As you might expect from someone who has spent almost 30 years working in the auto finance industry, Bluestone Motor Finance’s Managing Director Donal Murphy conveys a sense of authority and understanding to the perspectives he can offer on Ireland’s car market.
Bluestone provides specialist finance to customers who for a variety of reasons may have found it more difficult to secure approval from mainstream lenders. It offers simple, secure lending solutions to consumers and business users for motor finance.
“Understanding who your customer is and having a good sense of the customer journey are key starting points to building any new business. When we started the business here in Ireland in 2014, we could see there was a gap in the market for car finance for a range of people who were not being serviced by existing lenders – the self-employed, contract workers, young people coming out of third level education with no financial history, people with an impaired credit history through no fault of their own, returning emigrants, and people from overseas who were making Ireland their home.”
Since opening for business, Bluestone has in a few short years made credit available to over 75,000 customers, positioning it as one of the strongest growing businesses in the car industry in Ireland. The original proposition that with appropriate underwriting standards this underserved market could produce high quality customers for Bluestone has not only borne out but been enhanced as a strong economy and a rising population adds to the company’s potential markets.
Murphy’s prior experience in the business has stood him in good stead. Prior to Bluestone, Murphy was National Sales Manager at GE Money, building on previous experience within the collections and customer services ends of the business. It has helped him to understand who the customer is and what they want, or perhaps more pertinently, what they need.
“Bluestone is well established in the market now with strong year on year growth in each of our six years. A major factor in our growth is our strong relationships with approved dealers and we have over 650 of these relationships across Ireland. Bluestone now employs 32 people, mostly at our Dublin office and a number who are on the road. In addition, our sister business in Sheffield in the UK has 12 customer service staff who support the business in Ireland.”
As Managing Director of Bluestone, what exactly does Mr Murphy do?
“I manage the entire business in Ireland where my core responsibility is to build and grow the business in a sustainable manner. This involves lending responsibly and making sure that customer vulnerability and affordability are taken into account when it comes to our credit decisions.”
What are your thoughts on business expansion?
“The pace of growth has probably exceeded our original expectations and as we have gotten to know the market better over the last six years, it has given us the confidence to widen our existing product offering in a planned fashion to capture more of the motor finance market in Ireland. In the future, we could look at products outside of motor finance but we are very pleased with our performance and scope in our core markets.”
Before entering the motor finance market, Bluestone began life in Ireland managing challenging credit portfolios, bringing an expertise in how to effectively price portfolios and manage them out.
“As a young guy in the 1980s, I worked for a small finance company in London at a fairly junior level for two years. It gave me the opportunity to learn about asset finance and motor finance. So when I returned to Ireland, I got a job working in GE Money in Dublin in a collections and customer services role before working my way up to National Sales Manager over two decades.
“GE was a great place to work, with a strong team culture and philosophy. I learned an awful lot there about building a business with strong teams and it is something I have brought with me to Bluestone to ensure that everyone feels they are very much part of the journey and a part of the success story.”
What improvements is Bluestone making to the business?
In preparing for the future, Bluestone has invested strongly in IT and technology as it rolls out its business model across Ireland. This investment includes Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that enables credit checks and decisions to be provided in minutes to dealers and customers anywhere in Ireland.
“You cannot stand still and technology is a big enabler in the motor market. Bluestone has made huge strides in developing state of the art technology systems for dealers to put their applications through an AI powered online process.
“Our partnership with DoneDeal enables customers to apply directly through DoneDeal Classified and because of our new systems customers can avail of our document upload and E-signature function whilst dealing with one our service team over the phone. It’s the logic of technology at work.”
What does the future hold?
“The car market in Ireland is operating off a high base but has seen some not insignificant challenges over recent years, not least of which was the backdrop of Brexit. With this off the agenda for the time being, and the economy still performing well, we would expect another year of strong growth for Bluestone in 2020. But there are challenges. How Ireland meets the Government’s target of 1 million electric vehicles on our roads by 2030 is among the significant of these challenges. Whatever about that target, Bluestone will definitely be providing more funding for electric vehicles over the coming years.
“Finally, I think there are some important legislative changes due in which the motor market in Ireland will become more regulated. This is important for customer care and to ensure that responsible lending practices are in place,” said Murphy.