'Hope Capital has reached a level I never thought it would' – Jonathan Sealey

Hope Capital has today (23rd September) turned 10 years old and, in order to find out how much the business has evolved over the past decade and what we can expect from the bridging lender in the near future, B&C caught up with CEO Jonathan Sealey.

What have been the biggest milestones for Hope Capital in its 10-year history, and what one are you most proud of?

Looking back over the past 10 years, I am so proud of everything we have achieved. From founding the business in 2011, to recruiting our first two members of the team in 2013 — Pauline O’Gorman, HR and office manager, and Laura Carr, head of underwriting, who are both still part of the Hope Capital family — is a fantastic achievement.

Further accomplishments include when we completed our largest ever loan — a £4.5m deal in 2016 — rebranding and signing the Women in Finance Charter in 2018, winning various awards, and still continuing to launch a range of diverse bridging finance products. The list goes on! 

However, seeing numerous members of the Hope Capital team grow as people over the past 10 years has been the one I am personally most proud of.

The corner of the office where Jonathan first set up the Hope Capital business

How big was the team when you first started, and what does the headcount look like today?

Hope Capital initially began as a one-man journey, when I discovered an opportunity in the market to create a specialist, transparent, quick, and flexible bridging lending firm. Ten years on, I would never have imagined the company would consist of 21 team members (and growing), across roles in sales, underwriting, portfolio management, marketing and administration. Each employee plays a big part in ensuring that every broker and borrower receives a service that is quick, flexible, specialist and transparent. Our values of collaborative working and clear communication are embodied by every member of staff, and I am so proud of what we have created as a team.

Hope Capital grows from one employee to 21 in the space of 10 years

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Like any business, it’s normal at times to face hurdles. Challenges are how we learn and continue to grow. However, the sudden emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020, was certainly a situation I never thought I would have to handle as a business leader. Nevertheless, I am very proud of how Hope Capital remained resilient to weather the storm. 

The aftermath of Covid-19 will ultimately highlight the lenders that have adapted to the changing needs of their customers. It is clear the bridging loan landscape has and will continue to change, however it will be lenders, such as Hope Capital, that learnt from this unprecedented time and had the capability to provide bespoke and fast solutions, which will bounce back stronger than ever. Our success is completely down to the dedication and commitment of our team, whom I appreciate so much.

How has the bridging market changed since when Hope Capital opened its doors?

The appetite for bridging loans has increased significantly over the past few years. Not only has the product landscape evolved dramatically, with there being a more diverse range of customers looking at bridging finance as an option, but lending in general has changed significantly, too. For example, the use of technology has transformed the industry.

It’s positive to see more brokers and borrowers considering bridging finance as a leading option. The important thing as a lender is to continue to invest in what will help the bridging lending market move forward, whether that be technology, people who have the right skills and experience, and so forth.

In recent years, the bridging market’s adoption of technology has increased. How are you utilising it? 

Technology has played a crucial role in the specialist lending industry, where the advancement of processes and technology have made a huge impact on how quickly buyers can reach completion. Specifically, the role of technology throughout the pandemic was essential to ensure business could continue.

We had to adapt and look at doing things we had never done before, such as AVMs. We also embraced new ID verification and messaging technology, which makes it easier and quicker for both lender and borrower, during times when you cannot meet face-to-face. In 2020, we partnered with tech firm Nivo to introduce facial recognition software into the onboarding process. It’s therefore much more streamlined, as customers can be onboarded from wherever they are, at any time.

Investing in technological innovation is becoming more integral in the specialist lending industry, which is why we will continue to utilise new processes to improve the customer experience going forward.

Over the past 12 months, Hope Capital has been bringing out a series of product ‘collections’. Why did you decide to bring these out and what has the reaction been like?

We design products to meet borrowers’ diverse and individual needs, affordability, and aspirations. We have continued to listen to the feedback of our brokers and their clients on the type of bridging finance offerings they would like to see available in the market. As a result, over the past year, we have continued to launch a host of competitive new products which have struck a chord with brokers and borrowers. This includes the launch of the ‘seventies’, ‘eighties’ and ‘capital’ collections, which all provide fast, tailored and personal loans. In addition, we launched a refurbishment range in January following strong demand, where investors are increasingly looking at refurbishment and development opportunities, to either improve the property, increase yield, or for capital gain.

The feedback and response we have received from the new offerings have been fantastic. As a business which prides itself on providing innovative products and outstanding customer service, we are delighted to see how well the new products have been received. A number of other lenders have decided to copy these products too, so they must be good. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. 

How has the pandemic altered the way you manage and run your business?

I strongly believe Covid-19 has changed the way we run Hope Capital for the better. Communication has always been important, but if the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that communication is essential in customer service. Technology made frequent communication possible across channels throughout the pandemic, where we could meet with our clients, partners, and team over Zoom and make updates over social media. It also made us prioritise processes to ensure we could increase efficiency, and we therefore become more effective as a business. For example, introducing AVMs, new ID verification and messaging technology and so on.

What has been your most memorable time in the bridging industry so far?

There have been many memorable moments, however I think seeing the Hope Capital team work together throughout the various lockdown periods, to overcome any hurdles the pandemic presented us with, was special. Each member of the team has acted as a catalyst for inspiration and innovation, and I am so grateful for their commitment and hard work.

How is Hope Capital going to celebrate?

By hosting an amazing party with the team who has helped us get it where it is today. This is a fabulous milestone where I want to celebrate people. It’s going to be fantastic!

What will be the next big thing we can expect from you?

We are looking to enter a new space, where we will continue our growth strategy of extending the team, so we are in a position to increase and meet business volumes and create more innovative products which meet the market demand.

What are your ambitions for the next 10 years?

Hope Capital has reached a level I never thought it would, which is why I am extremely confident we will only continue to move from strength to strength. The past 18 months has taught us all that we never know what is around the corner. However, no matter what challenges the future holds, I look forward to finding a solution with the support of our team to overcome them.

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