Tenn questions with Matt Watson

  • Matt Watson

    Matt Watson

Describe yourself in three words.

Energetic. Driven. Honest.  

Tell us a bit more about yourself.

I’m 37 years old, and I’m a husband and a dad. I was born in the UK, but my family moved here when I was pretty young – my dad’s side of the family comes from the island.

When I first started working, I moved to London, and I worked in the City as a Trader, before moving back to Guernsey in 2008 to help set up a stockbroking and investment management business, and I’ve been here ever since.

What do you think is next for the lending industry?

I think we’ll see some kind of consolidation. At the moment, the lending industry is incredibly fragmented at origination level, and I think that will change to some degree, although maybe not through big M&A deals. My guess is that consolidation will be broader than this, and we’ll see it happen in different ways.

I have an investment background, and what I see in the lending industry at the moment is a bit like the investment management industry was back in 2010, right before the wave of consolidation began. There are rising operational costs for lenders. Costs relating to compliance, tech and regulation burden are all on the up and will continue to rise. We have set Tenn up with this in mind and have ‘future proofed’ to some degree. For other firms that haven’t or won’t invest, at some point, there will be space for them to be overtaken, or they will fall behind in some way.

I don’t think consolidation will necessarily look the same as it did for the investment management industry because lenders aren’t as transient as businesses, but it will happen. It’s more likely that originators will congregate around specific platforms.

What led you to your role at Tenn?

As I said, I have an investment management background, but professionally what I like more than anything is scaling start-up businesses. I’ve done it several times in my career, and I enjoy the chaos of starting a company from scratch and growing it. It’s one of the most rewarding things to participate in and being part of that growth in a start-up company is really special. It’s hard work and being in a start up takes a piece of you along the way but the juice is worth the squeeze.

In terms of Tenn, everything started when I talked to Islay, Hugh and Nigel, we founded Tenn together. We saw a gap in the market for a lender that understood and served high net-worth, international individuals who wanted to borrow capital against residential real estate, wherever it might be.

We believed that these borrowers were underserved by the lenders already in the market, and accessing capital was much harder for these borrowers than it needed to be. We have the credit background to be able to lend, and we understand these borrowers and what they need really well. Setting up a lender that solved this problem and facilitates high-value lending seemed natural, and that’s where Tenn comes from.

What motivates you?

I want to look back at Tenn and see that we’ve successfully built a sustainable, well-known and respected business. I’m motivated to achieve that.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

Make yourself invaluable. I was taught this early on in my career, and it makes all the difference. People can work in the lending industry for a relatively narrow set of reasons, but whatever your role is or whatever you’re doing, learn how to make yourself invaluable to your team. It sounds like a small thing, but hundreds of small things add up over time, and it makes a difference.

What do you wish more people knew about Tenn?

How much we care about what we do. We’ve identified this problem in the market where international wealthy borrowers find it hard to borrow against their real estate, whether that’s in the UK or abroad. We want to solve that problem, and we want to help our clients to access capital. We’re really genuine in our desire to do that.

Tell us about a moment that changed you.

In my personal life I know it’s a cliché but becoming a dad. It totally changed me in a number of ways.

Professionally, I’d say meeting my first boss 15 years ago: he ended up becoming my mentor, really. He was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time, and I owe him an awful lot. He was very direct and told me some things I needed to hear and is the single biggest influence on my working life. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.

What values do you live by?

I like to think that I have a set of core values but three of the most important to me are being honest and being direct.

Being direct is a value that’s developed over time and is something that I’ve had to learn. But being direct is subtle – it isn’t about being confrontational at all. It’s about giving feedback and listening for responses and being able to change your opinion if someone else gives direct feedback and you’re both open to a different way of thinking.

I don’t go into every conversation I have thinking I’m right, and I wouldn’t want the team to, either – that’s not how we approach things as a business. Being direct creates space to have open-minded conversations and question things and ask, ‘Who’s right?’ when there are different opinions. Being right is usually something that stands up to scrutiny, but you can only explore that if you’re direct.

What do you do in your spare time?

Being a dad takes up a lot of my time outside work! I also practice jiu-jitsu when I can.

I know work/life balance is a big topic everywhere right now but I’m not sure I think about it in the same way as the mainstream narrative. I genuinely love growing Tenn Capital and working with the team here but for sure there are times when I need time off!


Contact Matt via email: matt.watson@tenn.capital