Ease of use beats cost in the hunt for broker technology – Marketwatch
While cost and reputation count for a lot, so does day-to-day functionality.
So this week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: What are your main deciding factors when shopping around for new technology?
Adam Wells, co-founder and director of Lloyd Wells Mortgages
When we were employed at both Which? Mortgage Advisers and a small brokerage in Bristol who were under the Tenet network, we used the Key by Mortgage Brain and we knew the software inside out.
Although it could be clunky at times, it worked. We knew that the client information was correct, we could do multiple applications at one time, the documents were held securely, the client portal was usable and the mortgage illustration it produced was accurate.
When we set up with a new network, we chose another provider. The software was dreadful and resulted in us having to re-key information across several different forms and software, rather than being fully integrated.
We then went with another network and this time, the software they offered was more important to us than when we first set up.
The network allowed us access to a practice version of the software that allowed us to input cases as if it was a real scenario. They also have fantastic video tutorials that you can run alongside to help with any problems.
When we were looking at different options, we wanted it to be easy to use, compliant with our network, and integrated so we weren’t having to input data repeatedly. Cost would have been a concern, but we’re quite happy to spend money if it made sense. We also like the idea of a client portal, although the quality of these can differ.
We also use Criteria Brain, primarily for the Affordability Brain. We were offered a 30-day free trial and it is so useful that we signed up immediately. We also like the ability to compare criteria. Yesterday I was able to check which lenders accepted professional landlords and HMOs with eight bedrooms. Vida to the rescue.
I’m now actively telling friends in the industry that this is a bit of kit that they need.
Darryl Dhoffer, mortgage and protection consultant at The Mortgage Expert
The key with technology is that it must be easy to use and once in place becomes a time saving tool, otherwise people will avoid using it.
Cost is always going to play a large part in the decision making but ultimately it must be of real benefit to the end user.
The next consideration is whether the new technology integrates with other systems we already use. There is pressure in our industry to be technologically advanced to keep up with the online mortgage services that are available. However, there is simply no point in taking on new systems for the sake of it, especially if it means having to key data more than once to achieve the results.
Over the past 18 months or so we have seen a shift in the way in which documentation is sent to us by clients and in the way we are asked to send them to the lender. There is fast becoming a need for a portal to make it easier for the client to provide these documents and this surely must be a consideration when building new technology.
Another consideration is that of the profile of the company providing the technology. In the past we have had many demonstrations of systems that have been built for brokers, but clearly by IT specialists, culminating in an unadaptable system that just doesn’t work.
We would shop around for as long as it takes to find right solution that works for us and benefits our clients.
Mark Pattanshetti, associate director at Largemortgageloans.com
The main system we use is Twenty7Tec, but because of the nature of the deals we do involving clients who make money on the internet a lot of the time they don’t fit.
So, we rely on our own research, spreadsheets, notes, conversations and an internal database. We also work with ex-pats who want a buy-to-let property in London. Putting that into the sourcing system we use, not all the options come up.
If I was a broker who saw more standard clients, then Twenty7Tec would be the system of choice. We also use the Legal and General Mortgage Club’s service where you can contact them, connect with operators who filter through potential options then they email a list of lenders that can help.
We also use Criteria Brain which is very useful.
Those are what I use the most.
However, because I’m familiar with private banks, I can still suggest potential options to clients outside of those systems because they typically aren’t available. Which is a shame as that would be very helpful so someone should come up with that.
We haven’t tested any other systems because of the way our research and compliance is set up.
Ease of use and the speed at which we can obtain information is a main priority when looking for technology, cost is not a problem as long as it works well.
Iress and Twenty7Tec plan green mortgage search filter launches by year-end
Iress said that it was aiming to introduce a green mortgage filter by the end of year, while Twenty7Tec said that it should be ready to rollout in the fourth quarter.
Mortgage Brain said that in the latest version of its online system, Sourcing Brain, released in the summer brokers could filter for green mortgages in its advanced filters section.
Green mortgages have begun to be more widely offered, with several lenders bringing out the products over the past year.
According to Moneyfacts data, as of the start of October there were 157 green branded residential mortgage products in the UK from lenders including Natwest, Virgin Money, Danske Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Leeds Building Society.
Residential green incentive products, which offer rewards for improving energy efficiency and so on, numbered 350 products with major lenders including Nationwide and Halifax.
Buy-to-let green branded products came to 95 with lenders including Landbay, Kensington, Keystone Property Finance and Foundation Home Loans.
Some brokers said that the lack of a green mortgage filter in sourcing systems could make it more challenging to find and recommend such products to clients in the first instance, which could impact their take-up.
Drivers for introduction
Iress and Twenty7Tec said that the introduction of the filter would make it easier to identify products and was partially in response to lenders releasing more green mortgage products into the market.
Nathan Reilly, head of lender relationships at Twenty7Tec, said that by using the filter, brokers would be able to easily identify available green mortgage products to benefit customers. He said brokers could offer financial savings or incentivise customers to make “necessary improvements” to properties during the advice process.
He added that lenders participating in the green mortgage space would be more “visible” and “potentially have a competitive advantage over those that aren’t”.
He said: “It is encouraging to see the industry and particularly lenders responding to a global challenge, and product availability is much higher than 12 months ago, but there’s a long way to go to improve existing properties that need to be modernised to be more environmentally friendly. Currently a lot of the green mortgage benefit sits with those buying new builds, which is only a fraction of mortgage stock.”
An Iress spokesperson said that it had decided to introduce the filter based on client conversation, who said in turn that their clients would find “helpful”.
The spokesperson added: “We have seen that lenders are putting out more and more products for this incentive, the filter will allow brokers to either not have these products in the search results if they are only for green mortgages, or filter so that they just see these products.”
A spokesperson from Mortgage Brain said that it had been working with lenders and industry bodies to ensure it was in a position to ensure brokers and lenders have a platform that gives “accurate and relevant information that allows everyone to make the right recommendations for the best possible customer outcomes”.
They added: “For us, ensuring that we have the relevant solutions to enable this is critical and we will continue to evolve our proposition to reflect changes in our market constantly, we are sure that there will be more we can do to further enhance how green mortgages are researched and recommended across all forms of research.”
Future mortgage tech could allow for individual product pricing – Reynolds
Speaking of how digitalisation in the industry might develop over time, the chief executive said he hoped to see more tailored mortgages in the next five years to give brokers time to work on the soft skills of the advising process.
He envisioned brokers going onto a sourcing system which would be likened to a bidding platform and entering client details. Lenders would then respond to say if it would be something they would lend on.
“As a broker you’re still looking for the same things such as whether it fits the criteria, but that bit at the start will get closer to individual pricing,” Reynolds (pictured) added.
While the offering may be tailored, Reynolds said there would still be some limitations to how fluid product ranges would be.
He added: “Individual pricing is what it might be called but whether it is actually individual is another thing. I’m sure there’ll still be 50 products coming from each lender.
“But instead of a broker saying it’s 3.99 per cent fixed for five years, the lender will come back and say it’s 3.98 per cent for this customer or 3.97 per cent fixed for that customer. We’ll get closer to that and open banking will help.”
Reynolds said: “Those things will allow the broker to do more of the advice process and more of the soft skills, asking what clients are trying to achieve and their aims. Then they’ll say, ‘let’s create the product that fits you’. They’ll create a product the client likes then put it out there and see which lenders are interested.”
Generally, broker technology was moving towards serving the needs of borrowers rather than addressing back end operations and data entry speeds, Reynolds said.
He said he expected technology which enhances the advising process to be developed going forward, especially in light of the thousands of criteria changes during the pandemic.
Reynolds also said the rapid moving market would lead more borrowers to brokers for advice and reassurance.
“Clients are looking at brokers even more than before. They want that comfort because of those changes, they want that second opinion,” Reynolds added.
While robo-advice has not taken off as expected in the investment space where there was just one product and one person in the process, Reynold predicted it would also fail to dominate the mortgage market.
“It was always going to be a lot harder in the mortgage space. You’ve got two customers and a property. So, you’ve got three variables moving around, how do you create the artificial intelligence to manage all of that?”
“I wouldn’t say the pandemic has pushed back robo advice because I don’t think it was getting the traction people wanted. But [the pandemic has] made people realise that human interaction is important,” Reynolds said.
MBT to integrate Iress mortgage sourcing
The integration will be launched later this month.
MBT said the combination would enable brokers to source by affordability, rate, criteria and even current service levels depending on their client’s priority.
According to its website MBT has 65 lenders available through its residential and buy-to-let affordability sourcing, including four of the big six.
In February MBT added a free text criteria search function to its affordability offering, taking criteria details directly from more than 100 lenders’ online guides.
Meet client priorities
MBT CEO Tanya Toumadj said: “This partnership with Iress gives brokers greater control over the way they research and source the best product for their clients.
“So, for example, if borrowing as much as they can afford is the main priority for a client, followed by controlling monthly payments, a broker can research affordability first and then filter the results based on the rate and monthly payment.
“Having everything in one place is going to make the process so much easier.”
Also in February, Iress announced a partnership with Knowledge Bank that integrated its criteria search facility into the Iress Xplan platform.
Dave Miller, executive general manager of commercial at Iress, said: “Access to comprehensive yet timely research is an important part of the mortgage process, with brokers required to consider a wide range of factors when making recommendations.
“This is where technology can help make life easier and partnerships such as this with Mortgage Broker Tools are great news for brokers, as they provide a way for providers to work together to improve speed and efficiency.”
Mortgage Vision 2021: Affordability Hub to be integrated into MortgageBrain Anywhere in Q2
The Anywhere function allows brokers to source and complete cases on multiple devices so they can submit applications remotely.
Speaking at the first day of Mortgage Solutions’ Virtual Mortgage Vision Masterclasses, Geoff Webb said Mortgage Brain needed to trial the functionality before rolling it out.
He added: “We’re working on bringing Affordability Hub integration into Anywhere but that’s not going to happen probably until the end of May or beginning of June. We develop things in Classic first, embed it in and make sure it’s all working correctly and it’s something that the brokers will use.
“Once it’s embedded in Classic then we will bring to Anywhere.”
Webb said there also were plans to expand the number of lenders on its Affordability Hub, especially those with more complex affordability assessment processes.
He added: “[Affordability Hub] works with the majority of lenders that do have calculators on their website or those that we can work with quickly and easily. Certain lender calculators will ask questions that are difficult to populate.
“In order to make sure that our results are as accurate as possible, if there are certain questions on lenders’ websites that are being asked that we can’t easily cater for, we won’t bring them on just yet.”
“But we are working with lenders to add more and more and to work around with the lenders to find ways around being able to ensure that the data we are passing through and therefore the results that we’re getting are as accurate as possible,” Webb said.
The Mortgage Vision Masterclass events continue live on Thursday the 4 March with a its presentation: Reimagined insurance technology that makes giving GI advice a no-brainer.
TSB first bank live through Iress’ lender connect system
Customer data is automatically transferred to pre-populate multiple fields on TSB’s Mortgage Pro through the link-up.
TSB piloted Lender Connect in July and is now expanding to more of its brokers.
The technology is designed to give brokers more time with customers through increased efficiency.
Roland McCormack, TSB director of mortgages (pictured), said: “We are thrilled to be the first lender of size to go fully live with lender connect. We are working with other partners and expect to be using automatic data transfer with the majority of brokers by early next year.”
Andrew Simon, Iress’ executive general manager – lending, said: “We are delighted that, following a successful Lender Connect pilot with TSB, this capability is being opened up to any CRM that integrates with Iress Lender Connect, not just Xplan Mortgage clients.
“Feedback from the pilot was fantastic and validated the time saving efficiencies and positive customer experience of a joined up mortgage application journey. We’re looking forward to seeing even more advisers, regardless of which platforms they run, take advantage of the benefits introduced by Lender Connect.”
Mortgage lenders made more than 160 product changes last week
Analysis of product data by Mortgage Brain revealed a 43 per cent increase in product changes compared to the previous week, and a 35 per cent rise compared to the average amount of changes over the last three weeks.
Some lenders passed on the Bank of England’s base rate cut, which fell to 0.1 per cent, while others restricted or withdrew products above 60 per cent loan to value as banks became unable to carry out physical valuations and process cases with less staff due to the coronavirus.
Mortgage Brain also noted a 25 per cent reduction in the number of ESIS documents being produced from the sourcing system in the week ending 29 March, when compared to the average over the nine weeks to 15 March.
Mark Lofthouse, chief executive at Mortgage Brain, said there had been an unprecedented change in lenders’ product ranges.
“We are in changing times with everyone in the mortgage industry being affected by the impact of Covid 19,” he said.
“The ESIS volumes have shown a marked reduction and we’ll be monitoring this and other key performance indicators closely.”
Twenty7 Tec added to Ekeeper CRM system
The deal will mean Mortgage Keeper users can access Twenty7 Tec’s Mortgage Source and Mortgage Apply through the system.
Through MortgageSource users can search mortgages, secured and bridging loans, equity release and later life lending products.
MortgageApply enables mortgage intermediaries to complete and submit applications to multiple lenders without re-keying client data.
David Bennett, commercial director at Ekeeper Group said: “Twenty7 Tec is the fastest growing sourcing system in the market and leads the way in terms of development and innovation.
“The team’s plans for 2019 are hugely impressive and we are delighted that our users will be able to benefit from both MortgageSource and MortgageApply via an integration with MortgageKeeper.
“Integrating the Twenty7 Tec solutions will allow our users to address the needs of their clients efficiently and effectively, with results of the research and documentation being automatically stored against the client record.”
Phil Bailey, sales and marketing director at Twenty7 Tec added: “With more demand for integrated systems in the mortgage world than ever before, this partnership proves both businesses are listening to the needs of their intermediary users.”
Tucker appointed Twenty7Tec CEO in senior management expansion drive
Phil Bailey, formerly director of intermediary solutions, has also been promoted to director of sales and marketing.
The Twenty7Tec intermediary sales and support teams have been bolstered with three new roles with the appointments to be announced subject to contract, including head of intermediary relationships, national account manager (North), and sales and marketing co-ordinator.
Melanie Spencer has been promoted to head of lender relationships and Hannah Oades joins the firm as lender relationship co-ordinator.
API onus on lenders
CEO James Tucker (pictured) said the development of its end-to-end application processing interface (API) process for mortgage applications Mortgage Apply was beholden to the pace of lender development, but added the next clear technology announcements were likely to be distributors picking technology partners, not lenders.
Jorge Monte has also been appointed head of implementation and delivery, with responsibility for the roll out of the company’s systems to new intermediary users, while Paul Bennington moves to the newly created role of training co-ordinator.
Stephen Smith, non-executive director of Twenty7Tec, said: “Twenty7Tec is about to embark upon a period of unprecedented growth. The board believes that these changes, as well as our ongoing drive to extend the size of our team even further, ideally positions the business to continue to deliver on its growth plans.”
The birth of a business – Knowledge Bank
I already had a successful business as a mortgage broker running Firth Financial Services. In fact, it was this that drove the birth of Knowledge Bank.
The experience of 13 years as a broker, with the frustration of finding the best rate for a client but then discovering the lender wouldn’t accept the criteria – and neither would the next lender on the list or even the one after that at times.
As every broker knows, placing more complex, or even less usual, cases can take hours – on the phone to the network or mortgage club help desk, and then to the lender or its BDM.
Initially Knowledge Bank was to be part of a larger Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. A knowledge sharing platform for brokers.
Originally called Compass, its aim was to point brokers in the right direction for their criteria requirements.
Having compared notes and shared frustrations with other brokers across the two networks I’d been part of, the idea was to have a system where brokers ‘bank their knowledge’.
We would all input information when we discovered a specific lender accepted a certain set of criteria, CCJs or a one-year self-employed case, for example. Everyone who input would have access to what others had shared.
The technical build
We started building this and telling people about it, but then lender BDMs saw it and wanted to be a part of it too.
This snowballed as almost every lender who heard about it wanted their criteria included and so Knowledge Bank was born – but we had no idea just how popular it was to become.
We originally thought it would be a small project. I advertised for an IT developer in May 2015, with an advert that read, “I’ve got a little project for a developer of a few hours per week.”
The head of my IT team often reminds me of this, as it turned into an all-encompassing project for up to nine IT staff at a time.
By August 2015 we could see this was going somewhere.
The increasing number of lenders led to more broker interest, and vice versa so Compass Systems was registered at Companies House.
Keep It Simple
The objective behind Knowledge Bank is to make it as simple as possible.
We know every mortgage broker is pushed for time, so we wanted it to be completely intuitive so searches could be done in seconds and no training was required to use it.
The design brief was “Fisher Price”. As with the toy brand, no instructions are necessary and the same ideology was important to us.
We knew it would save brokers hours but also wanted it to be simple for the lenders.
We have always been driven by the maxim ‘good for brokers, good for lenders and good for the client’ in every decision made.
So what did we learn in these early stages?
We learned that from a legal perspective, we couldn’t protect our idea and felt sure it would only be a matter of time before someone else saw what we were doing and entered the same space.
Key advice I was given was ‘be fast, be first’ so that’s exactly what we did, but to do that you have to recognise your strengths and weaknesses plus what others do best rather than trying to do everything yourself, so this was the bedrock Knowledge Bank was formed on.
Every day is a school day when you haven’t done it before.
You have to wear every hat in the business, be it product development, finance, marketing and IT, so I was quick to surround myself with experts in the various fields, from IT to accountancy, marketing to legal to help take the business forward.
Watch out for the next part from Firth detailing the birth of a criteria-driven sourcing system next week.