Business

Why 'fear' keeps rearing its head for Northern Ireland property owners

Warren Buffet
Conor Devine

ONE of the first business books I read was Snowball, the biography of Warren Buffet. One of the richest men in the world, he is well known for saying: “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.”

This is something I've thought a lot about over the past 20 years as I worked in the property industry.

If we look back on the property crash and subsequent global financial crisis of 2007, the quotation, if analysed correctly, is never too far away from the route of many of the world's problems.

There is no doubt about it, the world we live in today is a very dangerous place, and the word "fear" keeps raising its head. The Oxford Dictionary definition of fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.”

The ‘in or out' vote on the EU referendum is just weeks away, and again the word fear has come up as many of the politicians are using the term ‘Project Fear' to describe a side of the argument they are pushing.

For me, it's a very interesting way to talk about something so serious. You would nearly think our politicians are trying to force us into a scenario based on a sub conscious threatening style of behaviour – it is certainly a curious approach.

Fear has also been the dominant feeling for many families, individuals and businesses who have had their property loans sold to private equity vulture funds.

This has been an incredible development given the fact that the parties who are buying these loans are not regulated and, for the most part, are not being questioned by anyone in authority.

The 70,000 or so families who are living under the threat of negative equity also know the meaning of the word 'fear'. This is something that doesn't sit well with me personally and it's one of the reasons why both myself and my team get up in the morning to try find a solution to these types of challenges.

I decided in 2010, along with my business partner James Gibbons, that instead of concentrating on fear, we would focus all of our energy on hope, and do this by bringing a new business to the market place. Five years on, we are the only firm regulated by the financial conduct authority in the debt advisory space.

We have been passionate about trying to bring some hope into play in Belfast and Northern Ireland over the years and have been successful in bringing this into many people's lives by being able to get them out of difficult financial situations and let them get on with their lives.

And so, when considering Mr Buffet's words of wisdom, maybe instead of being greedy when others are fearful, we should embrace hope and optimism and use it to help overcome financial difficulties faced. So let's get Project Hope off the ground.

:: Conor Devine (conor@gdpni.com) is principal of GDP Partnership (@EquityExpertsNI) which specialises in mediating with banks

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