Data service propels brokers to next level

by Antony Field19 Oct 2021

NextGen.Net’s new head of broker partnerships Renee Blethyn has over 20 years’ experience in the finance industry. She talks about her role and the valuable data the tech provider’s Industry Benchmark Reporting service offers aggregators and lenders.

Renee Blethyn is excited by the power of technology and the opportunity to work closely with broker networks.

She began her career as a broker at a Destiny Financial Solutions franchise before working in various roles at Suncorp, Pepper Money, BankSA, Connective and St. George Bank.

Blethyn joined NextGen.Net, a leading technology provider to the mortgage lending industry, as its new head of broker partnerships in June.

“So this was a change for me, having started out as a broker and then worked for a lender as well as an aggregator in a couple of different roles some time ago,” Blethyn says.

“I’ve got a pretty great insight across all the different parts of our industry. What I didn’t have was the technology side, and that’s what really excited me about the NextGen opportunity.

“I just see this awesome opportunity with the way that technology is going to disrupt and change a lot of industries. There’s some exciting things that are going to happen for our industry, and I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about it.”

With her broad view of the finance industry, Blethyn says she has a different insight into how NextGen.Net can meet the needs of brokers and borrowers and ensure that brokers remain the channel of choice for the consumer.

So, what has impressed Blethyn about NextGen.Net?

“The biggest insight for me has been getting a full picture of the work that goes on behind the scenes,” says Blethyn. “The work that we do with lenders is 24/7, and the amount of time and energy we  invest with our lender partners helps us find efficiencies that are going to be of benefit to both the broker and the borrower.”

Blethyn is also inspired by NextGen.Net’s intelligence – its data and insights – and investment in future technologies.

“Open banking is fast approaching, and the investment NextGen.Net has made to make sure we’re at the forefront of that to help support brokers, aggregators and lenders is really exciting. I’ve also been so impressed by the people at NextGen.Net and the work culture.”

This includes providing wellness leave for employees to help them “survive and thrive” during the challenging COVID lockdowns.

“The culture and the values of the organisation are outstanding.”

Industry Benchmark Reporting

For the last few years NextGen.Net has been working on building market data and industry insights. More than 97% of all mortgage brokers use its ApplyOnline platform for electronic lodgement, and ApplyOnline processes seven in 10 Australian mortgages.

“The ApplyOnline platform processes over a million applications each year – an enormous amount of data which allows us to see the trends of what’s happening in the market,” says Blethyn.

NextGen.Net’s customers, both lenders and aggregators, gain valuable insights from its Industry Benchmark Reporting service into loan activity each month, including their own performance and how it compares to the market.

“What our report does is establish a benchmark point of view to help the broker group understand where their network is performing to market trends,” says Blethyn.

“Broker groups can also have visibility on how different lenders are performing, which helps them identify where the opportunities are to work collaboratively so we can all hopefully find some shared wins that deliver a better broker and borrower experience.”

Data insights

While benchmark reporting is shared with aggregators and lenders but not brokers, it does benefit them, says Blethyn. “It helps aggregator groups have a really informed conversation with their lender partners when it comes to performance with turnaround times.”

The service provides information on lenders’ investments in technology to improve the loan process for brokers.

“It also gives a great insight into those lenders that have chosen to enhance their process by taking up those technologies, for example eSign or the Document Verification Service or the Combined Industry Compliance tab.”

Blethyn says brokers who use lenders’ tech enhancements see an improved ‘time to yes’ performance.

“The data gives a whole view of all applications, so you can have a look at application flows across all of the different segments, different regions and LVR bands. That’s a huge amount of data, and, in terms of the insights, it depends on what the broker group or the lender would actually be looking for that’s relevant to their specific business.”

The information includes data on applications (owner-occupiers, investments, refinances, the self-employed, etc.) and lender performance (time to yes, time to conditional, time to unconditional), as well as key application milestones through to settlement.

“For brokers, it’s going to help improve that experience that the broker has for their client with specific lenders,” Blethyn says.

“From a market perspective, the value that it adds for a broker group is it gives them a really good insight as to how they’re trending against market trends so that they can support their brokers. It helps a broker group manage the needs of their brokers in however they want to drive and grow their businesses.”

The Industry Benchmark Reporting service is available to all of NextGen.Net’s aggregators and broker groups.

“Since I started in June, I’ve been in the process of engaging with our broker group partners to make sure they’ve got access to the reporting and have had the training to extract the information that’s really important to them.

“We’ve had really positive feedback so far, because it just gives another data source for those broker groups to have a visibility of the whole industry and how they’re performing.”

Enhancements to reporting

Blethyn says a recent change was the introduction of embedded reporting, providing information in a live format for broker groups.

“We update the information every 24 hours, and that enables broker groups to be able to see live what’s actually happening in their network.

“We’re always continuously looking to improve the reporting and the information that is important to broker groups, so we work collaboratively to make sure we’re delivering more value.”

The most exciting change to the service involves open banking.

“NextGen.Net acquired Frollo last year because we could see the opportunity that open banking and CDR [the consumer data right] was going to provide to enhance the loan process,” Blethyn says.

NextGen.Net’s intention is to use the power of open banking to inform the loan application process and empower brokers’ holistic relationship with their clients.

Blethyn hopes it will eventually eliminate the requirements to provide supporting documents, making life so much easier for brokers and borrowers.

“We can see how open banking can be leveraged to support the broker when they guide and educate their clients to get financially fit for the finance they need.

“And it’s not just for the loan application process. Open banking is going to really empower the broker to be able to manage and support their clients early, and ensure they stay as the channel of choice for borrowers in the long term.

“So it’s pretty exciting. It’s going to provide enormous benefits to everyone in the value chain, being the borrower, broker and lender.”

Challenges facing brokers

“Turnaround times are the biggest challenge for brokers to manage at the moment, including client expectations around that,” Blethyn says.

A range of factors affect turnaround times, including specific lender processes, the variance across lender policies and processes, and the constant changes that brokers need to keep up with, she adds.

“What we also hear is that it’s also the complexity of borrower situations which impact that, so it could be non-standard employment or complex investment structures.”

Given how quickly credit policies and loan products can change, Blethyn says brokers need to be agile and have exceptional communication skills to manage this complex landscape and ensure their clients are matched with the right lenders.

Changing technology

There have been a number of changes to the broker process, some of which are the result of COVID-19, Blethyn says. Brokers have had to quickly adopt new digital tools and change the way they interact with clients.

“We actually had some of the technology there waiting, and that was one of the positives that came out of last year: the take-up of some of these digital ways to make that loan process smoother.”

The tech tools required to calculate living expenses are important to brokers, especially with the amount of information they need to collect up front “to get a picture of the borrower and a feel for who might be the right lender”.

Blethyn says there are wins for brokers who work with lenders that have the best technology, because they have the best ‘time to yes’.