Core strength in credit and asset management

La Trobe Financial continues to experience growth in inflows and assets under management while approaching risk in a disciplined manner. The company’s Sydney-based chief financial officer, Martin Barry, says opportunities remain in evidence.

How has the business performed in the last year?

In many ways the year to 30 June 2021 was a story of rebound as we saw strong growth in high-quality loan originations, ending the year with a monthly settlement rate of A$635 million (US$470.8 million).

We observed hyper competition among the major banks for vanilla customers as an outcome of excess liquidity and capital benefits bestowed with the operation of the term funding facility (TFF). As a result, however, we also saw bank turnaround times elongating for more complex borrowers.

La Trobe Financial has all its processing and its 186-member dedicated loan-underwriting team headquartered in Melbourne. Lack of exposure to offshore processing centres proved a distinct advantage. The company closed the financial year at circa A$13 billion in assets under management (AUM), up by A$2.3 billion, with no major changes to credit parameters or relative pricing.

Our book quality has markedly improved over the past five years. Specialist loans as a percentage of overall AUM have decreased to 9 per cent in favour of growth in prime and super-prime assets, which constitute almost 40 per cent. We expect further opportunities to support clients repairing their balance sheets after COVID-19.

How has La Trobe Financial managed funding and capital through 2021?

Our diverse business and funding strategy continues to serve us well. This includes a fully functional asset-management arm alongside our real-estate credit-finance operations.

We have always maintained roughly 12-18 months of forward funding capacity and a minimum of A$50 million free capital on any given day. This framework has served us well over seven decades of operation including the recent shock of COVID-19 lockdowns and economic retraction. Today, the group has A$413 million of shock-absorber and regulatory capital.

We have issued residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) three times in the last year, totalling A$3 billion, and each transaction has been materially oversubscribed.

La Trobe Financial’s retail credit fund has been a major funding differentiator for the business. How has this preformed?

La Trobe Financial’s A$6.3 billion asset-management arm – the retail credit fund – has been a key component of the group’s business strategy for more than three decades.

The initial strategy was to deliver a diversified funding base for the business to the benefit of all our investors. Today, the asset-management business comprises around half our AUM and makes the business dramatically more resilient to the funding shocks that periodically disrupt financial markets.

Just as importantly, our credit fund provides a complementary flexible funding source. Its 55,000 registered investors allocate to residential, commercial, and construction and multi-dwelling development loans across Australia. We are currently seeing net inflows of A$200 million per month, reflecting the longstanding and deep trusted investor relationships La Trobe Financial has nurtured.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are an increasing focus in capital markets. How does ESG fit in at La Trobe Financial?

In April 2021, we launched our latest corporate ESG framework emanating from our guiding foundational principle of “others before self”. This framework continues the group’s commitment to creating a long-term sustainable legacy for our employees, our customers, our investors and the communities in which we live and work.

ESG principles have always been integral to our day-to-day business. We believe maintaining the highest standards of ESG policies and practices can improve the financial performance of our business, for our customers and our investors. ESG engages with and enriches the lives of our staff and local communities, and it leaves a lasting positive legacy in Australian society.

We are proud of the impact our business has had on Australia. Our A$36 billion in cumulative AUM has had an estimated impact of A$79.8 billion on the Australian economy and has been responsible for more than 57,000 jobs.

But our impact has gone well beyond financial returns. Whether it is being among the first to offer superannuation to female employees – in 1968 – or our A$17 million of donations toward many charities and crisis-relief matters, including the 2020 bushfire and COVID-19 emergency relief to healthcare providers, La Trobe Financial is authentically committed to the highest standards of corporate responsibility.

In due course we anticipate issuing RMBS with ESG verified collateral and offering our retail investors an ESG investment option.