Getting into the property market these days is difficult, what with soaring interest rates short term fixed interest rates. Having worked as an estate agent for a number of years, Christian Perron of Robin Hood saw how people were struggling, so he decided to start his own platform offering simple, transparent and flexible mortgages online. 

Can you tell us a bit about Robin Hood, what does it do?

We are a P2P mortgages lending platform in the UK called Robin Hood. We are considering a name change though as some people think it has negative connotations – especially to collect money! We are in the process of applying for FCA authorisation and looking for seed money. We are busy creating a team of serious, long-term focused people.

Where are you based?

We are based in London. I am originally from France but relocated to the UK because the market is much bigger and the Tech City UK has a strong mindset on startups and London is the FINTECH capital of the world. It is also a door to the world because everyone on the planet speaks English!

And who would you say your target audience is?

Home-buyers and investors. For us there are two big headaches in the UK when it comes to savings and mortgages.

The interest rate of a savings account is only 0.75% gross and the fixed-rate of pension plans barely offers 3% guaranteed. The second pain is that home-buyers can’t get more than a 10 year fixed rate and with the high prices of properties people are forced into flatsharing or staircasing. Those who can buy borrow on average at a 5 year fixed-rate (when not variable) and are forced to remortgage over time, of course paying fees each time to get a better “deal” with no “hidden fees”.

At the moment rates are very low but they have already begun to increase. If a home-buyer wishes to refinance his mortgage, it will cost him several percent of the capital and he will get a higher rate, which will be worse than choosing today a fixed-rate for 25 years (like they have access to in the USA or France). Smart home-buyers should never be forced to buy with a variable rate and then have to refinance. We sadly saw the results of the sub-primes crisis in the USA.

So for us at Robin Hood Mortgages, we have created a platform to encourage investors to put their money into long-term debt, in order to get guaranteed high returns funding for home-buyers’ mortgages in the UK. Those buyers will get access to an easy and simplified way to get a transparent and flexible mortgage online with fixed monthly payments, without an early repayment fee.

Why do you think Robin Hood is unique?

We have no competition at the moment. Lend Invest offers short-term mortgages on 3 years maximum and Land Bay offers mortgages for buy-to-lets. No one focuses on first time buyers and home buyers in general because regulations and cost make it hard to create a P2P mainstream mortgage platform. Our ambition is big. We plan to build the next Unicorn in London!

How long have you been working on this project?

Since July 2015. I only relocated to London in June, however I have been an estate agent for 10 years and I did mortgages since 2000. So we can say that the idea has been incubating since 2000 to improve the mainstream mortgage industry. In fact we want to disrupt it with P2P lending.

What makes you believe this project so much

I am an estate agent and helping people is my daily job. Within our estate operations we deal with mortgages everyday. We cannot change the market and the price of properties, however we can negotiate better mortgage deals, which is our goal to help people buy their homes.

Earlier in our conversation you mentioned that you also run other companies based in France remotely which helped funding Robin Hood to date. Could you tell us a bit on that? It sounds quite successful and interesting

In 2005 when I was still assistant Branch Manager in Paris, my clients taught me how real estate agency worked and I discovered that most of them were not well paid at all. The split with their agency was really against them. Most of them received 12.5% to 25% maximum of the sales commission. It gave me the idea of starting my own estate agency offering salesmen – estate agents – higher commission rates and get the freedom to sell the way they wish. And it worked.

So I created one of the first home-based estate agents network in France. I managed everything with emails, phone calls and traditional mail for original legal documents from home. I realized that having a high street branch is not that important nowadays, especially we can use platforms such as Rightmove and Zoopla which generate 95% of our revenue.

Our operations are 100% secured because to sign our sales we have to go to a conveyancer. In 10 years we have not encountered a single problem. We have been delivering a much better client experience than traditional high street agents who handle a lot of cancelations.

We also have a British team in France dedicated to the English speaking clientele (www.allez-francais.com). Soon we are launching a new network of home-based estate agents in the UK too.

The company is registered since July 2015. If you would like to know more about my experience you can order my book on Hometimze. It will also be soon available on amazon.co.uk and on kindle.

What about your personal background? How did you come from working for someone else to becoming one of those “serial entrepreneurs”?

I was a banker for 8 years, however I am now entering my 11th year as an estate agent. I’ve built a network of home-based estate agents in France and I’ve written a book for agents in French and English, soon available on Hometimze and on Amazon. I’ve created everything myself based on my experience and what my customers asked of me. My job is just to answer the demand. Business is that simple.

Were there any entrepreneurs in your family?

My family all come from the army. I lived my childhood in barracks and then at 18 years old my father retired and I was unleashed into the civil “real world”. I watched a lot of TV when I was young. My heroes were Zorro and Robin Hood… I am still a huge fan of TV shows and movies…

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Some people in my family worked in banks and I started at Credit Agricole at the desk with 300 operations a day… Quite challenging but you learn fast!

Can you think of any particular event in your past that set you on this path?

I started my career as a bank employee and reached the level of assistant branch manager at Barclays in Paris. Not bad for a little guy from the countryside! Becoming an estate agent was the logical evolution for me as I did a lot of mortgages and dealt with estate agents. My estate agency was constituted with a salesforce of 100% of independent estate agents. I then started a business to improve the work conditions of the people in high street agencies which are not salaried. They are independents and not well paid at all. So I started splitting the fees they generated: 80% for them, 20% for the agency. Quite the contrary of the market. It was a huge success. 90% of residential sales agents in estate agents (globally) get around 20% of the fees they make. No need to tell you I am launching here in the UK too the same concept and it will soon be a huge success.

startup_christian_mortgage book

Tell us about the most exciting moment to date in running your business

Sending people money. It is hugely powerful to give a job to someone. It is also extremely rewarding.

And the toughest moment?

Loneliness. Humans are not made to be alone but in business it is a jungle and it’s something you have to deal with. 

Have you made any bad decision as an entrepreneur? Can you tell us about the one mistake you made that was the most memorable and the lesson you learnt from it?

I met some bad people in the past. But this is business. We make mistakes all the time. The secret is to be able to correct them. Let’s take the stock market and trading for example. There is no value creation. It is a cruel casino. If you win, it’s on someone else’s back. I like win-win deals. It is my business philosophy. In the long term sharks are always finished with a bullet. Look at Enron or Maddof.

What’s your biggest motivation behind your venture?

Giving people jobs. It is my strongest motivation. Maybe it is ego-oriented! Anyway it is good. So I like to create jobs or improve people’s lives. I also believe as an entrepreneur we are all here to solve problems and offer a better way to do things.

And finally what one piece of advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

Start. As soon as possible. Read. Work weekends, evenings and holidays to launch your venture while still in your job. Start and fail fast. The definition of marketing is “to meet the evolving needs and wants of customers over time, better than your competitor, while making a profit”. Set high goals and divide into steps to be able to reach them. Enjoy. Life is the journey, not an end in itself.

 

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