Interview with Perenna: Helping to redefine the future of mortgage lending
Lindsey Domingo: Could you provide me with a bit of background about Perenna and the team before you started this journey with Xcina Consulting in February 2021?
Colin Bell: Whilst the idea was being formed earlier, the three founders started working on the current banking application process in 2017 with the aim of creating the UK’s first pure covered bond bank. The reason we wanted to do this was to create this new funding mechanism which would allow us to provide long term fixed rate and other types of mortgages using what is a very liquid (and ideal) way to fund mortgages. This is already the product and structure of choice in a number of other countries but not in the UK. We started by presenting the business plan to the regulators, obtaining funding and started building the team which now stands at around 40 people. We are well progressed in the application process and look to launch in 2022. Covered bond funding can also be used for any type of mortgage long or short but we see the UK as lacking in flexible long term fixed rate mortgages.
Lindsey Domingo: What convinced you to invest in your existing capabilities [process, infrastructure, technology] and seek external advice?
Colin Bell: When setting up a new organisation like this, you have people resource constraints and also tight timescales. We took the option of using external consultants because it gives us the extra manpower needed for specific tasks and also brings in great skillsets and wider market knowledge. Since the first engagement the knowledge, experience, and delivery that Xcina brought was particularly good and therefore the management team decided to expand the mandate into other areas and the relationship has been very fruitful and productive. We achieved a lot in a short space of time with Xcina which we would not have been able to do with the existing team alone, appointing Xcina also allowed the existing team to focus on building the bank and obtaining the necessary banking licence which can be a difficult process especially for a new organisation.
Lindsey Domingo: From a practical perspective, what where your top three objectives?
Colin Bell: We had a requirement to get things done quickly and efficiently and needed the expertise and wider market knowledge which did not necessarily exist internally, at least in the early days.
- Gaining the banking licence
- Ensuring Perenna is resilient and sustainable when we are live. This is extremely important for us as a business, for the regulator, and fundamentally also for the customers we will be looking after, to ensure we have a long-term future as a bank.
- Delivering great products, a great service proposition which ultimately will lead to great customer satisfaction is at the heart of what we aim to do. We are trying to make mortgages more accessible and safer for consumers and deliver great customer experiences, removing the challenges people currently face.
Lindsey Domingo: What convinced you to work with Xcina Consulting on this project?
Colin Bell: We were looking for core skillsets around specific pieces of work and having undertaken previous work with Lindsey and the team, we found there were some other projects we wanted Xcina to support us on. For some of those, it was as if Xcina were almost part of our organisation. They were very close to the people especially around building our Operational resilience framework. They worked as an extension of our current team and company, rather than an arm’s length external organisation. It’s been fun at times too which has been great for our culture.
Lindsey Domingo: How did you find the journey Xcina Consulting took you on?
Colin Bell: In terms of the journey, when we’ve approached Xcina with a piece of work, they very quickly provided very good scoping documents giving good visibility of costs, timescales and deliverables, and they delivered to that. The journey with them has been great it’s always delivered to time and always within expectations and exceeded in terms of quality of output, which is why we have continued with further pieces of work with the team. It has been very positive and we’re still on the journey.
Lindsey Domingo: What outcomes do you think have been the most valuable?
Colin Bell: The work we undertook with Xcina around IT controls, setting policies and standards was a big piece of work that involved people within Perenna and people in Xcina. The outcome there has put us in a really strong place. Xcina supported us on a very significant piece of work for our banking application – the IT Controls Form. This is where we really achieved a big deliverable in a very efficient manner and very short space of time. The collaboration between both sides got us to a good place, and we submitted all these documents to the regulators to plan. This has been really valuable to us. We don’t have the volume of people to do a lot of initial document drafting, yes, we have technical expertise and can review and know what they should look like. However in terms of drafting and bringing in wider knowledge, and that’s where Xcina really excelled.
The other area was Operational resilience, all regulated entities are going through this transition with quite tight timescales, we are very lucky that we’re not transitioning but starting with the new standards. But again, there is a lot of effort involved in getting the right framework together, and other organisations have had longer to do this but we’re still working to the same timeline which is March 2022, a short timescale in reality. Utilising Xcina has helped in running the workshops internally within Perenna, producing output, putting things together, a really good piece of work. We have now recruited an operational resilience specialist who has taken over that whole framework and is taking it to the next stage.
Lindsey Domingo: Since implementation completed, where is Perenna now in terms of your capabilities and market position now as a result?
Colin Bell: We are in a strong position for our banking application as result of all the things Xcina has helped us through and what we have been doing internally, but we are still at the pre-licence stage and therefore it’s difficult to answer that question. In terms of our governance, structures, policies, and procedures, we’re in a good place in terms of embedding those and that’s certainly where Xcina has helped us.
Lindsey Domingo: Would you recommend Xcina Consulting to other firms and individuals, if so, why (or why not)?
Colin Bell: I have recommended Xcina, so that’s the best endorsement you can get. I have recommended them to other firms in the banking application process and happy to continue to do so. Reason being is simple, they scope work well and deliver very well on time, on budget and to a high degree of quality. As I have said before, I view it as a partnership. That’s a sign of a good consultancy business where you can feel they’re almost part of the business rather than being an external consultant. That’s how I have found everyone I have worked with at Xcina. I am recommending them, have recommended and will continue to do so.
Lindsey Domingo: Are there any other observations that are worth noting?
Colin Bell: Couple of things I have really enjoyed… around Operational Resilience and Outsourcing Lindsey and I have had some interesting debates outside of the work, really because the regulations and changes are quite new. As with new things some parts work well, and some others don’t work as well. We have had some really good chats and challenges about how we interpret certain things and what we should do in certain situations. These conversations have been outside of the project work, and I have never seen it as being a consultancy thing. Lindsey has always been open and willing to discuss these things and its been really good. Lindsey is very approachable as are the rest of the team at Xcina. We have had some great debates about some of these new policies coming out, which is what happens when new things are put into place: not everything is necessarily right, not everything is as clear as you want it to be in terms of interpretation and some of it is quite subjective – so that has been really good.
Keep the questions coming (Lindsey replies).
It’s useful, we’re both gaining knowledge from these debates. It’s about being approachable, whenever we have questions that need answers Lindsey and the team are always available. Sometimes these things can be awkward when you deal with consultants, but it hasn’t been that way with Xcina and as already mentioned it seems like an extension of our business rather than a third party.
“When you are trying to obtain a banking licence there is a great deal to do with limited resources, tactically we therefore brought in talented and experienced practitioners to maximise our efficiencies and harness expertise. Xcina have assisted us in a number of areas including IT controls and operational resilience, which is core to building a sustainable bank and one which delivers for its customers throughout times. Lindsey and the team at Xcina have proven expertise and continue to be invaluable to Perenna and we see them as part of our team”.
Colin Bell, COO & Co-Founder at Perenna