Rajesh Gupta, chief financial officer at OakNorth, on how he got started in property, his proudest career achievement and his advice for young people. He also shares some of his cultural recommendations.
What do you value in people?
Integrity, passion for excellence, enthusiasm and a willingness to work collaboratively with others to achieve the best results for customers and other stakeholders. One of our core values at OakNorth Bank is centred around ‘customer delight’, so one of the things that I value the most is that constant desire to go the extra mile, which goes beyond what the customer is expecting.
What does your job entail?
As CFO, I am ultimately responsible for the financial stewardship of OakNorth. This means ensuring we have robust liquidity and capital resources and a strong control environment across the entire company’s finance function. I work closely with my colleagues on our executive committee to deliver our growth and strategy agendas, while also spending a good portion of my day ensuring we have the required skills and resources across the team to help keep them engaged and energised. I also sit on the board of the bank.
How did you join the property industry?
Prior to joining OakNorth Bank, which has lent to hundreds of property developers and investors across the UK, I spent over five years at Kensington Mortgages as its CFO, overseeing the finance function during a period of significant transformation and growth. Previously, I also spent 21 years with General Electric, where I held various positions including, CFO of GE Capital Bank UK.
What do you like most about the property industry?
Given existing supply gaps, the property industry plays a significant role in addressing a key aspiration of many individuals, which is to own their own home. The industry and the players in this space are significant contributors, who are helping to drive the economy forward and create more jobs in the UK.
And what do you dislike most about it?
In the 80s, SME housebuilders accounted for 80% of all new homes being built in the UK, with the remaining 20% being covered by the largest housebuilders. Today, it’s the reverse, with SME housebuilders representing just a fifth of all new homes being built. This decrease was exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008, when many banks pulled back from lending to SME housebuilders, and we’re unfortunately seeing a similar trend now due to Covid-19. So, I dislike how SME housebuilders are being squeezed out of the market because many lenders are reluctant to lend to them.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I have been very lucky to have the opportunity during my career to work in many different countries and for many different businesses, where I’ve made contributions to leave them in a better shape than when I first joined.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Develop a realistic and clear strategy. Critically ensure you’re working with a great team (including an architect, accountant, builder, and conveyancer). Surround yourself with people who are better than you and have had different experiences from you. Watch your costs – stay within budget.