Consistent with the famous brand identification of the multinational, multifaceted Virgin Group, Virgin Money Australia kicked off its recent entry into the home loan market with a focus on building “meaningful relationships” with its customers and industry partners.
Customer research conducted by Virgin Money revealed that heading the customer wish list is for lenders to stop viewing them as “just another number”.
The Virgin Money survey dug deeper and found a need to “feel valued” is a key factor determining a borrower’s choice of lender.
Accordingly, explained Virgin Money head of distribution Adrian Cunningham, a focus on establishing personal relationships and satisfying a borrower’s need to feel recognised and rewarded for the value they bring has been pivotal in shaping the company’s vision, strategies and mortgage product.
Teaming up with the broker channel was a given because it provides customers with the opportunity to engage in face-to-face interactions. It also replicates the model utilised by Virgin Money in the UK, which does close to 90% of its lending through the third-party channel.
“We don’t have branches, so the broker channel makes sense. Our research told us customers would value the opportunity to apply for a Virgin Money home loan face-to-face. There are good synergies between the service provided by mortgage brokers and Virgin Money’s commitment to simplifying money and delivering a great customer experience,” said Cunningham.
Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson started Virgin Money in the UK 30 years ago. Virgin Money Australia launched its new mortgage product in May. Simultaneously, NextGen.Net’s electronic lodgement solution ApplyOnline went live, a clear indication that empowering brokers at the point of sale, driving efficiencies and giving brokers maximum control is high on Virgin Money’s agenda.
“For us it’s always about going to where the strength is and making it as easy as possible. So NextGen.Net was it,” said Cunningham.
“One of the first things we looked at in terms of process and an operating model was how we receive loans. Brokers are familiar with the ApplyOnline platform and our principle is “keep things beautifully simple” for everyone. So it made sense to use the platform that brokers are most familiar with.”
NextGen.Net sales executive Greg Phillips said, “From day one their focus has corresponded with ours in terms of providing best-in-class solutions for the broker channel to drive efficiencies at the point of sale and reduce operational costs in the residential home loans market.
“From NextGen.Net’s perspective, it’s great to partner with Virgin Money because it’s a brand that people are familiar with and respect, and like NextGen.Net it has a reputation for being innovative.
“Up front, Adrian made it known that Virgin Money was looking for a technology partner versus just a technology solution.”
For Cunningham this translated as “customisation”.
“We’re actively working with NextGen.Net to learn how to improve the broker experience so they capture the right information and can get relevant information up front and minimise the amount of time they have to go back to borrowers,” Cunningham said. “It’s up to the lender how far they turn that dial.
“We’ve sought NextGen.Net’s guidance on what works best for brokers along the entire spectrum.
“NextGen.Net has a lot of great little tools. Almost as soon as we partnered with them for our base platform we started looking at their Supporting Documents tool. We’ve now signed up to introduce that, which will deliver further efficiencies for brokers and for us.
“We’re also looking at their online servicing calculator, which is a format that brokers are familiar with and takes us back to our tenet to keep things simple and clean.”
It’s been barely two months since ApplyOnline went live, but Cunningham says feedback from the back office and brokers is very positive.
“We have a couple of quirky little fields [on the loan application] that may be different to other lenders and could have caused problems, but our back office is giving us the thumbs up. So it’s going remarkably well,” he said.
NextGen.Net is Australia's leading technology service provider to the lending industry. It delivers solutions including electronic lodgement, supporting documents and loan processing to a range of banks, non-bank lenders and brokers.
ApplyOnline is the leading electronic lodgement solution for third-party introducers to Australia's largest network of lenders, catering for all types of loans.
ApplyOnline captures all the information needed to assess and process a loan application. It also provides point of sale document production, assessment and supporting document verification, and upload.