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Meet Me – Growth Lending’s Regional Head Chris Mears

Our resident Bristolian on his time in the army, his porridge addiction and Leeds United’s glory days

Head of South and Midlands Chris Mears, based in Growth Lending’s Bristol office, provides growth loans for innovative, fast-growing SMEs across the south west.

What do you do at Growth Lending?

Based in our Bristol office, I originate deals by getting to know the market and understanding what businesses need. We’re here to provide flexible funding for companies that are growing or recovering, particularly as we come through Brexit and Covid-19, and we look at firms in any sector, although Growth Lending has a strong track record in tech.

How did you end up working here?

My previous role didn’t give me much exposure to the type of growing businesses that Growth Lending works with, so the opportunity to work more closely with those companies was attractive to me. The people were lovely, too; there’s a really nice atmosphere at Growth Lending.

How long have you been in Bristol?

I’ve worked in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Bristol since I left the army in 2004, so it’s great to reconnect with people I’ve known for a long time. In my role, you have to be involved with your local community: people like to know that you’re invested in the area and that you’re not just popping in to try to do some business and then pop out again.

Where did you serve during your time in the army?

I served in Central America, the US and Canada, the Middle East, Europe and Hong Kong, and spent a lot of time in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo and Germany. I particularly liked Belize: I was there before it became a more recognised tourist destination and it was beautiful, peaceful and unspoiled. I enjoyed the Caribbean-style food, but as I recall, rum and music were the dominant themes.

How did you get into finance?

The army sponsored me to do an MBA, so I was a major with no responsibilities other than studying full-time, free of charge. That gave me an appetite for the business world, and when I decided to leave the army, HSBC recruited 20 military officers in one go, because someone on the bank’s board had recommended hiring people who were a bit different.

Which item can you not work without?

I’ve become addicted to porridge. If I don’t have it for breakfast, I start snacking, so it stops me eating rubbish until I get to lunch. When I was commuting more often, I’d chuck it in the car and pull over to eat it when it had cooled down. Sometimes I’d get to work, bring out a congealed bowl of porridge and eat it there.

Which football team do you support?

Leeds United. I’ve supported them since they won the league under Don Revie in 1973 and reached the European Cup final against Bayern Munich in 1975. I never thought Leeds would return to the Premier League, so it’s lovely to see them back up there.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I’ve got four daughters, so they keep me busy! I like trying to keep fit, and getting outdoors as much as I can – walking, cycling, playing golf, gardening and DIY.

What’s on your bucket list?

I’d love to take my family to visit some of the places where I served in the army. I’d like to travel around the Middle East, Canada and particularly Germany: I lived there as a young boy because my father was in the army too.

Given £100m to spend or invest, what’s the first thing you would do?

I’d hire a personal assistant to get me organised. I often try to do too much and end up in a mess, so I’d have a combination of an organiser and a coach to keep me in order, keep me fit and keep me on track.