Steve Olejnik, managing director of Mortgages for Business, talks to The Mortgage Lender about going Dutch at Petrus and how he got into financial services because he saw it as the safe option.
Lifelong Spurs fan Steve Olejnik left school with A-levels in 1988 at an age where he ‘wasn’t quite sure’ of the career path he wanted to follow.
A family history of banking and the lure of a ‘job for life’ saw him write to six banks, secure six interviews and three job offers.
He took the offer from Nat West because it ‘was the one that paid the most’. For the next twelve years the management training programme saw him move around the bank working in Forex, retail banking and a myriad of other positions before settling on personal banking for high net worth individuals.
When RBS came along and bought Nat West he saw an opportunity for change, put his hand up for voluntary redundancy and took on a role with Woolwich IFAs, part of Barclays.
“I tried being an IFA for a couple of years then got a call from a friend at Mortgages for Business who asked if I wanted to try broking. At the time I had a young daughter and a move out of London was appealing, so I swapped the commute into London for a commute round the M25,” he explains.
When Steve joined, the team was around 15-strong. The next five years saw Steve promoted onto the management team and a period of steady growth. In 2007 the team had expanded to 75, and life looked good.
“I was lucky enough in my job to go around the restaurants in London and feed one of my passions – good food,” he says.
But while the dining was good his love of pool – he was a county level pool player – took a back seat to his career.
Then came the crash. “We lost our lenders pretty much overnight, had to scale back the business and it became all about survival. It was horrendous and a massive learning curve,” he says.
With commercial and development finance to fall back on the company focused on strengthening its relationships with the lenders who had survived and, as the market recovered, Mortgages for Business started to grow again with Steve as Sales Director and later as Chief Operating Officer.
And it saw an opportunity to re-launch its own white labelled lending brand – Keystone Property Finance.
With a headcount of 80 and Mortgages for Business and Keystone both doing well the decision to physically separate businesses was taken earlier this year.
Keystone moved to a separate office in August and Steve was promoted to managing director of Mortgages for Business with his sights set firmly on growth.
“My job is to grow the brokerage. It’s a great place to work and an opportunity for me to enhance the culture, setting out our mission, vision and values, injecting the cultural DNA into the business,” he says.
But he warns that buy to let is a crowded market. “There have been a number of new entrants to the buy to let market and they’re all trying to play in the specialist space. Lenders need to stand out through their branding and messaging then back it up with products and service delivery – it’s important they deliver what they say they will,” he says.
Luckily for The Mortgage Lender Steve has words of praise for its new brand. “It colourful and vibrant and definitely stands out from the crowd,” he says.
As for his love of food, it’s not quite what it used to be, not the food, just who’s picking up the tab. On his latest visit to Petrus with an industry colleague they went Dutch, which is a long way from the ‘safe’ banking culture that lured Steve into financial services is the 80’s.