Early adopters of digital tech gain a competitive advantage

by MPA11 Jun 2021

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak it has become clear that people’s relationship with technology has changed. And there’s no going back to pre-pandemic thinking as we all move on with the ‘new normal’.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a greater reliance on evolving digital tools. But despite its broad adoption, some have learned that it’s better for business to stay ahead of the game rather than play catch-up.

Early adopters of digital technology haven’t simply survived the last 12 months, they’ve thrived, which is forcing a rethink in the minds of many who previously assumed a conservative, wait-and-see approach to the take-up of state-of-the-art tech tools that have served brokers for years.

“One of the lessons learned from the pandemic has been: don’t rely on necessity to be the driving reason to adopt tech tools,” says NextGen.Net Senior Customer Success Manager Amanda Ray.

As the pandemic pushed business operations online, the adoption of digital tools and the need to operate digitally became a necessity. Yet despite digitisation reshaping the landscape, resistance to technological change has persisted.

“Change resistance is understandable because brokers confront so much change, especially when it comes to regulation and policy. I’m sure it can be quite overwhelming,” says Ray. “But if you wait for external circumstances, such as what happened during the pandemic, to take up tools that are already out there, you’re immediately on the back foot.

ApplyOnline’s electronic signatures and digital verification tools were available pre-pandemic, but they weren’t heavily utilised. It was only when restrictions prevented face-to-face contact that identifying customers became an issue and accelerated the move to the digital space.

“What brokers need to understand is that embracing these tools early on is the key to adaptability when change inevitably occurs,” adds Ray.

The primary objective of the NextGen.Net Customer Success team, which Ray heads, is to increase awareness of ApplyOnline tools and features as they become available by working with brokers, aggregators and lenders directly.

“The reason people don’t grasp change is often complex,” she says. “But if they know our training is free and will help them make the most of the platform, which in turn will increase their efficiency and speed, hopefully they will take advantage of the offer.”

NextGen.Net has invested heavily in building a training program for all new and existing ApplyOnline users and is dedicated to supporting businesses to make the most of the platform’s many time-saving features.

The NextGen.Net ‘ApplyOnline Efficiency’ training program is also CPD accredited by the MFAA, FBAA and CAFBA.

When the COVID-19 social distancing rules came into effect, NextGen.Net also pivoted its complimentary face-to-face broker and lender training sessions towards digital webinars.

Ray notes that training for lenders can be targeted and customised to their needs.

“We are quite open to attending clubs or clusters or coffee sessions. Our whole aim is how to make lending easy,” she says.

“Demand for the ApplyOnline Efficiency training program changed dramatically during the pandemic. We adapted the content to make sure it was covering key issues being raised in conversations with BDMs and support teams.

“We were in high demand as more lenders enabled their electronic signing and Document Verification Service tools in ApplyOnline.”

For brokers, embracing ApplyOnline’s tech tools can bring many benefits. It can help to create a paperless office (through supporting document management and online submission); support audit trails (showing customer history); support workflow through integration from CRMs; and allow brokers to order valuations when they’re needed – all within the platform to hasten approval turnaround times.

The capabilities of inbuilt tools within ApplyOnline create efficiencies that can liberate brokers to focus on ‘building their business’ rather than focusing on time-consuming, lengthy application processes.

“Some brokers who are averse to change will sometimes say it’s because they don’t want to compromise the personal service they offer. What they fail to understand is that ApplyOnline can only enhance their service, not replace it,” says Ray.

An array of ApplyOnline tools were readily available and on the market when the pandemic struck, but their quick adoption from the onset by both brokers and lenders helped boost calls for further digitisation of the mortgage process throughout the industry.

Ray says the feedback from brokers who used ApplyOnline tools to help them continue to do business during lockdown and restrictions has been invaluable.

“Many brokers spoke of it broadening their reach in terms of who they could do business with and the speed with which they can turn applications around so they can focus on the next one.

“The other resounding feedback has been brokers saying to me they wished more lenders had these tools available and asking me what we’re doing to encourage others to pick them up! This standardisation of tools available across all brokers panel lenders is something we strive for,” says Ray.