Changing perceptions of sub-prime, striking a balance between automated and intelligent tech, planning for a full market launch – and a well-honed disappearing act
What is the most significant USP for Bluestone Mortgages?
‘People, not points.’ Our focus is on customers who are not well served by major high-street lenders and therefore find it difficult to obtain a mortgage.
The strict, automated scoring models used by many high-street banks to decide who can afford a mortgage or loan are often based on simple credit calculations, with little thought given to who is behind the numbers. Only when you explore and weigh each person’s financial background can you really begin to assess their true affordability.
For this reason, a balance needs to be struck between automated technology and intelligent technology to ensure a consumer’s individual circumstances are taken into account and lending decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. At Bluestone we use innovative technology, but maintain the human touch.
What has been the biggest challenge for the firm in establishing itself in the UK market?
The term ‘sub-prime’ still carries a host of negative connotations. As a new specialist lender in the UK, our biggest challenge has been to shift consumer perceptions of this market.
Sub-prime doesn’t mean today what it did 10 years ago. Our customers aren’t in some way inferior to prime borrowers – they have just had different financial histories, but could still represent a good lending risk. It is this growing group of borrowers who want, need and deserve a deeper underwriting experience to ensure the nature of their situation is fully understood.
Our pilot launch phase was focused on broker feedback to ensure Bluestone delivered a collaborative and accessible service before launching to the wider market over the coming months. By working closely with advisers and gaining feedback throughout the application process, we are confident we have developed a strong market position to cater to these consumers, while keeping brokers at the heart of our offering.
Do you have a specific ambition for the company in 2017?
We are looking forward to rolling out our full market launch, announcing lots of exciting new hires and, most importantly, launching more products that are tailored to the real needs of our customers.
How long have you been in your current role and where were you previously?
I have been with Bluestone since 2014, having worked in the mortgage market for a number of years, notably with Merrill Lynch, where I built its D2C mortgage operations, and with Kensington, as a director of their direct operations.
If you had not chosen this career path, what else would you have liked to do?
Be a rock god living the dream, or a chef.
Who is your all-time hero, and why?
Muhammed Ali, who stood up for his beliefs regardless of the cost. He was an outstanding athlete and character, and the best boxer to grace the earth.
Do you have any secret talents?
The ability to vanish – when asked to do something I don’t want to do.
What do you do in your spare time?
When not being a children’s entertainer, I try to fit some windsurfing into my weekends.
What is the best advice you have received?
First, get used to the fact that a father is a man with a picture in his wallet where his money used to be. Second (and more seriously), with early careers advice, find out what you’re passionate about then work out a way to get paid doing it.
If you were chancellor for a day, what would be your priorities?
More attention needs to be paid to the significant portion of the workforce who struggle to access lending due to complex financial circumstances. Many mainstream lenders have failed to update their attitude to borrower profiles in line with the changing workforce.
In addition, more affordable housing needs to be built with realistic, affordable lending options.
Year established: 2015
Address: 1st Floor, Melbourne House, 44-46 Aldwych, London WC2B 4LL
Bluestone Mortgages is a specialist lender focused on helping customers who are underserved by high-street banks. It is part of Bluestone Group, which was founded in 2000. Bluestone is a multinational financial services business with offices in the UK, Ireland and Australasia. The business is owned by a mix of private and institutional shareholders, including LDC, Macquarie Bank and the management team.