With over 25 years’ experience in banking and property, Stephen Crerar has been a natural fit in the Zagga team. He took up the CEO role in mid-2022, attracted by Zagga’s potential and scalability.
“I immediately liked the Zagga perspective,” says Stephen. “It’s a scalable business with the potential for significant growth, because it fills a gap for both borrowers and investors. I also like the way that it allows everyday Kiwis to invest in debt, because it’s an alternative asset class that is on the rise internationally.”
Meeting those everyday Kiwis has been one of the highlights of the job, he says: “I like to be involved – to be hands on and meet investors and borrowers face to face. They provide great feedback on what they want and how we can improve. It’s a real cross-section of people, from young investors who put in just $1,000 to others who might invest $500,000 at a time.”
A different way of looking at loans
Stephen has previously held executive roles at Southpac/National Bank, MARAC Securities, Green and McCahill (Hugh Green Group), and BNZ. That’s given him a wealth of expertise in the debt market and an appreciation for the Zagga approach.
“Bank decisioning is often dictated by policies that can often become outdated. Here we have the ability to be a little more agile, making decisions that reflect the current market and the needs of the borrower and the risk appetite of the investors. When we make a loan offer, it is essentially an indicative offer. Upon acceptance, the investment opportunity is then listed and presented to our investor client base. The investors are like the bank credit committee, they decide if it fits within their risk appetite. It’s a quick process if it’s a “yes” it will generally be funded within a couple of days”.
Property is in the Kiwi DNA
All Zagga’s loans are secured by property, which gives investors confidence and underpins each loan with a tangible asset. That has helped Zagga stay steady despite tough market conditions.
“Property is in the Kiwi DNA so we all understand it and we strive toward ownership. You do see a lot of ups and downs, but as the old saying goes, ‘it’s only a property crash if you have to sell’.”
Stephen is a homeowner and property investor himself, and lives with his family in Cambridge. He enjoys triathlons and golf, and walking the family’s new springer spaniel puppy. Stephen is an alumnus of the universities of Waikato and Auckland, with bachelor’s degrees in both commerce and law.
He believes the ultimate goal of investing is to give yourself more choices: “Money gives you the ability to make a wide range of decisions. You can take a holiday, fund your kids’ education, donate to a charity you’re passionate about – or do them all. Without money, you might find yourself stuck driving a single track.”
A positive outlook for Zagga
Looking ahead, with the housing market seemingly having bottomed out, it seems an upturn is likely for prices in late 2023 and 2024. Investor appetite for debt is still strong and bank lending can still be a challenge for borrowers. All these factors help support Stephen’s optimism about the future of Zagga: “I think the outlook for Zagga is very positive. We are working on consistency, so there are always one or two investment options available. We’d also like to see the FMA review the lending cap for business like ours. It’s been set at $2 million since 2014, and the economic environment has changed a lot since then, so it would help to see that lifted. But even if that doesn’t happen, I still expect to see Zagga keep growing and building.”