In the newly published Legal 500 directory, Bevan Brittan’s Social Housing practice performed particularly well. We caught up with Head of Banking and Finance Louise Leaver, who is recognised within the 'Hall of Fame' and as a ‘Leading Individual’ in the Social Housing: Finance category. We discuss her role, the markets and clients she works with, recent projects and what’s next for the team.

Tell us about your role. What markets and types of clients do you advise?

I am head of the Banking and Finance team at Bevan Brittan, with a personal focus on Social Housing: Finance. I started at Bevan Brittan in April 2020, so I moved firms in the middle of the pandemic, which brought its own challenges, not least relying on Zoom to meet colleagues as well as new clients!

My role is to grow the Banking and Finance practice and work closely with the Social Housing team to collectively offer a full service practice to all of our Registered Provider (RP) clients. We aim to build on our current practice and expand on our relationships with new and existing clients.

The main market I work in is Social Housing. I work mostly for RPs, advising them on raising debt both from banks as well as in the capital markets, and supporting them generally on anything to do with funding, such as in relation to joint ventures and mergers. We also act for investors into the market; we have a unique perspective, acting on both sides of the deals – this allows you to understand the concerns of both parties – and to reach a balanced and fair view when negotiating.

We are also working closely with colleagues to support clients in the firm’s wider practice areas around Healthcare and Local Government. This includes looking at strategic partnerships with clients across both of these sectors. For example, in relation to Healthcare, Deborah Rowntree is currently looking at funding models for key worker housing; utilising expertise within the firm and working with colleagues to develop opportunities for collaboration across different clients of the firm.

In relation to Local Government, David Moore is helping councils to deliver their housing objectives – whether through setting up their own delivery vehicles/RPs, partnering with existing RPs or raising debt – we can bring expertise from all of those angles.  Each of the banking and finance team has in-depth and specialist knowledge of the sectors they work in.

Which projects are you most proud to have worked on over the past 12 months and why?

I have worked on a number of funding arrangements with a link to sustainability targets. A lot of funders are looking at how to have more of a positive impact. The Social Housing sector as a whole already has a significant social impact, but is there more that can be done?

I think it is a really interesting area for borrowers to explore whether they can obtain a funding advantage by linking the interest rates under their loans to Environmental Social Governance targets; things like helping tenants into work, or focussing on environmental improvements to reach higher energy performance standards. Key to the success of this area is the ability to measure and monitor the environmental and social impact that RPs can have and the sector are working together to develop a standard approach to reporting.

I was also pleased to be able to support a number of clients on accessing the capital markets in the run-up to and following lock-down. Particularly for RPs who are exploring alternatives to bank debt for the first time, it can seem daunting but we have seen clients achieve great results despite the volatility.

What do you hope to achieve over the next 12 months?

Our overall goal is to build up our Banking and Finance practice, alongside and in collaboration with the excellent Social Housing practice already established at Bevan Brittan. I am delighted to be part of such a great team with the ambition to support our clients by delivering a full-service, one-stop national housing practice and expanding the Banking and Finance team is a key component in achieving that ambition. 

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