Big Interview: Leah Brunskill, Head of Marketing, Market Financial Solutions
By David Craik
The marketing departments of our major lenders have been fundamental in the growth of specialist finance in recent years.
Witness to and active in this evolution has been Leah Brunskill, Head of Marketing at bespoke specialist lender Market Financial Solutions.
“Over the last four years all bridging lenders have upped their game on the marketing side,” Brunskill says.
“Marketing has become a bit more sophisticated across the whole industry. Lenders are adding and building marketing teams to their business as they grow.
It is a great opportunity for someone like me in the marketing profession because property finance affects everyone.
You are working on a topic of interest to everybody and have a much wider audience, impact and reach than other sectors.”
Brunskill is talking from experience. Before joining MFS in 2019 as a marketing manager, Brunskill had built her marketing career in first the education sector and then with global defence company CQC.
“They made products such as body armour and chemical suits for soldiers in Afghanistan,” she explains. So, it was quite the jump when I made the move to finance in 2017 at Sancus Finance where I learned about short-term and invoice financing as well as bridging.
I then moved to an IFA in Reading called Beaufort Financial before coming to MFS. I’ve found that although the audience and products change when you move sectors the marketing principles remain the same. I was able to build on what I had already done and apply that to finance.”
The MFS marketing team has grown from just three people when Brunskill joined to eight today including new roles for content writers, graphic designers and specialist digital marketing.
“When I joined, we weren’t doing very much work when it came to social media or digital marketing,” she explains. “Now we are doing a lot more on that side with blogs, tweets, LinkedIn marketing messages and a Podcast driven by the Events team and one of our Business Development Managers.
I brought some of the drive towards that as I had done some social media in previous roles but really it has been a huge team effort.
Nowadays, I am much more leading the strategic direction, the focus and the planning than doing the hands-on work!
I make sure that everyone has got what they need in order to deliver.”
Primarily the team is marketing to intermediaries and brokers either experienced in the specialist finance industry or keen to join the burgeoning sector.
“We are marketing our products and services to them of course but only after trying to understand what they actually need and what is going to work for them to help them meet their goals.
These are bespoke solutions,” she explains.
“We are also letting brokers know that we are here, that we can deal with their complex requirements and that they fully understand the wide range of finance available from us to their clients.
Sometimes their clients don’t even know that they need bridging solutions.”
As the bridging sector grows and more people begin to understand it and its advantages, MFS is also increasingly marketing its products, services and knowledge to property/mortgage trade and national press publications.
“We carry out our own quantitative research, talking to landlords and tenants, once every quarter to build up a picture of the industry.
Quite often, with help from a PR agency we have a relationship with the national press will pick up stories off the back of that.
It is another way of getting our name out there to potential clients,” she explains.
Brunskill and the wider MFS team can also use that research and their own week-by-week interactions to build up a picture of the health of the industry. This can help shape the direction of the marketing strategy.
“Last year the market was buoyant before September. There were lots of players in the market offering their products and services to brokers and clients,” Brunskill says.
“Our main message then was letting people know that we could move quickly and help their clients build portfolios. Now, given that the economy has turned, and the market is harder it is about letting brokers know that not only can we do speed, but we are stable.
That our funding is not going to be pulled and that we will help as we said we would at the start of a deal.
So, it is more of a focus on the service element with the tagline being, ‘When we say yes, we mean it.’ So, yes, the messaging has changed quite a bit.”
She adds that marketing is especially important in these tough economic times. It is about making sure that people know you are there for them, she says, not just when it is good but also when it is bad.
A tougher market however also means new opportunities.
“In times like these when high street banks have stricter lending criteria you find that more brokers come into specialist finance as they strive to diversify their business,” she states.
Indeed, last November MFS ran a marketing campaign under the Twitter/LinkedIn tagline ‘TryMFS’ ‘TryBridging’ to attract new brokers into specialist finance.
“We wanted them to understand what bridging can do and how MFS fits into the picture,” she explains.
“There are so many players in the market now that you need to be creative in your marketing. It’s not just pictures of houses anymore.
You have to cut through the noise of so many other lenders saying roughly the same thing.
That can be a challenge because it is not like you are marketing something tangible like a pair of trousers! It is very information based.”
Indeed, Brunskill says it is important for bridging marketeers to remember that they are in the serious industry of finance.
“We take an education approach on the marketing side so people know that we are a hub of knowledge but at the same time ensuring that we can provide something eye-catching and memorable,” she says.
Another award-winning example came during the Covid Pandemic when MFS launched its 75-cube initiative.
This highlighted a £75 million pot the group had set aside with 75% LTV at 0.75% interest.
“We packaged that up with images and text which grabbed people’s attention,” she says. “We gave the solution a little bit more depth and it worked really well.”
But she advises fellow marketeers not to go too left field with their ideas.
“Have conviction in your ideas and decision making and ensure it is something people want to read and take notice of. But remember that it has to fit with your core product and business,” she says.
“Brokers want information and solutions. They don’t really have time to look at flowery marketing campaigns. They have deals to be done.”
Brokers do have time however and more interest in attending industry awards and events. Brunskill and her team have attended 80 MFS events this year.
“When there is uncertainty and confusion in the market people like to talk things through in person and network,” she explains.
“It is also nice for us to put a face to the company and not just hide behind application forms and tick boxes. We want to answer our clients’ questions.”
Outside of work Brunskill is a keen sportswoman and was able to combine her love of marketing and fitness recently when she completed a job sabbatical in Saudi Arabia for a personal training company.
This was on top of recently completing an MSC in International Marketing.
“I would love to work abroad one day and if MFS expands beyond its one overseas office in Singapore I would be interested,” she says. “But my focus right now is on helping MFS keep flourishing in the months and years ahead.”