Since launch in 2001 MAB has never been a traditional network, focusing instead on key market sectors including estate agency, new build and mortgage shops with these key differentiators helping to establish MAB as a unique intermediary brand.
Victoria Hartley, group editor at Mortgage Solutions talks to MAB’s CEO Peter Brodnicki.
VH: The flotation in November 2014 marked MAB out for its ambition and readiness to take a different path from its technology, to a focus on immature market niches. What’s next for MAB?
PB: I think in many ways MAB is a disrupter, and to ensure a very strong and competitive intermediary sector continues, it is important for us all to challenge our thinking and belief system, and disrupt ourselves rather than wait for it to happen to us.
The customer is at the centre of every strategic decision we make at MAB. It’s not just what we believe is the right thing to do, it’s what our customers and consumer research tells us. The future consumer direction of travel is what we should all be taking most notice of, not what the majority of customers are doing today.”
VH: The digital revolution and robo-advice are both topics that are receiving a great deal of coverage at the moment. What are your views, and does MAB see advances in technology as a threat or an opportunity?
PB: Expect that coverage to increase significantly over the months and years to come, but that’s a good thing as technology can help improve the customer and adviser experience.
The lending and intermediary sectors have a great deal of catching up to do in terms of digital, and businesses and advisers will have to adapt their models and processes to accommodate the developments that are coming our way.
Our technology platform MIDAS is developed in-house, so we can be extremely responsive to customer, lender and adviser requirements which is why it’s such a differentiator for MAB. There is much more for us to do, and there is no reason why we cannot deliver every robo-advice style development that a new digitally focused new entrant can, and by doing so provide our customers, partners firms and their advisers with all the solutions they need.
So yes, my message to businesses in our sector is that if you’re embracing technology in the way consumers want you to, then the digital revolution is definitely an opportunity and makes the intermediary proposition even more compelling.
VH: The lack of funding for the investment needed to drive the industry forward is a huge road block to the kind of progress needed to deliver this consumer-focused service surely?
PB: Even if companies do have the funding available, they need to have a robust, forward-looking strategy and the relevant expertise within their business, both in terms of technology and mapping the business strategy across to online. New solutions and platforms will be built that intermediaries will have access to, however, that technology will also be available to new competitors, making it easier for them to enter the market and have a greater impact.
The knowledge and experience intermediaries have shouldn’t be underestimated or undervalued, however, the winners will be those who have an open mind and combine that unique expertise successfully with technology to deliver customers with a choice on how they obtain information, receive advice, and transact.
We all need to be thinking that way now not tomorrow, as compared to the last 20 years, technology will facilitate change far faster and leave some businesses behind quickly.
VH: What has been your investment strategy post-float?
PB: We only invest in companies that we feel can help take the customer and adviser experience to another level, and bring new skills and expertise into the group. Some will have more of an immediate impact, whilst others are about building longer term solutions and income streams for MAB and its partner firms and advisers.
I am a big believer in specialisation as typically adviser performance and customer outcomes are enhanced when dealing with a specialist. The businesses we have invested in recently bring significant additional expertise in protection, telephone sales, lead generation, and conveyancing with all these firms being massively consumer and technology-focused.
I believe lead generation in the intermediary sector will become far more competitive, with those securing and retaining customers earlier and more consistently during the research process having a clear advantage. Telephone advice will increase, although it nicely complements face to face advice which is highly valued and will continue to be supported by more streamlined and convenient digital processes. These are clearly areas of focus for MAB which our latest investments reflect.
Protection is hugely important for the customer and the intermediary, and although we consider ourselves to be strong in terms of protection advice, we continually seek improvement hence the investment in Vita. I see protection becoming progressively more important as an income stream for intermediary firms as the landscape changes, and an increase in specialist advisers can already been seen, and will continue.