“Technology is my passion and has always played a huge part in what I do,” says self-confessed IT nerd Matt Lowndes.
So when he was asked to become innovation director in April, seven months after joining Mortgage Advice Bureau (MAB), he knew he had landed a job right up his street.
Matt joined MAB on 1 September last year after working as managing director of London-based brokerage Coreco, which he helped found in 2009.
After heading up the company for more than a decade he left to become a business consultant in the propositions team at MAB.
“I started at Coreco 10 and half years ago and as much as I loved being there, I was ready for a change,” says Matt. “I wanted to be far more involved in the exciting technology coming our way and show other intermediaries how they could use it to improve their businesses.”
Change has certainly come in spades for Matt.
Finding the best in the business
In April he was given the more formal job title of innovation director with a brief to challenge the status quo and meet cutting edge businesses to understand what was possible for the mortgage industry.
He is tasked with being the liaison between the firm’s brokers and business partners and the company’s 50-strong technology department to make sure MAB is focused on delivering the most relevant solutions that will drive up business performance.
MAB’s CEO Peter Brodnicki is passionate about the benefits of technology. As well as building the company’s own technology he sees the sense in partnering with specialist companies to use the tech they have already built.
With this in mind, Matt is on the lookout for exciting companies that have developed new ways of doing business and seeking opportunities to collaborate with them.
The company’s vision, says Matt, is to act like a prop and fin tech incubator, guiding firms that are relevant to MAB’s long-term vision and helping them to grow their potential.
But having got up to speed with the company’s current projects and long-term goals the world turned on its head when the pandemic hit, temporarily shifting the firm’s immediate priorities.
Ready or not, when the government announced its lockdown measures in mid-March the mortgage advice community was propelled into home working.
The lucky ones already worked on cloud-based systems, had personal offices set up at home and had heard of Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
The unlucky ones are perched on the end of the kitchen table, working on a laptop, trying to join team meetings with a muted microphone while struggling to upload documents and advise their clients remotely.
This is where Matt comes in. As innovation director, his role is to help quickly implement changes that will enable advisers to overcome practical challenges, and right now that is working from home.
“A lot of ARs just weren’t set up for this,” says Matt. “So we have reordered our road map of technology projects and accelerated any of those that will help advisers to do their jobs at home.”
He has always loved technology, and remembers being fascinated by the new inventions on the futuristic television programme Tomorrow’s World as a child.
At school he knew his strengths lay in the practical subjects rather than academic. When he left, he studied mechanical and electrical engineering at Kingston College, then civil engineering at Leeds and Nottingham.
He likes the practical application of technology, how it can solve problems and make calculations easier. The practical rather than academic approach is the style he uses in his new job.
Having run his own mortgage advice firm, Matt says he can empathise with the difficulties of other broker business owners.
Before the lockdown measures were introduced, as a consultant he was meeting about five businesses a month, finding out how they worked and what their challenges were.
He explains to them what current solutions are available and agrees on their immediate requirements and finds out, if they could have anything they wanted for their business, what would it look like.
He then reports the feedback to MAB HQ to make sure the technology being built will meet firms’ needs.
“As innovation director, Peter wants me speaking to firms inside and outside the group, so I am able to challenge and widen our thinking and help influence MAB’s priorities.”
Although his feet haven’t touched the ground since leaving Coreco, Matt misses some of his old life at the firm he helped to set up.
“I learned masses when I was there and left some amazingly talented people behind which is a shame. Hopefully, I helped some of them grow and helped them to be where they wanted to be in my own way.”