Jon Hall, managing director of Masthaven, explains how the UK’s newest challenger bank is questioning traditional lending philosophies in favour of a fresh way of thinking.

W hen Masthaven was conceived we knew we had to take a different approach. We realised that to make a difference in the fast-growing retail banking market we must challenge the status quo; and to retain the trust that Masthaven Finance had established we were keen to evolve, rather than reinvent, our lending philosophy. So in November 2016, armed with a brand new retail banking licence, Masthaven reset its compass to charter new territories in a brave new world of lending. OK, so my swashbuckling dreams might be rather dramatic. But the bit about brave new lending is true.

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Last year was tumultuous to say the least. Personally, I’m reeling from feeling amazed by Tim Peake’s intergalactic adventures to being gobsmacked by political events in Europe and the USA. The world feels different. For a while I questioned what people were thinking! In this changing climate, I believe financial firms must revise their perspective on things. For example, here at Masthaven we’re looking at lending through a fresh lens. Traditionally, banks automate decision-making to swiftly progress customers along the process.

We challenge this approach and choose to automate the admin, not decision-making. We put humans at the heart of our lending philosophy. In my mind, we’re only as good as the people we employ. We have an exceptional team, and they’re trusted to make decisions. We call this approach ‘human digital banking’. Our years of lending experience means we build lasting relationships and I have a sneaky suspicion that relationship building is going to be a big theme for 2017, not just for Masthaven.

Our experience tells us that keeping things simple works better than complex processes. So when it comes to lending, we think less is more. Paperwork and forms are unavoidable but we’ve tried to keep our processes as simple as possible. Back to the bigger picture, I read a Spectator blog recently, which pointed out: “2016 has been one of the greatest years ever for humanity”. After an eventful year this cheered me. I particularly enjoyed the conclusion:

“Yes, they disrupted politics as normal. Good. That’s been the theme of this brilliant year: disruption. We disrupted nature and squished her sicknesses. We disrupted poverty and helped vast numbers of people to live longer, many of them in cities. We disrupted the universe with Juno, and listened in on the universe’s own disruptions from billions of years ago. We disrupted a politics that simply wasn’t working… If you must weep over 2016, it should be with joy.”

Whether we agree or disagree with the specific shifts that 2016 instigated is a moot point. But I certainly agree with the point that disruption is good. For financial services I believe it is a positive route to change. Take the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) for example. It threw a spanner in the works, but is that a bad thing? Many agreed that change was needed. As the dust settles, evidence suggests the effect of MMR has been positive for the industry – brokers soon reported business was flowing better, with more confident clients. Some might see the mortgage market as a bellwether for the financial services industry, given the effect it can have on customers’ perception of the wider industry. I think the lending sector is a lynchpin because it acts as a threshold – the door for some people’s first encounter with a mortgage expert.

When buying my first home, the only finance professional I’d met before the mortgage adviser was my local bank clerk.Luckily for me, my home buying experience was top-notch. The adviser humanised it for me. For Masthaven this human side is a critical part of the process, a core component that enables financial firms to evolve smarter. Of course ‘open banking’ has brought astonishing digital developments to retail banking. But I believe it’s the people part that will continue to set the lending market apart. Life can be complicated and everyone’s journey is different. But whatever the project, we’re all human and when we want to get something done in life it’s the people that make it happen. Here at Masthaven we firmly believe in putting people first – building relationships that last – so we are ready to get clients’ projects sorted swiftly with minimum fuss. That way everyone has more time to enjoy life. However tumultuous it might be.