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Brokers’ business models must evolve to harness technology advances

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  • 05/07/2016
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Mortgage experts and software specialists met at London's prestigious Dorchester Hotel for a roundtable debate, sponsored by Capita, to discuss where cutting-edge technology could drive the mortgage market next.

Roundtable guests

Charles Morley, head of distribution (direct and intermediary), Metro Bank
Peter Brodnicki, CEO, Mortgage Advice Bureau
Ishaan Malhi, CEO and founder, Trussle.com
Mark Lofthouse, MD, Mortgage Brain
Maria Harris, director of retail mortgages, Atom Bank
Miguel Sard, MD, mortgage division, Santander for Intermediaries
Matt Lowndes, MD, Coreco Group
Andy Bickers, mortgages transformation director, Lloyds Banking Group
Alan Cleary, MD, Precise Mortgages
Tony Moroney, MD, international financial services, Berkeley Research Group

Capita sponsors and hosts

Jon Peart, managing director, Mortgage Software Solutions
Keith Green, strategic product director, Mortgage Software Solutions
Chris McGraw, business development director, Mortgage Software Solutions
Victoria Hartley, group mortgage editor, Mortgage Solutions (chairperson)
Samantha Partington, deputy editor, Mortgage Solutions
Oonagh Sheehan, commercial manager, Mortgage Solutions

Location: China Tang, The Dorchester, Park Lane, London

Fintech may be advancing at a rate of knots but unless intermediaries overhaul their business models to reflect the way customers wish to transact, they will be unable to harness its power.

This was the majority view at a recent debate, hosted by Mortgage Solutions, where 10 leading mortgage professionals discussed how the broker’s role must change as technological improvements leap forward.

Consumer behaviour is changing. If the industry looks outside the confines of mortgages to Uber taxis and online estate agency Purple Bricks, it can see examples of how quickly. Consumers are changing the relationships they have with their service providers, putting themselves in the middle driving service levels higher. This gives a clear indication of what will be expected of the mortgage market in just two or three years’ time.

Research carried out on behalf of Capita revealed that more 70% of brokers believe their firms already embraced technology, an opinion the attendees thought was misguided, as the industry lags so far behind other service sectors.

To stand a chance of remaining relevant in the eyes of the consumer, brokers were warned to ditch their preferences of how they wanted to work and consider, instead, how their clients wanted to transact and offer technology which was truly interactive – the same system for brokers and their clients.

Brokers’ current systems were criticised for having no relevance to the consumer. “You wouldn’t even turn your screen around to show the client what you have input, or to show them the progress of their case, the information would mean nothing,” was one comment. “Printing out the fact find to share with them is not interactive,” was another.

A key theme discussed by the attendees was how intermediaries must change their business models to put themselves at the heart of the consumer’s lifestyle, instead of their mortgage.

Constant personalised and tailored interaction on housing or the customer’s finances would create a relationship which drives the customer back to the intermediary for advice.Transactions may occur just once every two or five years, but it doesn’t mean the broker has not communicated with the customer for that period.

Appearing in the client’s life three months before they are due to renew their product, after not being in contact for at least two years, is an archaic way of operating, concluded many of the attendees. Instead, brokers should create valuable reasons, by analysing client bank data, to regularly contact their clients.

The march of technology is often misconstrued as the death of human contact. That everything has to be completely digitised is a misconception, says one attendee, where actually it’s about giving your clients a choice of communication tools and channels. The client could start by doing online research on the broker’s website, which could offer access to rates and house prices, or they can shortlist a range of products and then webchat with the broker to get advice on which is the most suitable. Clients may want to fill in an online factfind at 11pm at night in front of the TV, if that suits their schedule. The point being, it’s their journey, let them choose how to take it and accommodate them.

Start making changes

Intermediaries must shift away from the old ways of becoming absorbed in repetitive actions and administration and look ahead to how they can spend time being indispensable to the client. Mapping out processes to identify predictable and repetitive actions, which can be eradicated, will increase efficiencies. Brokers can shift their focus away from form-filling to advice and towards maintaining a foothold in their clients’ lives with regular updates tailored to the client’s house price and product choice.

Be crucial to your client’s lifestyle

Trussle founder Ishaan Malhi, says intermediaries should be permanently analysing their back book data, running algorithms in the background, to put their client bank to work. With the results, brokers can send powerful messages to their clients once a month with the current value of their house and if it has risen, highlighting if it would be worth them switching products to take advantage of a lower rate, or whether paying early repayment charges would outweigh the benefits. Brokers can message clients to keep up to date with any plans they may have to move house, and any insurances that fit a lifestyle change.

It boils down to keeping your client out of the clutches of the lender, says one attendee from a broker firm. The future lies with constant contact, not a call every five years for a remortgage.

Centralised hub

Maria Harris, director of retail mortgages, Atom Bank, says the development of an app which can join together all parties to a mortgage, in one central point could be brought to market inside the year. The app would allow customers to go to one site to get updates on the whole mortgage process. Brokers would have to be prepared to engage with the software, and use the app to upload documents and complete fact finds, as well as advising clients to use tech-savvy third parties, such as conveyancers, capable of connecting with the software.

However, attendees discussed the unwillingness of intermediaries to use an app on a mobile device for business, irrespective of their attitudes to using apps for plenty of elements of their personal lives.

Harris says intermediaries simply aren’t ready to make the jump to mobile technology at work.
It was agreed that brokers were making it far too easy for their role to be replaced by technology. Software exists already, which would allow them to be more interactive with their clients and their lives but without a wholesale shift in attitudes, as technology continues to advance, brokers risk getting left further and further behind.

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