One to one with Laura Carr, Head of Underwriting

In an interview with Mortgage Strategy, Laura talks about relishing fresh challenges every day, stepping into the unknown after 15 years at the same firm, and 6am gym sessions.

The bridging sector appears to have taken on much more importance in recent times. Do you agree with this, and if so, what is driving this?

The ASTL has published data showing the sector grew by 15 per cent in 2018 and continues to grow at roughly the same pace. At Hope Capital we’re seeing even faster growth: compared with the same time last year, we’ve seen volumes go up six-fold, and more than four-and-a-half times by value.

With customers being underserved by the mainstream lenders, demand for finance remains high meaning there’s clearly a greater need for bridging as a first-choice solution.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

The biggest challenge has been juggling work and home life, especially with a young family, and being a working mother in what is still a very male-dominated industry.

I started at Hope Capital after taking a twelve-month career break to look after my youngest child. I consider myself very fortunate as they have been extremely supportive. It is no accident Hope Capital was recently named Equality Employer of the Year at Financial Reporter’s Women’s Recognition Awards.

If there was one thing could you change about the industry, what would it be?

One of the biggest issues is transparency around fees and charges, which makes it difficult for brokers and clients to make effective like-for-like comparisons. At Hope Capital we are clear and upfront about all our charges and fees but it’s too often the case that other lenders have hidden costs such as management fees and high costs which aren’t fully disclosed clearly from the start.

On a Sunday evening, what do you dread about the coming morning, and what do you look forward to?

The prospect of a 6am Monday gym session is pretty daunting – especially when I’m deciding whether to have another glass of wine!

I work with a lovely bunch of people so I really look forward to coming in on Monday and hearing about what they’ve been up to over the weekend. Workwise, every day is different – but I really enjoy dealing with fresh challenges so that’s more a source of excitement than trepidation.

What is the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make?

Without a doubt, leaving my old job to take a year off, with no idea what I would do when I came back to work full-time. I had been there for around 15 years so it was a real step into the unknown, like walking into a tunnel without knowing what would be at the other end. Again, I amfortunate that turned out to be Hope Capital.

As a child, what was your dream job?

As a very young child I wanted to be on Top of the Pops, so a singer or a musician of some sort.

When I got a bit older, I studied languages and convinced myself I wanted to work abroad in the tourist industry. My first full-time job was as trainee manager at a local hotel, but I didn’t like having to work unsociable hours while all my friends were off having fun.

Before long someone I knew in banking asked if I would be interested in coming for an interview. That prompted a complete career change and I’ve never looked back.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

My eldest is now thirteen so I have asked myself this question several times. What I always come back to is not to try and grow up too fast. I think we all feel when we’re young that we’re missing out, and we’re in a hurry to grow up so we can go out and do whatever it is we think adults do. You soon find out that means a load more responsibilities – so just enjoy being young.

Do you have any secret talents?

I am well known for being able to make a bottle of prosecco disappear. My Secret Santa gift last year was a wine glass that holds the contents of an entire bottle.

Who is your all-time hero, and why?

I can honestly say it’s my mum. She married my dad at 17 – they’re celebrating their fortieth anniversary this year – had me at 18 and brought me and my brother up while also having a career, which was very far from the norm then. When I had my own family, she was there to support me and help with the children. I don’t think I could have done it all without her.

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