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Pioneering tech changes the game
There is no doubt that technological gains are one of the major silver linings of the pandemic.
Life for many businesses is now easier, faster, more environmentally friendly, more family focused and more efficient in terms of the reduction of repetitious work. The mortgage industry is no exception.
Australian Broker’s 2022 5-Star Mortgage Innovators report highlights the importance of tech in business, showcasing the companies at the forefront of innovation and the continued advancements in productivity that will undoubtedly help support even better business practices in future.
“We’re not only showing perfectly accurate serviceability results for each lender, but we’re educating the broker on each lender’s policy in real time”
Eric Dill, Quickli
A common theme of innovators’ stories is the fact that potential technical solutions that existed pre-pandemic, but that usually got pushback for reasons such as their cost or a vested interest in continuing with dated methods of operation, suddenly no longer needed explaining once COVID-19 made its impact. Their benefits were obvious.
One that we are now all familiar with is the remote meeting. Who could imagine life without it in 2022? In the mortgage industry, similar but under-the-radar stories of replacing manual processes with tech solutions abound.
“Our digital deposit bonds are an Australian first”
Etienne Rizzo, Deposit Assure
Innovations setting new benchmarks
Many of the 5-Star companies leading the way are small to medium-sized enterprises, continuing a long tradition of disrupting established players and setting new standards.
One example is the amalgamated lender service calculator interface known as Quickli. Founder Eric Dill says the single, easy-to-use interface that brings together over 20 different lender calculators saves brokers an inordinate amount of time. Brokers only have to enter client information one time, meaning they can use the extra hours generated for more productive tasks, networking and following up with existing customers to generate new leads.
Dill says the system bridges the massive gap that currently exists between inputting data into lender servicing calculators and researching lender policy manuals.
“This cuts down the time to narrow down lender options to a fraction of what it takes normally.”
Brokers find some lender calculators to be wildly inaccurate, but the Quickli tool returns results with 99.9% accuracy, says Dill.
The system shows the relevant policy for each lender based on the actual scenario that’s been input.
“We're not only showing perfectly accurate serviceability results for each lender, but we're educating the broker on each lender’s policy in real time,” he says.
Another unique innovation by a winning firm is the digital deposit bond developed by Deposit Assure, which provides an alternative to a cash deposit when purchasing a property.
Deposit Assure developed a fully secure and regulation-compliant digital bond that circumvents many of the problems associated with a regular bond. The bond is received by email and verified by an email address. Once approved, all parties can instantly access the encrypted bond with uniquely generated codes and QR technology to verify authenticity.
“Our digital deposit bonds are an Australian first,” says chief executive Etienne Rizzo.
The innovation cuts wait times to zero, which can be the difference between securing a property or not, he says.
Stress is also reduced. “It can’t get lost; there’s no security risk of the bond sitting in a mailbox, and no privacy risk.”
Like many innovations, the savings in time, paperwork and as a result of the general increase in efficiency for all parties means that Deposit Assure can support more customers at once with fewer staff. This translates to faster growth.
Rizzo says the company is continuing to innovate as it works towards a full end-to-end solution with the Law Society of New South Wales to change general conditions in NSW and ACT contracts to allow ‘digital’ deposit bonds as ‘originals’ that are currently restricted to paper-based only.
Such innovations are likely to become another indispensable tool, along the lines of electronic signatures.
Firms like Quickli and Deposit Assure are setting benchmarks for the industry and causing larger players to scramble for similar solutions (often unsuccessfully), yet both have staff of fewer than 25 people.
5-Star award winner Lendi is a larger firm but is also changing the game in the mortgage market through its pioneering use of technology.
A tangible example is its Approval Confidence technology. This helps borrowers know which products they qualify for in real time, and whether they are getting the most competitive deal. It helps brokers provide more certainty to customers and delivers incremental efficiencies to its lender partners.
Launched as a world first in 2019, the tech generates a real-time Approval Confidence rating that indicates the likelihood of a customer’s loan application being approved by multiple lenders but without impacting their credit score.
Typically, borrowers must submit a loan application and then wait for weeks before getting feedback from the lender, but the Approval Confidence system allows customers to ascertain whether they meet a lender’s requirements, subject to verification, in under an hour.
The pandemic accelerated adoption of Lendi’s tech, with the number of lender brands signing up to join the Approval Confidence panel nearly doubling in 2021.
“[Our system] saves significant admin time for agents, who like to focus on selling and customer relationships”
Ben Taylor, Oxygen Home Loans
Targeted tech solutions
The common thing about these innovations is that they seek to solve a problem in the market that established players are often yet to realise is a problem.
Other innovations have more specific market applications but are equally important.
5-Star innovator Oxygen Home Loans worked with McGrath Real Estate to create an automatic referral system for customers to find a finance broker. Customers were having to proactively ask real estate agents for a broker introduction, which did not work well due to the agents’ main focus being on selling the property rather than arranging the finance.
Oxygen managing director Ben Taylor says this manual referral was small and inefficient. In 2021, Oxygen built a full interface into the McGrath CRM solution, involving a free SMS web app under the McGrath brand that allows customers to self-serve items about the property.
“Customers can order a sales contract, building and pest reports, and of course, get their finances approved with Oxygen,” says Taylor. “This saves significant admin time for agents, who like to focus on selling and customer relationships.”
Property appraisal requests accruing from open inspections can also be tracked, which often leads to future listings from attendees who want to sell their own properties.
“Most agents find it practically difficult to have a well-rounded conversation with each attendee at an open for inspection,” says Taylor.
Using technology this way to marry processes in the real estate and mortgage environments removes inefficiencies and automates lead generation in many cases.
Other 5-Star Mortgage Innovators such as Rate Money have used technology to solve issues for existing self-employed clients who were threatened with foreclosure on their loans as a result of pandemic-related impacts.
The system also allowed new clients to still be able to borrow if they could prove their business was suffering as a result of COVID but steps were being taken and new initiatives being implemented. Like many companies, it also reduced the use of paper-based applications.
In the post-pandemic world, companies that insist on manual methods such as paper applications are rapidly becoming synonymous with inefficiency, waste and slowness. We may not have realised it in 2019, but a lot of legacy systems were holding back growth and placing downward pressure on profit.
Now the genie is out of the bottle, there is no turning back. It will be companies such as the 5-Star Mortgage Innovators that the industry will turn to for inspiration.
Even more exciting is the fact that the wave of innovation over the last few years has created its own momentum, and we can expect further improvements to make our lives easier, our use of time more productive, and our bottom lines more resilient.
- ING Bank (Australia)
- Newcastle Permanent Building Society
- 86 400
- Empower Wealth Mortgage Advisory
- Loan Market
- Shore Financial
- Deposit Assure
- Simplicity Loans & Advisory
In February 2022, the research team invited lenders, aggregators, brokerages and service providers from around Australia to submit a nomination, including details of the steps they had taken to introduce innovations in the mortgage industry. Companies were encouraged to focus on their new initiatives and results achieved in the calendar year 2021.
The team objectively assessed each entry for detailed information, true innovation and proven success, while also benchmarking it against the other entries to determine the 5-Star Mortgage Innovators of 2022.