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Hey, So: Mike Hillman

13th April 2022

Hey! So, who are you? Give us a little intro.

Hello! I’m Mike Hillman, Chief Creative Officer at Haysto. A lot of people might wonder why a start-up mortgage broker needs a Chief Creative Officer, but it makes sense when you understand Haysto’s ambition and what it’s set out to achieve.

My main responsibility is ensuring that Haysto - as a brand - has the clear vision, foundation, and direction to communicate why we exist and what we offer.

Before Haysto, my background as Creative Director at brand/creative agencies gave me the opportunity to work with both start-ups and global brands. This role is my first experience being the ‘client’, and it’s a genuine privilege to build a brand that actively changes people’s lives every day.

You’ve often said you never imagined working in the mortgage industry. What makes Haysto different?

I met Haysto’s co-founders Jonny and Paul at the very beginning of their journey. They had a great idea and opportunity - but, frankly, a terrible brand.

When I say terrible, it’s not that the brand looked bad or was poorly designed, it just didn’t do Haysto’s mission any justice. It didn’t reflect its beliefs, ideas or ambition in any way.

Jonny and Paul’s personal frustrations and experiences of the mortgage market had started the conversation, but their core desire to bring visibility and accessibility to the specialist lending market (to stop others having that same experience) was the clear driving force behind why the brand needed to exist.

I was excited by Haysto’s core focus as champion of the customer, setting out to stop unnecessary pain and stress, and changing perceptions around everyday finance. When you bring it all together, it’s a very attractive proposition for a designer.

Why is brand so important to Haysto?

As Marty Neumeier put it, “a brand is not what you say it is, it is what THEY say it is”.

You can never truly own or control your brand. You’ve got to bare your soul and join the conversation. It’s a constant transaction between you and the customers who may or may not buy into what you’re saying. The goal being that the opinion or gut feeling about your company is a positive one, and therefore builds a positive reputation. You have to work every day to make sure that these interactions reflect what you believe and deliver on what you say you will.

That all might sound a bit heavy for a mortgage broker, but bear with me! A place to call home is one of the most important, emotional, and provocative aspects of life. It’s even more profound when you can call it your own. We see the impact empty promises from brands have on our customers. Mainstream banks still pull on the heart strings, with the “we’re here for the good times and bad” messaging, when in fact the experience for many is the complete opposite. The rejection our customers face before they arrive at Haysto makes it all the more important for us to focus on delivering, rebuilding trust, and providing hope at what can be a very stressful time.

Haysto’s belief is that we can make mortgages possible - and we’ve been hell-bent on making sure we deliver on that. But we also know we’re only 50% of the story, so investing in the brand from day one keeps us focused on what we do, why we do it, and means we’re accountable for delivering what we believe.

Haysto logo evolution

What are the best bits - and the biggest challenges - of your job?

There’s an amazing mix of challenges and reward in a high-growth company. The rewarding aspect is building something you believe in with people who share the same goals - being part of something that ultimately changes lives. Our Trustpilot reviews act as a constant reminder of the impact we’re having, and I often find it a good source of motivation when I face obstacles.

When it comes to challenges, it’s a cliché, but wearing many hats means they don’t always fit perfectly. We started as a small team, and have had to span many roles individually and collectively. Some of these you’re more confident doing than others, so it’s a hard mix of feeling assertive and constantly learning. It’s again both a challenge and one of the best bits.

What does the future look like for Haysto?

It’s been the most bonkers few years, and I’ve given up predicting anything anymore. But what I can see is that people’s lives have changed in a timeframe much shorter than that we’re used to. The way we live, work and play is no longer easily stereotyped by 9-5, and I think the challenges and impact of the last few years are yet to fully unfold.

I see the demand for what Haysto does increasing, and the business will grow and shape to accommodate this. As the brand evolves, our unique platform will continue to challenge the issues and pain points we know our customers are facing, and we’ll be right there to champion those who’ve worked so hard to get where they are, often in the face of adversity.

If you could make one impossible thing possible, what would it be?

That’s a tough one, but I’m a big believer in empathy. I believe it’s fundamental to what I do, and so I have to continually work at it. Professionally, it helps me understand people, and how and why they behave the way they do. Personally, it challenges my own ideas and preconceptions.

I’d love to be able to truly experience the world through someone else's eyes, a kind of ‘Freaky Friday’ / ‘Peep Show’ hybrid. Although in all honesty, it’d probably be something I’d instantly regret!

At Haysto, we're growing fast. We're planning to double headcount in the next six months, and we're always looking for people who want to do things differently. View our careers page.

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