Embracing technology will mean a better experience for borrowers

A new year means a fresh start, a chance to make some positive changes to the way you operate.

Embracing technology will mean a better experience for borrowers

Barney Drake is chief executive of Specialist Mortgage Group

A new year means a fresh start, a chance to make some positive changes to the way you operate.

That’s as true for businesses as it is for individuals, and at Specialist Mortgage Group (SMG) we are determined for 2021 to be a year hallmarked by the greater implementation of technology.

One of the big lessons of 2020 has centred on the way that we use technology. Businesses in all sorts of industries have been forced to adapt, to lean on technology more just to keep the doors open, and the second-charge mortgage market is certainly no exception.

But technology can and should be far more than just a way of keeping heads afloat during an emergency.

Investing in technology is nothing new at SMG. We’ve always taken great pride in the way that we have backed new systems and developments that can improve the way we work, and we know from the feedback that we get from our introducers and customers that has made a big difference to their experience.

But we can’t afford to rest on our laurels - technology doesn’t stand still, after all.

First there are the internal processes, the ways that we can utilise technology to support our in-house advisers. API technology has been a positive first step in speeding up the way that customer data is submitted, but should be viewed as just the beginning, a taster of what’s possible.

We want to do more with Open Banking for example, allowing it to pick up some of the slack and ensuring that the days of manually verifying the net pay of a borrower are in the past.

Any second-charge business worth its salt spends a lot of time and effort on their recruitment, building the best possible in-house team.

So why wouldn’t you put the infrastructure in place that ensures they spend as much time as possible on putting that expertise to use, rather than devoting hours to running the rule over bank statements?

Technology can ensure a higher standard of advice is provided too. We have developments in the works which will bolster the information included in the provision of debt consolidation, which I believe will take us to a level seldom practiced elsewhere, while a new term-analysis tool will help us highlight exactly what savings are possible from consolidating over different terms.

By arming our advisers with a more rounded toolkit, we can ensure that customers benefit from the best possible guidance, boosting not only their financial position but also their satisfaction from the borrowing process itself.

There’s more to technology than simply the ability to run calculations and spit out scenarios though - it can level up the way that we communicate, whether between different departments or with our introducers and customers.

We have introduced a flow-process system, ensuring that staff are automatically notified as soon as specific set tasks are completed, from the issuing of paperwork to the collection of that paperwork by couriers, from the underwriting to the valuation being signed off.

This system doesn’t just speed things up - though that’s an obvious and welcome benefit from it - but it also gives us a much greater insight into precisely what areas of the business are working well, and where things have room for improvement.

This system shouldn’t be confined to within our four walls either - we have plans in place to bring both customers and introducers into the fold and keep them entirely up to date with progress through the key stages of the customer’s application.

After all, an introducer’s interest in their client doesn’t finish the moment they bring the client to us, so they should be kept in the loop on what’s happening with a case.

For too long, people within the property finance industry have been reticent about technology, hesitant to introduce it in favour of leaning on the old-fashioned, ‘traditional’ processes.

And the truth is that this hesitancy all too often led to a clunky, frustrating experience for customers.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Incorporating technology in the right areas can mean it takes on some of the heavy lifting, freeing up staff to spend their time on the tasks where their expertise is most valued and ensuring that funds arrive in our customers’ hands much more quickly.