Tenn questions with Mike Starkey

  • Head of Credit

    Head of Credit

What three words describe you best?

Committed. Supportive. Problemsolver.

What do you see next in the lending industry?

To start looking by backwards, I’d say traditional lenders have done well historically by delivering one of their off the shelf “packaged” deals, but borrowers need and want – tailored lending solutions. So many borrowers don’t fit into standard “borrower profiles” anymore and are in the market for other solutions. Looking forwards, I think we’ll see the emergence of more niche players like Tenn, that specialise in doing one thing or serving one type of client exceptionally. Ultimately, I think one-size-fits-all lending will generally disappear.

For their part, I believe that borrowers are more debt and finance aware – some of that historic fear factor that used to be associated with debt have gone. Borrowers are also more astute – they demand value, and they want to work with lenders who can deliver against their promises. It’s no longer enough just to offer the best rates. My view is that borrowers are willing to pay for capability and execution and look at the added value offered by the lender. If there’s a modest marginal difference between the cost of a loan, a borrower will often go for the lender that offers the better all-around experience accepting that is value adding.

Can you tell us about your career?

I spent the first ten years of my career in London, working predominantly in Corporate, Commercial and Credit roles in a retail bank in the West End and the City. The West End for them was the centre of the universe for property lending at the time! My roles were credit analyst or relationship management.

Later, I joined Lloyds, and we moved to the North East of the England with My role covering Northumberland and Tyne and Wear before expanding to take in Cumbria.

In 2004, I moved to Guernsey to head up the Commercial banking team before taking up the role of Head of Credit for Lloyds’ International Wealth in 2010 whilst remaining as Island Director for Guernsey. In my latter career in Guernsey I became directly exposed to high-net-worth borrowers and different jurisdictions including Dubai, Geneva, Gibraltar and Monaco.

In 2018 I left Lloyds and was thinking about what my next move would be, and I decided to take 12 months off. In that year off, whilst continuing with my involvement with a charity. I briefly headed back to the UK with my wife for her job, but with COVID restrictions and lockdowns, we decided that Guernsey was a better base for us, so we moved back.

About the same time, I received a call from a friend who knew that Matt was setting up a new Guernsey lending outfit and the business was looking for an experienced lender in line with the role of head of credit. I knew Matt because we’d worked with the same charity together, and we had a chat, and that’s where my journey started with Tenn.

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

A simple one, but I’d say: understand that there’s no such thing as a silly question. I’ve been in lots of meetings where a very senior person will ask a very simple question, and suddenly, it gives lots of other people the space to feel comfortable saying: ‘Yeah, I don’t get that either!’ But someone has to be the first to ask, which can be hard. Asking questions is a great way to learn, and it’s not something you should hesitate to do.

I’d also say: don’t be afraid to challenge people or say no – even if that’s to someone more senior than you. Do it constructively and with respect, but someone’s seniority shouldn’t stop you from challenging a decision as long as you have something valid and valuable to share. Make sure you can back up your position with facts rather than just emotions, and then go for it.

How has your career shaped your experience at Tenn?

I got my bedrock credit experience in a retail bank, but the lending principals are similar here at Tenn. I’ve worked in big organisations and now for a smaller player. Everything I did in my career until now has shaped me in one way or another, and I’ve had a lot of variety in my roles, which I’ve enjoyed. As you get more senior in large organisations it seems to me that you end up in more and more meetings, which can take unnecessary time. But that’s not the case at Tenn, which is refreshing. We have short reporting lines which enables us to be very quick in decision-making – it’s helpful.

What motivates you? 

Workwise, I’m motivated by providing a lending solution that works for both parties. As a slight extension of this, I think there’s space for lenders to build relationships with borrowers, rather than just seeing everything as a lending transaction. Being part of a company which wants to be more than a product provider and offer solutions is motivating – and I think that’s probably still quite different and novel within the lending industry.

Like many people, I’m motivated by working for a successful business, but I also want to see that success achieved in the right way. I don’t believe in cutting corners and to me taking ownership of what you do is important. I’m motivated by doing things properly and working with other people who see things the same way and want to do the same.

Tell us about someone who has inspired you?

When I was working in London, I had a boss who was incredibly supportive of me at a really important time in my career and life. He showed great confidence in me, which made me feel confident in myself. He had no hesitation in having me present or work with very senior people within the organisation, and he did it to give me more exposure to other stakeholders and for my own benefit – he could easily have done it himself and taken credit.

We’d often have great chats about what I was working on or how I was tackling something. Now I look back and realise we were actually having personal development conversations, and he was helping me improve my skills and advance my career without me realising.

He was a great person, and the experience of working for him has stayed with me ever since. He influenced how I approach working in a team, and I try and work in the same way with colleagues, whatever their position.

What do you do in your spare time?

I enjoy walking the dog and I’m a keen golfer and skier. I like to travel – although that’s obviously been off the table recently, but hopefully, it’s a possibility again soon. I’m also involved with a charity here in Guernsey.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The variety. For a small player, we see a lot of different borrowers, jurisdictions, and scenarios that give variety and make things interesting.

What do you wish more people knew about Tenn?

That we’re a very approachable and collaborative company. As a team, we all think differently, and we have different backgrounds and experiences, which means we are very good at solving problems and working things out as a group. Everyone comes at things from a unique angle, and we’ll work with something long enough to shape and structure until a lending solution is created.

We’re also easy to deal with and do business with, and I’m really proud of that.