Written by Matt Harrison, Sales Director – Broker Channel, finova
As consumers, the rate at which technology has transformed our lives is truly astonishing. Rapid improvements in hardware devices, the software they run, and the telecoms infrastructure they rely on have driven prices down and empowered customers, all while making life more convenient in many domains.
This was already happening at a rapid pace before Covid-19 accelerated the extent to which we use technology and in turn expedited consumer appetite for digital processes.
While the mortgage industry is slowly but steadily starting to embrace technology, it still lags behind similar financial services sectors and has historically seen a slower pace of adoption. If the sector doesn’t move the needle forward, brokers will struggle to engage with customers through technology in a way that meets their evolving expectations.
Demand for less friction
This is a dangerous place to be. A recent report by PwC found that frictionless service was a top consumer demand for 2023. With technology reshaping almost every aspect of our lives, it’s unsurprising that this is the case. People are interacting with digital tools on a daily basis – perhaps their number plate was scanned as they exited a car park, they used a digital wallet to pay for a coffee or rushed through the e-passport gates at Heathrow, to name just a few instances.
The mortgage industry can suddenly look a little slower when that same person is asked to fill in the same forms multiple times. Rekeying data is sometimes a necessary feature of the process, but it is a time-consuming activity and one which brings with it the potential risk of rekeying errors. Most brokers would prefer to spend their time and effort speaking to their clients, and technology can ease that burden, taking these admin-heavy processes out of the hands of both brokers and customers.
Augmenting not replacing
One reason why some brokers have not been entirely trusting of technology is perhaps the easiest to understand. That is the fear of technology replacing them. After all, the press frequently runs hysterical stories about artificial intelligence coming for our jobs.
But this fear is unfounded. Technology cannot replace the helping hand of a human adviser when it comes to giving mortgage advice. When a client is about to make one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives, they want to look another person in the eye and be rest assured that they are making a sensible investment. This is especially true in today’s market with many aspiring homeowners struggling to overcome the double whammy of inflationary pressures and rising mortgage rates. While this environment has heightened concerns about financial vulnerability, it has also made the role of an adviser increasingly important as they are in a unique position to help these borrowers with complex finances get the best deal on their mortgage.
Instead of replacing jobs, technology eases brokers’ administrative responsibilities with easier and faster processes that leave smaller margins for error. In loan calculators and sourcing engines, brokers have access to timely and accurate information at their fingertips, ready to pass on to clients on-the-fly. This is especially valuable when dealing with clients who require specialist products, such as self-employed mortgages or development finance.
Deployed on the front line, technology gives brokers the opportunity to spend time doing what they do best – giving advice and developing their relationships with clients – instead of entering, logging, and filing data.
And on top of making day-to-day processes more efficient, technology can help secure repeat business. A tool such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system will keep track of all registered client information and manage this for brokers, making sure clients don’t drop off their radar – especially during busy periods – and automating certain tasks, such as marketing outreach.
Brokers who are unable to keep up with clients’ expectations risk being left behind by their peers and they will face fierce competition from new entrants with a wealth of digital tools at their disposal.
But what some of these new businesses might be discounting is the value of face-to-face advice, delivered with authenticity and empathy. Implemented correctly, technology will give advisers more time to do just that and take care of all the heavy administrative lifting. Ultimately, digital tools are here to help advisers dedicate time to what is most important – providing good quality advice and streamlining the mortgage search journey for customers moving forward.