How did you launch HYPOFACT? And how did you come up with the idea of launching it?
Gerd Ziegler,Rico Schäfer, and I founded HYPOFACT AG in Berlin in 2007. We had met as executives and experienced bank managers at the then start-up HYPOPORT/Europace. Our goal was – and still is – to provide those seeking financing with a qualified and independent regional network of financing experts to whom we offer optimal conditions with all relevant credit institutions through our buying syndicate.
There are two aspects: the specialists/experts employed by Hypofact and the relationships with the financial organisations. Does your strength lie in both? How did you build on this? How difficult was it? And what was the most difficult part?
Absolutely right. The human factor is often completely underestimated in the financial industry today. Everything should function as digitally and automatically as possible. Of course, from our perspective, this is also a development that we generally consider to be correct and in which we actively participate through the many digital trading platforms to which we are connected.
But we are convinced that this is only one side of the coin. Our clients and regional financing experts are people. We also seek and need social relationships and contacts. Trust, fairness, and openness play a central role, especially when it comes to one’s own financial future and long-term decisions. It is therefore important that our regional partners are accomplished professionals – and not just digital avatars.
This is reflected in the life stories of our partners. Many of our colleagues have not only worked as bankers in but also made their way into the financing industry via careers in completely different areas. There are former teachers, technicians, and insurance brokers. And because most of our colleagues are older than 35, they have gone through all the ups and downs that life has to offer:
• love and a good family life
• separation and new beginnings
• and successes and setbacks at work and in all areas of life.
But especially when things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, a network like HYPOFACT also proves its worth. This is certainly one of the reasons why we have almost exclusively long-standing relationships with our regional brand partners. The HYPOFACT brand also stands for precisely these various forms and good cohesion. We combine technical advances with a human approach and proximity to our partners and their clients.
This is indeed not an easy combination. As an owner-managed company, we have never promised our employees, regional partners, banks, and cooperation partners anything that we are not able to deliver. We don’t think much of secrecy either. In the long run, we have simply done well with our open and transparent attitude. This applies especially when things are not going so well and we don’t have good news for our partners and clients. We have rightly earned a lasting mutual trust. At the end of the day, the “human factor” plays a central role here.
What challenges do small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany face when trying to obtain financing?
In our view, several factors have played an aggravating role for SMEs when it comes to obtaining credit. First, a hard process of concentration and rationalisation has been taking place at the banks. The traditional house banks of SMEs – the cooperative banks and savings banks – are particularly affected by this. As a result, contact persons are lost, credit approval is made according to new rules and in an increasingly automated way, and changes in business policy often exclude entire sectors. The credit approval process itself also become more complicated and lengthy. Many clients complain that “their bank” does not have any influence in this process at all. Another problem is that the banks hardly give their clients any leeway with regard to existing collateral. We try to regain this leeway together with our clients and usually approach the financing solution on a project-by-project basis. We act independently of providers and consider practically all conceivable financing solutions – including leasing, hire purchase, and alternative platform financing.
What goals does HYPOFACT hope to achieve in the near future?
On one hand, we want to further expand our regional partner networks for private and commercial financing. We want our clients to have qualified and personal HYPOFACT contact persons wherever possible throughout Germany. Above all, a key element of our growth strategy is to make the financial brokerage services of HYPOFACT accessible to new clients together with cooperation partners such as Puls. Here we see a great opportunity for sustainable development as a specialised intermediary.
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