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Why I joined Nucleus - Interview with Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan came on board at Nucleus in June and has already made an impact. Working as Client Director – Corporate and as part of the underwriting team he also specialises in attracting, shaping and assessing risk in our new product: Education Finance. Kevin brings with him a wealth of experience in leading teams in ABL, receivables finance and commercial banking. We interviewed him to hear his story and find out what attracted him to working with us.
Laura Green (LG): Tell me about your background before Nucleus?
Kevin Sullivan (KS): I have spent the last 16 years working with Lloyds Bank Commercial Finance and Lloyds Bank Group – In that time I was an area director for London and later London and the South East. I led a client management team of 9 looking after about 400 clients who borrowed between £250,000 and £5m. 

I was entrusted with a fair amount of devolved responsibility for underwriting and that meant that we had a fairly quick response time. I worked closely with my regional sales team on new business and combined this with overseeing both the relationships with and the risk within the clients porftolio as well as coaching and mentoring a client management team.

LG: Is it common for someone to work on the client side and do risk?
KS: To degree - Because of my experience in managing risk and with the lending authority I had I tended to underwrite at up £1.5M. I always coached my team when we encountered risk so we kept developed team skills.
I oversaw credit meetings with the credit team and I regurlaly reviewed the whole portfolio with them. Combining risk experience with my being visible in the external market proved valuable in attracting new lending opportunities alongside the regional sales team.

LG: How did you come to be working in receivables finance?
KS- After a career in the Property Finance world stalled due to a recession I needed a change of direction - Somebody said to me ‘try receivables finance – it’s the future’ and from that, I got my first job at Lombard Natwest Commercial Finance as a Client Manager. I gradually took on larger and larger clients there and before I left I was managing facilities up to £60M funds out.
I left there because I wanted to manage and lead people and got a job as a Corporate Team Manager at Royal Bank of Scotland Invoice Finance – of course, they merged with Natwest a few years later and I found myself heading back to old ground – it was not for long though – I was introduced to someone at Lloyds Bank Commercial Finance shortly after and joined them in 2001.

LG: Were you aware of Nucleus before joining?
KS: I have known Dennis Pym for nearly 30 years believe it or not - we first met when we worked together in about 1992.  Dennis always updated me on Nucleus when we met at networking events and then last year he invited me to meet Chirag at one event. I was already aware of Nucleus through talking to my sales team and asking them about who they saw as active.  I combined this with discussions with the external market to gain an insight into the people and the products.

“I was already aware of Nucleus through talking to my sales guys and asking them about who they saw offering and who they come up against. When I saw that Nucleus were appearing more and more I asked around to form my own opinion on the business.”

LG: What made you want to join the Nucleus team?
KS: I was attracted by the prospect of working again in a true end to end business. Until relatively recently Lloyds Bank Commercial Finance had been an autonomous entity within the group. As the business moved closer to Lloyds Bank its identity changed and I felt that my skills and experience might be better utilised somewhere else.
I liked that there was a short chain of command, reporting directly to the CEO.  I hold a senior role where I know I have the ability to influence the growth path of an exciting business.
I also knew I could add value by utilising my skills in client management, new business, underwriting and risk management on a portfolio basis and combine these with my passion for coaching and developing people. I believe I can make a positive contribution to the future success of Nucleus on its growth path.

So, I am pretty clear about why I joined – it was absolutely about making the best use of my skills and ambitions for the business I work for but at the same time having opportunities to learn new approaches to the lending market. Combining this with the potential to build a winning team means exciting times ahead!

LG: What do you like about working at Nucleus?
KS: There is an excitement in working for a smaller business, the unknown. Looking at where we are and where we were and the rate of growth so far – that is exciting. In the asset based lending space, it is pleasing to hear from our market how we are having an impact already. New product development is also exciting as with Education Finance – that is a really innovative product.
The ABL part of receivables – Invoice Finance, property, stock, plant and machinery – Nucleus had done some of that before but they did not have a specialist team. I wanted to build that from the ground up – enhancing what we already had – and using my hopefully credible reputation in the external market and my experience to make a real difference. 
I have enjoyed going out to tell people why I have joined Nucleus as I believe we can really take this to the next level with myself joining at the same time as Ian Bath comes on board to join our sales team. 

“We have a mission and we have objectives but there is also a dynamism to the business – an energy that is brilliant. The buzz is infectious and I am delighted to be on board.”

I do love the environment too. We have a mission and we have objectives but there is also a dynamism to the business – an energy that is brilliant. The buzz is infectious and I am delighted to be on board. The power of being the size we are is in this agility and problem-solving ability and I will be playing an active role in sustaining that as we grow in size.

LG: What is your vision for the next six to twelve months?
KS: Start building a team to maximise the opportunities that we are already getting and that I feel certain will continue. Also, to get out into the market more and continue making an impact and getting more ABL opportunities using the credibility and recognition of the team. So, now we have a proven model, we scale it.
Also, to grow the Education Finance product, working with Phillip Speed – it is really exciting as we can make a huge difference with supporting colleges and FE providers, as well as helping SMEs and the skills gap affecting the future of the UK workforce.
I am delighted to be part of the senior team, working closely alongside not only Chirag Shah but also David Barley, Ian Bath and Darren Ross.

LG: Before we wrap up can you just summarise what the main positive differences are in the role?
KS: I see the benefits of my new role at Nucleus as being:
  • Faster decisions
  • Greater appetite and desire to do business
  • Far wider credit policy and willingness to shape deals in a bespoke way
  • Greater speed of response and agility
  • Wider product offering 
  • Opportunity to work on a dynamic and innovative brand-new product: Education Finance
  • Shorter chain of command, reporting directly to the CEO, Chirag Shah

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