A year in: What it takes to be an Associate Director on the Debt Finance team at OakNorth Bank

By: Greg Manson and Max Saidman, Associate Directors of Debt Finance at OakNorth Bank

In 2019, Greg Manson and Max Saidman joined OakNorth Bank’s Debt Finance team as Associate Directors, leaving established institutions to take the leap with a new lender. Now they have both earned promotions to Directors of Debt Finance, but after a year in the job back in 2020, they sat down and explained why they made the move and what the role takes in their own words.

My perspective: Greg Manson

Prior to joining the team at OakNorth Bank, I spent over three years working on the Commercial Real Estate (CRE) team at Coutts where I provided funding solutions to property investors and developers in London and across the UK. Before Coutts, I worked at RBS Corporate Banking for several years, where I supported a variety of SME clients before becoming a specialist in the charity, education and not for profit sector.

Although I wasn’t looking to move jobs, when I came across OakNorth I realised there was a role out there to work for a fast-paced organisation with a flat decision-making structure. Having spent almost a decade at some of the largest and most well-known financial institutions, I relished the opportunity to have more autonomy to deliver as well as greater exposure to complex deals. When I got through the interview stages and received the offer, I knew that the risk of leaving the comfort of a ‘big bank’ for the unknown, was definitely one I was prepared to take.

OakNorth Bank appealed as I’d heard about its unique approach, inviting borrowers into credit committee to discuss their financing needs directly with decision-makers, and using technology to simplify processes at the back-end, so that the team can spend more time with clients at the front-end. This contrasted greatly with what I’d seen and experienced elsewhere.

Upon speaking with the debt finance team at OakNorth Bank, I knew this was the place that would accelerate my career. Within a matter of months, I learnt how to put a square peg into a circular hole – i.e. how to take a bespoke approach and structure loans in a way that works for both us and the borrower. In the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to lead on deals and get to know my clients in a way that was never possible in my previous roles. As a result, transacting deals is not only more enjoyable, but also much faster – which is something my clients appreciate, but also that I appreciate as it means I can do more deals per year than I could before.

My perspective: Max Saidman

Prior to joining OakNorth, I spent eight years working at a big corporate bank, Lloyds. After which time, I had learnt a vast amount in terms of how to structure Commercial Real Estate transactions, but felt I was ready for a move on and embark on a new challenge.

I’d heard about OakNorth from a former colleague, and as an ambitious and driven individual, felt it was somewhere that could enhance my career and take it to the next level. At OakNorth, I’ve been given a level of responsibility that in traditional institutions, with their hierarchies and processes, typically wouldn’t be possible which is extremely rewarding.

What’s so refreshing about OakNorth Bank is how closely the team work together and the feeling of a common goal – of course, we’ve all been working remotely for the last several months, but when we were in the office, it was all open plan and the key decision-makers and teams are metres away. This is an environment I’ve found I really thrive in as there’s so much learning to be done from interacting with colleagues closely and bouncing ideas around deal structures and thinking through challenges. Doing deals becomes significantly more effective and in turn, encouraging you to work more efficiently and ultimately being immersed in more interesting and complex transactions. At traditional institutions, you’re often separated by offices, floors or even buildings, so getting time and sign off from senior decision-makers can be a challenge where you’d tend to be bogged down with email traffic.

The things I’ve learnt in the past year, have been formidable to my career development. If you’ve got fire in your belly and want to get into the nitty-gritty of deals, OakNorth Bank is the place for you. You’re given a chance to really push yourself and work with some incredible businesses in a collaborative way that would be hard to replicate elsewhere.

Joining the team

If you like what you’ve heard and are interested in learning about opportunities within our debt finance team, please get in touch with Talent ([email protected]) or check out our openings here.

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