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‘I’m handing over to a top operator in Neal Moy’ - Robert Orr 

Robert Orr 1 Hero.jpg

Paragon Development Finance Managing Director Robert Orr will step down at the end of the month, with current Deputy Managing Director Neal Moy stepping into his shoes.

Robert will stay with Paragon in an advisory role, but as he heads into the final few weeks in the top role, we speak to him about his near 40-year career in banking and the property sector.   

How did you first get interested in the development finance sector?

In the mid-1980s, I worked for NatWest in a branch where our largest client was McCarthy Stone, the retirement home specialist. They were expanding quickly and all the activity around site acquisition, construction and sales sparked my interest in the residential development sector generally. That’s why I decided to follow this particular sector.

What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the sector since you started your career?

Probably the biggest change has been the expansion in number of funders in the residential development market. It’s gone from mainly the clearing banks to a mix of specialists, challenger banks, peer-to-peer, debt platforms and mezzanine funders moving up to be whole loan providers. SME developers can now access LTVs/LTCs as a matter of course, which would have been unavailable when I started.

What are some of the most surprising elements you’ve encountered in the field?

I’m not sure about surprising but the one factor which has always impressed me about developers over the years is their ongoing ability to problem solve and keep so many different issues coordinated.

Whether that’s dealing with bad weather, planners, neighbours, vendors, utilities, local authorities, sub-contractors or end buyers, their ability to deal with those challenges with energy each day in order to progress a scheme is impressive – that’s why I’ve always tried to make the funding as straightforward as possible!

Which way do you see the sector heading in the near future?

The aspect of SME development funding I’ve always enjoyed is that every scheme is different. It’s about the micro location, the challenges of construction and style/pricing of the homes compared to the neighbouring properties.

Whilst some parts of the financial sector have moved to having AI increasingly make lending decisions, in my view, development funding should at the core still rely on the experience of their Relationship Teams and Credit Underwriters, supported by appropriate professionals.
Having that specialist knowledge alongside a close relationship with clients will be the key to success for the sector.

What are you hoping to achieve in your new advisory role?

During my 40-year career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in senior positions for a clearer, a merchant bank, a debt platform and now a specialist bank. I’ve also been through a couple of tough property downturns.

So, I’m hoping to use that experience to give some help and advice to the team at Paragon Development Finance as they continue to build a first-class business. I’m handing over to a top operator in Neal Moy and I look forward to seeing where he takes the business.   

Read Neal Moy's interview about taking on the MD role.