James Bloom

What does technology have in store for the bridging sector?




Technology will improve the way we work, but the bridging experience should primarily remain broker and lender-led.

As short-term finance moves into the mainstream, this vibrant and fast-moving sector is becoming ripe for all kinds of new technologies to be rolled out. But is this always a good thing?

Current technology trends in finance include artificial intelligence (AI) for customer service – as an alternative to human conversation – and the use of ‘robo-underwriting’ – tools that scrape information to speed up case assessment, processing and decision making.

For me, these are both problematic, particularly in the scope of the bridging market.

The use of AI as a replacement for face-to-face communication seems to strip away all that’s good about the way bridging lenders and brokers do business. The lender-broker relationship is, after all, a fundamentally human one.

I’m sure I speak for all lenders when I say that we work in a people-first business. At the heart of everything is the customer we are lending to. And in order for that to be achieved, we need an excellent, people-first relationship with our brokers – from discussing cases on the phone to networking at events and everything else.

Take away the human element and while you may have something approaching a streamlined, fast-track service, you’ll be missing the human component that drives everything through.

Robo-underwriting also seems troubling. How could an online tool accurately weigh up a complex bridging application? Intelligence, forethought, diligence and smart thinking?

It’s an exciting time to be working in the bridging industry. But I think those who feel that technology will help solve all its problems are a little misplaced.

The problem is not technology itself, but the type of technology that’s deployed. Use technology to improve criteria searches, upload customer documents and track case progress? Absolutely.

But use it to risk-assess a complex case and give informed advice? I think you’ll need a human for that.

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