
Having met at Alexander Hall, London’s largest mortgage brokerage, Islay and I set up Enness in 2007 – the same week that Northern Rock collapsed. Since then, we have grown into a team of almost 60 with offices in London and Monaco, specialising in securing finance for high net worth and ultra-high net worth buyers of both UK and international property.
Ten years on and I am still passionate about what we do here, which I think is proven by the fact that I was named ‘Best Large Loans Broker’ at The British Mortgage Awards 2016 – something I am extremely proud of.
How did you come up with the idea for Enness?
I met Islay whilst sitting next to him during our time at Alexander Hall. We both have an entrepreneurial spirit and quickly recognised it within each other. We also recognised a huge advice gap for high net worth borrowers, particularly foreign nationals who were increasingly attracted to London property. High street banks and lenders just didn’t cater for this demographic. As a result, Enness was conceived in The Pilot Pub, behind Foxtons’ Chiswick head office.
How did you finance Enness?
We put together a business plan and set up a meeting with Allied Irish Bank on Bromley High Street, which we came away from with an unsecured overdraft of £20,000. I still have the certificate framed in my office as a reminder of how it all began!
What do you think is the key to successfully pitching to potential investors or clients?
When dealing with clients of such high value, there is a tendency to be a ‘yes man’ because you don’t want to let anyone down. We prefer to be direct and honest with our clients about what can be achieved, even if it’s not what they want to hear – it may lose us business in the short-term but they return to us as they know they can trust us to give them the best advice.
Social media platforms are a great way to promote your business, how useful have you found social media marketing?
Social media is an excellent tool for us and we get a great response from the content we publish. Both Twitter and LinkedIn are valuable platforms as they enable us to engage with people in the market and update them of what’s going on. Creating content for social media and our website is something which we prioritise as it generates a large number of leads for us. Our content ranges from case studies of successful deals, to topical market analysis, and updates on products or rates. It’s a way of showcasing our expertise and market knowledge to a wider audience, and showing potential clients in practical terms how we can help them.
Your business is part of a sector which is somewhat dependent on the way the market behaves, what effect has Brexit had on Enness?
Brexit has undoubtedly created uncertainty in the property market and a slowdown in transactions has been widely reported – but in times of uncertainty, people seek stability. This coupled with the fact that high and ultra-high net worth individuals want to release liquidity in times of turbulence means that Brexit has been an opportunity for Enness, rather than a concern.
Although your business specifically services high net worth clients, what tips could you give to anyone wanting to get on to the property ladder over the next couple of years?
My advice to anyone trying to get onto the property ladder is to do it by whatever means you can. It’s the best financial decision you can make because once you’re on the ladder, you are financially relevant. However, it is important to take it seriously and do as much research as you can beforehand. Look for areas of better value and even consider government initiatives like Shared Ownership, which I think is a fantastic option absolutely worth looking in to. Finally, be prepared to make short-term sacrifices to get what you want because it will be worth it in the long run.
What's your vision for Enness over the next couple of years?
The business has grown from a three-person operation to a team of around 60 in ten years. Our goal is to keep growing, with a particular focus on developing our international brokerage service. There is no other brand like Enness and we want to hold our position as the number one brokerage for high net worth clients.
How do you celebrate success?
I believe that it’s important to celebrate success as it keeps the motivation to succeed alive. If we’ve had a good quarter, for example, I like to treat my family to a holiday or breakfast at The Ritz – something special that we wouldn’t do every day. I remember what it was like when we started out and the company was getting off the ground, so by recognising such moments it helps me to remember the value of them.