In a week that began with BAFT-IFSA’s spirited debate of the ‘unbanked’ banks and a less than level playing field when it came to the cost of compliance at its London conference on 20 January, specialist alternative financiers Falcon Group have been busy celebrating 20 years of trading.
At Falcon’s annual reception held at Searcy’s on the 40th floor of London’s Gherkin building, chief executive Will Nagle announced to guests that, despite difficult economic conditions, the firm had enjoyed another record year. “Turnover was in excess of US2.4bn, a 44% year- on-year increase, with profits at US$53m, up 57% over the same period.” He added that share capital is doubling to US$125m and that Falcon Group had just obtained its very first rating from Fitch. “This was a long, arduous task which I would love to take the glory for, but it was down to Chris Howarth [head of finance and treasury] who did a great job on that, “he said.
Nagle paid tribute to all the Falcon team but asked guests to raise their glasses to founder and chair Kamel Alzarka with whom he said he’d had a “fantastic journey with a lot of fun” over the last nine years, although there were some hairy moments.
“I remember in the early days there were four of us in a small office in Bond Street with US$1m of capital and we were sweating that cash like you never seen anyone sweat before – particularly at 12.00 on a Friday afternoon. I don’t know if anyone from Lloyds is here but if you are – thank you very much.”
Alzarka was only 23 when he started up in trade finance after six month’s work experience at Crédit Lyonnais in Paris. He formed Falcon armed with some savings and the financing ideas he had developed at university. “It was a case study in school. I was in business school and studied international trade,” he told TFR in 2008.
Taking the floor after Nagle’s update, Alzarka said: “I have loved every day of it and it’s been an amazing time. We have very high targets for the year to come so if you are not invited this time next year something went wrong so please enjoy tonight! We look forward to the next 20 years with the help of all of you.”
Guests included Deutsche Bank’s Daniel Schmand, ReedSmith’s Robert Parsons, Watson Farley & Williams Michael Kenny and Coface’s Frédéric Bourgeois.
See also “Where some banks fear to tread”
Global sales head Malcom Fleet and Falcon chair Kamel Alzarka