A Chat With Hubert Fenwick, Co-Founder at Selina Advance: The Fintech Offering the U.K.’s First HELOC

Selina Advance is an up-and-coming fintech, on a mission to empower U.K. homeowners with a new form of lending. They’re currently launching the U.K.’s first HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) direct to consumers – a market with an estimated worth in the U.K. of £25 billion. 

HELOCs are widely used in the likes of Australia and the U.S., enabling those who have equity in their homes to finance big purchases with the affordability of a mortgage and the flexibility of a credit card. 

 

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After a successful Series A fundraise last year, which raised £42 million, Selina Advance has grown from strength to strength, boasting a number of leading fintech investors (including Global Founders Capital and Picus Capital) and has now lent to over 100 customers, reaching over 100 million run rate across the business.

We spoke with Selina Advance co-founder Hubert Fenwick to find out more about this exciting new fintech, including their inspiration behind starting up the company, the benefits to their offering and more…

 

What Inspired You to Start the Company?

 

I lived in the U.S. for quite a few years, where the HELOC (Home Equity Line Credit) was already an established product. Over in the U.S. it’s very normal for people to use HELOCs as a liquidity tool to fund lifestyle purchases, as it gives them flexibility in using the equity they’d built up in their homes.

When I moved back to the U.K. after being in the U.S., I realised such a product doesn’t exist in Europe. Many of my peers and colleagues were in situations where they’d owned a house for a number of years and had built up loads of home equity but were struggling to do a basic renovation or buy a car – all because they didn’t have the cash in their bank account. 

It seemed obvious that there was a huge gap in the market. What is so standard in the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand just wasn’t in the U.K. We really wanted to fill that gap in the market with Selina Advance, bringing a great product to those who can use it as a digital-first lender. 

We’re a modern fintech, a consumer-focused fintech, so we also don’t want our offering to be like a traditional mortgage journey, but instead convenient and seamless – ultimately what you’d expect from a new entrant. 

 

What Are the Main Benefits That Selina Advance Offers?

 

Selina Advance is like a hybrid between a credit card and a mortgage. With a credit card you have great flexibility and a really good way to manage your monthly spend, your bigger purchases and so forth. With a mortgage you have a great tool for buying houses and getting on the property ladder, with a cheap interest rate and overall product – however, mortgages are inflexible. 

We’ve taken that affordability from the mortgage as well as the flexibility from a credit card and merged it into one. A real benefit of Selina Advance is that people can make big, lifetime decisions (e.g., a home office, an extension), and have the flexibility to make that decision quickly. 

In hindsight, I think it seems like an obvious thing, but it’s actually quite difficult to do in today’s market. We’ve had really positive feedback from both customers and intermediaries, people who really understand the value of this product and see how it can make their life easier and more flexible.

 

 

How Have You Found the Process of Starting Up? And What Are Some of the Main Challenges You’ve Faced Along the Way?

 

The first step was to become regulated. We’re regulated by the FCA, and when bringing a new product to the market there were lots of stakeholders, regulators, intermediaries and brokers we had to educate on our offering. That was a challenge, but one that we overcame by showing how much our product helps customers, and how it’s actually a lot better than existing options in the market for those who want that flexibility and power at their fingertips. 

It’s a long journey that’s not over yet, we still have a lot of work to do in educating the U.K. consumer and educating the market. However, we’ve got a fantastic marketing team and a fantastic product, so it’s a long-term challenge that we will overcome. 

 

What Can We Hope to See From Selina Advance in the Future?

 

We’re planning to add a card to our product so people can draw down funds from their HELOC to pay for big projects, but equally we want to put a card in people’s pockets so they can have the power to walk into a car showroom, buy a car and not have to think about the financing – because it’s already set up. 

We just want it to be seamless, we want it to be very user friendly and very accessible, and adding a card is one of the ways we’re going to make it more accessible.

In general, we’ve seen incredibly positive traction so far, and we want to grow that into the future, and really let everyone know that there’s a great product they can use and it’s now available to them. 

Really long term we see the HELOC to be as commonplace as the mortgage – people having mortgages to buy houses while using HELOCs to have liquidity, and ultimately be able to have power over their finances. In the U.S. that’s the case, in Canada that’s the case, and we think in time it’ll be the case in the U.K.