Matthew Tooth

Innovation is the key to removing broker frustration

It's no secret that – of the various areas of financial services – the mortgage market has been slower than most to see the benefits that come from a greater adoption of technology.

This is something that we are keen to change by focusing on those areas of the process that are ripe for some innovation, for a fresh approach that will deliver a more satisfying experience both to the brokers we deal with and their clients.

That philosophy has borne fruit too, not only in the feedback we get from intermediaries and borrowers, but also in recognition from within the industry.

But what does innovation look like in practice? How can lenders adapt the way they operate to incorporate technology in a sensible way that will actually make a difference to the workloads of intermediaries?

This year has seen a host of developments on this front at LendInvest. For example, we have formed a partnership with ID verification provider Onfido, which allows brokers to confirm their client’s identity online simply by uploading a photo of an identity document – such as a passport or a driving licence – alongside a ‘selfie’ photo of the applicant taken with their mobile phone.

For so long the mortgage process has relied on paper forms, faxes and the postal service. As a result, it has dragged on, taking far longer than it needs to and causing frustration all round.

But this partnership is a good example of how we can use technology to do things differently, to deliver a faster and more timely experience to the other parties, without losing any of the security necessary in proving a borrower’s identity.

We have introduced a full online portal for buy-to-let too, with easy-to-use loan calculators to help brokers establish the borrowing range and cover criteria for a host of deals in a single place, while our link-up with technology firm Stripe means that brokers can now pay the valuation fee through our online buy-to-let portal as soon as the application forms have been signed.

Before now, this process had to be handled manually, reliant on a case manager calling the broker and then the borrower to sort out a payment.

This isn’t about technology for technology’s sake, which wouldn’t help anyone. But as a business that has been involved in property finance for a long time, we know only too well the areas of the process where small tweaks could make a significant overall difference by saving time, and as the old saying goes: “Time is money.”

And by talking to brokers about their frustrations – and where they feel the process is more complicated than it needs to be or slower than it should be – we can look for alternative options which could eliminate those irritations.

Alternative lenders are in a prime position to bring about this innovation. We aren’t encumbered by the legacy systems that act as a drag on the big banks and institutions. As the TSB fiasco this year showed, even when these big beasts try to update their systems, it’s all too easy for it to go horribly, alarmingly wrong.

It’s also important to emphasise that this isn’t about replacing humans with automated systems, but rather finding ways for that technology to share the burden, so that business development managers, underwriters and the rest can spend more of their time on the tasks where their expertise is best suited.

The job clearly isn’t done. There are still many aspects of the process of arranging property finance that could be improved. So, it’s vital that innovative lenders across the marketplace continue to embrace new ideas and identify where introducing technology can complement the skills of their workforce.

But it’s heartening to see that progress is being made. We have seen first-hand how brokers have responded positively to the changes we have made, recognising how they can help to reduce their workload.

Now we need to keep up that momentum. There’s no doubt that 2019 is going to be dominated by Brexit, but that doesn’t have to be the only story in town. Next year could be the year in which the mortgage market finally grasps the innovation challenge with both hands.


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