The pandemic caused much of the mortgage market to pivot
The importance of technology has increased starkly over the last two years due to the impact of the pandemic.
The pandemic resulted in much of the market effectively being shut down due to the restrictions, and as such, many looked to technology to plug the gap.
This has benefited the market as banks and building societies have seized the opportunity to update and improve their technological offerings in order for consumers to continue using their services, particularly during the height of the pandemic.
The Cambridge Building Society was the first of the non- current account building societies to launch a mobile app that customers could use on their phones or tablets.
“The strategy was to give customers more autonomy and the ability to self-serve should they wish to. It was all about giving customers additional flexibility and more control,” according to Trevor Tannenbaum (pictured), head of IT at The Cambridge Building Society.
He explained that the society designed the app to be simple and secure, easy to use and personal to the individual customer, so they could interact with the lender in the most convenient way for them.
Tannenbaum said the initial download of the app, when it first launched in late 2017, was low, but that number quickly surged during the first COVID lockdown in March 2020 and has continued to grow in the last two years.
“We are known for our friendly interactions and the welcoming atmosphere of our branches and stores, and we appreciate that many of our customers go out of their way to have those face-to-face interactions,” said Tannenbaum.
However, he explained that as soon as the government issued the national lockdown, this all changed and he outlined that by having an app up and running, it ensured the lender’s customers were not adversely impacted and could go on as usual.
“We also had the infrastructure in place to ensure that our customer contact centre colleagues could continue serving customers on the phone too, despite no-one being able to work from the office,” he added.
Tannenbaum added that the transition was fairly seamless and even though many of the building society’s staff are now back in the office and customers are able to venture back into the branches, he said the app and its online channels remain very active.
“For us it is about offering flexibility and control to the customer. We pride ourselves on bucking trends and being first in the market with innovative products and services,” he added.
As well as launching its app, Tannenbaum said the building society was also the first to move its IT infrastructure to the cloud.
On top of this, he said that, unlike many financial institutions that are closing branches, in January 2022 the society opened its first new store in more than a decade, in Bury St Edmunds.
“Many of our customers have come back into our branches and stores, and there is no doubt that many really do enjoy that personal approach, but our digital channels also remain very active, as does our telephone service,” said Tannenbaum.
He stated the society is continuing to develop its digital offering and is currently testing a management retention portal designed to allow customers to manage their account without speaking to anyone in the society.
“It is about giving customers more control and flexibility so they can manage their accounts how and when they like, either 24/7 digitally via the portals, face to face in branch, on the telephone, or online,” he added.
He concluded that the building society has designed its new systems to offer all the same options as online and branch-based transactions, while being simple, with fewer clicks and in real time.
“We realise that there is no one-size-fits-all and that customers want flexibility and control, which is what we constantly strive to provide,” concluded Tannenbaum.