Former RBS director to drive expansion of Edinburgh finance group Urbicus

Alison Fyfe
Alison Fyfe

Edinburgh-based real estate finance group Urbicus has appointed a former senior Royal Bank of Scotland director to help drive forward the expansion of its lending arm Castle Capital.

With 30 years of experience from the property and banking sectors, Alison Fyfe will aim to identify opportunities for financing real estate projects throughout the UK.

Working closely with Castle Capital’s director of lending Alan Meikle she will also look to expand business in third party loan acquisitions.

Ms Fyfe spent nearly 20 years with RBS, commanding a number of senior positions and latterly heading the Scottish arm of the bank’s real estate debt restructuring team.

She left the Edinburgh lender last month and will take up her new role in June.

Recognised within the property sector as a leading expert in her field, Ms Fyfe said: “I am very much looking forward to this exciting new challenge and helping Urbicus and Castle Capital to build on their success in an increasingly dynamic market.

“There are huge opportunities for Castle Capital to play a key role in financing real estate projects, not only in Scotland but throughout the UK. There also remains a great deal of scope for acquiring loans from mainstream banks as they continue to deleverage historic positions, and in the emerging secondary loan market which is being created by the workout of previous large portfolio sales.”

Established in 2011 by former Noble Group chairman Ben Thomson, property entrepreneur and hotelier Mark Shaw of Hazledene Group, and former Anglo Irish and RBS executive Marcus Rennie, Urbicus was one of the first companies to recognise the opportunities that would be available as mainstream lenders were forced to exit real estate finance.

Its first acquisition was the entire £300 million Scottish and North of England loan book of Anglo Irish Bank.

It has since acquired a number of loans across the UK and Europe, including a £250 million loan to the Glanmore Property Fund, previously financed by RBS.

Castle Capital, meanwhile, began to offer direct loans in 2013 and now offers flexible lending structures and generally targets opportunities from £10 million to £200 million.

Castle claims that its understanding of the property market means it is able to provide finance to specific viable projects which are still hampered by a blanket aversion by more traditional lenders to development lending in particular.

Among Castle Capital’s most recent development financings have been the new Travelodge in Glasgow’s Queen Street, and Horizons House, a prestigious harbour-side office development in Aberdeen. Another new hotel in Glasgow fully-financed by Castle will go on site shortly.

Ms Fyfe, who has a degree in geography from Edinburgh University and a diploma in land economy from Aberdeen University, said that while the banks continued to reduce their legacy property loan portfolios and remained cautious or very particular about new lending, there was plenty of opportunity “for people who know and understand the property market” to assist and prosper.

She said: “I am very excited about helping Urbicus to develop and expand. My new role with Castle Capital in particular, gives me the opportunity to use my experience and property contacts across the UK to best advantage and lets me get back to doing deals, in a dynamic environment.”

Castle Capital and Urbicus Chief Executive Mark Shaw added: “We are delighted to welcome Alison on board. Her knowledge and experience are a perfect fit for us as we expand our operations throughout the UK. There remain huge opportunities, particularly outside of London, and the qualities Alison brings will be an invaluable asset as we progress and grow.”

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