Interview with Managing Director Steve O’Brien

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Tell us about your career and background so far, how did you get into lending?

I came to Jersey in June 1998 whilst recovering from a serious shoulder dislocation, then managed to get a summer job in a stockbrokers. I went back to Ireland in September, but unfortunately injured the shoulder again and moved back to Jersey permanently in October 1998. 

In terms of Jersey Rugby club & specifically the physio at the time, Morag Obarska arranged for renowned surgeon Professor Angus Wallace to undertake a full shoulder reconstruction.

This allowed me to play for Jersey for 14 seasons, I captained the island in 3 years of those, playing from very amateur days right up through the professional years into the championship. Whilst playing rugby, I worked for the stockbrokers for 5 years before joining RBS International where I stayed for close to 10 years. I was then offered a position to create the Corporate Banking team at Santander International where I worked for 3 years before founding an alternative lender in Gibraltar – I spent close to 5 years there before returning to Jersey. Having set up Oaklands in January 2022, we joined forces with Tenn Capital in February this year. 


Tenn recently acquired your business and you have become MD of the New Jersey business – what attracted you to that transaction?

Combining two businesses that complement each other makes so much strategic sense. I’ve known Matt for a long while and I am a big fan of how he carries himself personally and professionally – I feel we share the same core values and I can trust him without question. Notwithstanding the people and values aspect, a big plus is the worldwide lending remit – that adds to the variety which in turn creates excitement around the loans we can provide.


What’s your favourite ever lending deal which you were involved in?

Tough question – possibly my first one many years ago.

It was a small loan of £1m, but it was a relatively complex structure and crossed two jurisdictions. The LTV was relatively modest at sub 60%, The Borrower was a great guy, a bit of a character but in a good way. He agreed to purchase properties near Gatwick which he needed to close on within 2 weeks. The deal involved a lot of back and forth between lawyers, valuers, The Borrower etc. But, we got it over the line, arrangement fees banked, happy lender, happy borrower and the loan repaid in month 9.

It showed how when having the right people involved in a deal, we create the desired outcome if we all rowed in the same direction. It also showed how dealing with the right type of character helps enormously when under pressure and the initial gut feel when meeting someone new is generally never wrong.

What makes a great borrower?

One who repays!! Honesty, openness and a willingness to do the right thing when in a tough spot!
Basically someone with good moral fibre! 

What’s good about the Jersey market when it comes to lending / loans?

You can make a small number of calls to ascertain if:

a) The Asset stacks up
b) The Borrower reputation stands up

It’s a small community where you have an easy ability to sense-check something or someone incredibly easily.

What do you think will happen to the Jersey Property market this year?

I think some sectors of the market will come under pressure.

Some individuals who have previously committed to purchase buy-to-lets may find it a good deal tougher to obtain the mortgage to complete the purchase! I suspect the market will flatten but not fall in a dramatic sense. There is already a slow down on sales but in the HNW space I don’t feel it will be affected too greatly!

You have a lot of experience in Gibraltar – what is the property and lending market like there?

Pretty similar to Jersey, arguably a stronger market albeit a different property market. Due to available space, Gibraltar is predominantly apartment style living, quite different to many of us in the Channel Islands are used to. 

The very good thing from a lending point of view is the demand for apartments is incredibly strong and a second good point is defaults are close to non-existent over there. Again, you can make one or two calls to check if someone is somebody you want to be lending to or not! 


What happened in your Rugby initiation?

Bit of a boring answer but nothing, I never had a specific initiation! All the exciting stories are ones best told over a drink in a quiet pub and names are never mentioned! 

Who is the best rugby player of all time?

My favourite player back in the day was Christian Cullen but I think Brian O’Driscoll is possibly the best of all time – The try he scored in the Lions test Australia in 2001 was pure class.

How can Tenn add value to the local CSP market?

Tenn can offer something no-one else in the lending space can – multi currency, cross jurisdictional lending against high value assets and in a short turnaround time. It’s an incredibly unique lending proposition. 

No geographical constraints with the added costs saving by dealing with one lender based in the channel islands. It opens up a new way for Trustees and other Corporate Service providers to obtain asset backed lending quickly and cost effectively for their clients! We’re a problem solver in the private client and real estate world!