Paul Jackson, CEO of TUHF, shares his views on what it means to be TUHF
“We built a business on a number of founding principles,” says Jackson, when asked what TUHF stands for. “Those principles are:
- We are going to be entrepreneurs. This means that, if a good deal walks through our doors, we can’t resist doing it. We’re very deal oriented, and we want to take smart risks, because we see potential and opportunities where others don’t.
- We are going to give our clients and potential clients a quick response. We are street-smart enough, and know our areas of finance well enough, to be able look at a building and state ‘yes we can’ or ‘no we can’t’ quickly. We know the inner- and in-city property market better than anyone else and this gives us the confidence to make those calls.
- We fund transactions, not wishes. We like to work with clients who are committed to their property journey, have done their homework and are serious about taking on projects. We also like our loan officers to be entrepreneurial – meaning they are thorough in evaluating risk and potential – and we underwrite projects that we are confident will show good returns for our clients and for us.
- Nimbleness is key. We respond to markets and opportunities quickly and with agility. We realise that getting bigger has slowed us a bit, but the principle still stands as we balance legal and compliance requirements, and risk management with the need to be nimble.”
A critical difference between TUHF and other mortgage financiers, is that TUHF is less traditional in the ways in which it determines investment potential. “We’re agnostic about the ‘usual things’ that people use to judge a person’s potential,” Jackson explains. “Some of our most successful and longest standing clients have limited formal education, for example, and certainly didn’t have much by way of financial means when they first approached us. TUHF is able to see potential where others don’t, looking more at the entrepreneur’s character and commitment, their street smarts and understanding of their investment neighbourhood than we do at their qualifications on paper or their bank balance.”
TUHF believes that the power of local knowledge is a strong indicator of potential. “When we engage with potential clients, we have to comply with regulations for lending,” Jackson explains. “But we also ask ourselves: Does this entrepreneur know the service providers in the area that can help make their project a reality? Do they know the area itself and understand the needs of the community living there? Do they demonstrate a commitment to hard work and show common sense? Do they have an entrepreneurial spirit and awareness of risk and how to mitigate it?”
Besides this unique view of client and project potential, TUHF’s commitment to its market niche is distinctive. “Banks come and go in this market,” Jackson says, reflecting on the almost 20-years that TUHF has been in operation. “We used to compete heavily with traditional banks in our areas of expertise, but they are not entrenched. TUHF is committed and has remained active in our sector for almost 20 years. We don’t disinvest or seek opportunity elsewhere when there’s a crisis in the inner- or in-city property market. Instead, we work with our clients to get through the difficult times – from xenophobia flaring up to the COVID-19 pandemic to challenges with local municipal service delivery. We’re consistently ready to work with and support clients, and to invest.”
This commitment stems from TUHF’s unwavering belief in making massive impact through scale. “If you’re serious about inclusiveness, you understand that it’s about microeconomic effects,” Jackson says. “This means making a difference one neighbourhood, one city block, one community at a time. We do this not only by investing in projects that create affordable rental housing where it’s most needed, but by using local service providers in that neighbourhood, creating work and growing micro markets for goods and services.”
TUHF’s people really want to make a difference. “We’re not hard-nosed about the commercial benefits to ourselves personally,” Jackson explains. “We have to tick certain boxes, such as zoning and FICA requirements, just like any other investment financiers do. What we try to do is differentiate ourselves on our ability to assist and flex with our clients to get those boxes ticked. Because if the deal is worth the effort, we will help to get everything done.”
Because TUHF is about impactful investment, its people are as invested in getting a deal done as its clients are. “We will spend time on potential clients that are committed,” Jackson says, “because it’s as personal for us as it is for them. The converse is that we’re probably less likely to invest time and effort in those who are uncertain or not serious. It takes away from the time we could be spending with an entrepreneur that is truly passionate and committed.”
“Entrepreneurs are cautious and thoughtful, not rash and reckless,” Jackson says, “but we do want to do the deal.”
“We’re an invested stakeholder. We worry about what’s going on downtown – we’ve invested R2.5 billion in Johannesburg city centre alone. Because we have ‘skin in the game’ we are very committed to addressing concerns in the areas in which we operate. We firmly believe that we have to offer financial services to the individuals and communities that others may overlook, as the backer of choice for Mzansi property entrepreneurs.” concludes Jackson.