Bluestone Mortgages was established to support the many potential homeowners in the UK who aren’t served by the mainstream banks. The UK’s financial system is still set up to help what are known as ‘vanilla customers’ – those who tick all the boxes when it comes to steady, reliable income and necessary credit files. CEO Steve Seal, recognised as CEO of the Year 2021 – the United Kingdom, explains the work done at Bluestone Mortgages.
Everyone at Bluestone Mortgages is passionate about supporting customers who have suffered life events that prevent them from securing a mortgage on the high street. A solid moral driver runs through the business with the desire to aid customers in the right direction.
Steve Seal explains, “Life has changed. Many people no longer fall into the ‘vanilla category’. You will know some of these people. However, you may not know how badly our financial institutions serve them. Take the growing number of self-employed people, new company directors, contractors, those who have been through a divorce or have had a critical illness. These are growing populations – increasingly so in a post-pandemic world. Yet these people are often told they can’t own property despite having the means to do so.”
Bluestone believes that these systems need to modernise, and the company was established to do just that. Steve explains, “We start with open minds and work with our broker partners to understand the needs and circumstances of their customers. As a result, we know we are meeting a real market need, not just because people tell us so, but in our phenomenal growth figures.”
Following a successful 2020, Bluestone secured two new funding arrangements to support its ambitious growth plans for this year and beyond. These commitments were made following the acceleration of Bluestone’s business to £1billion of lending. Since 2020, it has seen applications increase by more than 90% year on year to end June 2021. It is also predicting pre-tax profit growth of minimum 150% for this fiscal year. These are all significant signs that Bluestone’s vision and strategy are delivering.
Additionally, the team at Bluestone has grown dramatically to accommodate this surge. Its overall headcount has increased by 40% since June 2020, while the sales and lending team has grown by 70%. Keeping its culture and customer-centric approach at a core remains paramount and a key focus of work provided at Bluestone. “Many people could be forgiven for thinking that an intermediated business is about the process, not people. They couldn’t be more wrong in my view. The team at Bluestone Mortgages are critical to the success of the business, and it is a pleasure to lead such a committed team of industry professionals.”
Steve continues, “We look for colleagues who share our passion and energy, both for supporting our customers but also driving the business forward. Bluestone Mortgages is on an exciting journey, and we look for people who want to play an active part in that.”
Furthermore, for Bluestone and its CEO, collaboration is at the heart of the leadership style. “This has evolved from my time managing corporate relationships and working with senior industry colleagues to deliver joint strategic plans. I try to promote this collaborative approach across Bluestone Mortgages, working closely with all members of staff to ensure we, as a team, drive the business forward.”
Steve continues, “I also have high standards, and this stems from the fact that I am extremely passionate about the business, the staff and the customers we serve. I want to ensure that we continue to grow year on year – this is only possible through producing work of the highest quality and building a culture where people want to evolve and push themselves.”
The culture within the business is highly collaborative, and Bluestone members believe that everyone coming together to help achieve its shared vision is key to its success. Bluestone was in high growth mode before the pandemic, supporting the increasing numbers of individuals in groups such as self-employment or critical illness who were being turned away from high street lenders.
However, the pandemic has significantly accelerated that and will continue to do so for years to come. The jobs market has shifted; people have been out of work and are now retraining or starting afresh; a significant proportion of the population has been unwell outside of Covid-19 and not had access to treatment at the usual place.
Nevertheless, being closer together over 18 months has inevitably led to relationship pressures and increasing numbers of divorces already being filed. Steve states, “Our prediction of more unstable financial lives and lenders who are prepared to stand up to support those around them, to listen and understand, to find innovative solutions, is coming to bear even quicker than we anticipated.”
Alongside that, as with all businesses, Bluestone has had to adapt to working from home and bringing in new technology. This was an additional challenge for the company as it moved into new offices the weekend before the first national lockdown, and most of the equipment needed to assist colleagues was locked in crates.
Steve explains, “Fortunately, we found our way, and I am proud of how well the team at Bluestone Mortgages responded to the challenge and supported our customers during this period. When many other lenders turned off their support, we carried on lending, and we know this was hugely appreciated.”
The Government and Regulator introduced a range of measures to support customers during the pandemic, and Bluestone joined all lenders in deploying these solutions. This was particularly challenging due to the additional complexity of training colleagues remotely. But, as ever, the team at Bluestone came together with enthusiasm and a commitment to support its customers. Steve states, “We learnt a lot, together with our broker partners, and continue to evolve to provide the best service we can for our growing customer base.”
Looking ahead, Bluestone is not just poised to grow; it is pushing forward at pace. Those following Bluestone can expect to see new products and services, more hires, continued refinement of its service proposition and an embedding of more technology within the business while keeping a laser focus on people and its personal service.
Steve explains, “Expect to see us championing the needs of our customers to wake up our industry to modernise. There is so much more we want to achieve, and we are driving ahead to shift the standard of lending in the UK today.”