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Understanding brokers is crucial to getting mortgage technology right – Castling

by: Dave Castling, head of intermediaries at Atom Bank
  • 29/11/2023
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Understanding brokers is crucial to getting mortgage technology right – Castling
The residential mortgage market has slowly become more comfortable with utilising technology.

While the pandemic certainly played a role in forcing those across the industry to put greater emphasis on moving away from the pen-and-paper, labour intensive ways of working of the past, the truth is that some progress had already been made. 

However, there remains room for much greater improvements when it comes to making use of technology, improvements which can deliver benefits for everyone involved along the mortgage journey.  

What’s crucial to getting that technology right, though, is understanding how brokers work, what’s important to them, and building from there. 


The need for speed 

Speed has always been an important factor in the mortgage market. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a first-time buyer taking that initial step onto the housing ladder or an existing homeowner looking to remortgage, borrowers of all kinds want to know where they stand on the financing as quickly as possible. 

This has only become more important in the current market, where buyers or refinancers need to move swiftly in order to secure their new home or avoid dropping onto an expensive standard variable rate (SVR). 

However, for all of the talk from lenders about introducing improvements which mean that the process of borrowing can be sped up, the results have been somewhat varied. 

It’s something that we have taken really seriously at Atom Bank, and the response to our use of technology shows that it is making a difference. One broker for example said that they were used to waiting two weeks or more for an application to reach offer stage, and so the fact that their client had an offer from Atom as soon as the page refreshed on the application was a huge surprise. 

Another, who had struggled to place a case for a Scottish property at 95 per cent loan to value (LTV), was delighted when their client received an offer within 24 hours, stating that it was “refreshing” to get such a quick offer. 

Swift progress on a case is more than just something that’s nice to have, it makes a tangible difference for all those involved.  

For the borrower there is much less stress involved, much less time spent worrying over what the decision will be and what their alternative options are. And for the broker, a case progressing smoothly means they can spend more time with other clients or focusing on ways to boost their business elsewhere. 


Putting technology to better use 

These quick turnarounds don’t happen by accident, but instead through the smart use of technology.  

A big focus for us has been on the development of the broker portal. We have recognised that simply having such a portal is not enough – it has to assist brokers in getting cases placed easily and quickly.  

And central to doing that has been incorporating various automated tools, like automated valuation models (AVMs), automated income verification (AIV), which means that brokers can secure the financing their clients need much more swiftly. 

Of course, technology alone cannot do everything. The mortgage industry has long been one built around relationships, and there will always be the need for a human touch within that journey. 

It’s by combining that technological innovation with a personal level of service that lenders can not only stand out from the crowd but also deliver the best possible experience to brokers and borrowers alike. 


Understanding broker workloads 

It is easy for those outside the industry to think that all a broker does is pick out a mortgage for their clients and submit an application. Indeed, there are times when intermediaries perhaps believe that’s how lenders see them. 

The truth is rather different. We know that brokers spend an enormous amount of time on ancillary tasks beyond the application: chasing the valuation, getting updates on the progress of a case from business development managers and underwriters all take time.  

And it’s time that could be better spent serving the next client, or simply getting a break from the out-of-hours grind that is so common for brokers. 

That’s why it’s so important to get the technology right. If lenders can develop systems that cut down the time spent not only on getting the initial application in, but also reduce the need to devote so many hours to those additional tasks, then it can make an enormous difference and move the industry forward. 

It’s not just the client enjoying a smoother and faster experience, but the broker too. That can only be achieved if the lender actually understands the work of an intermediary and works alongside them to put the right processes in place.

But that trust and faith needs to be earned repeatedly, which is why providers should be determined to continue a relentless pursuit to speed up the mortgage journey and remove wasted time and effort for the customer and the broker. 

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