How 86 400 started from scratch

Broker distribution head talks about how the pandemic accelerated the bank's plan to make home loans paperless

How 86 400 started from scratch


By Mina Martin

Launching something new prior to COVID-19 could have been a disaster but not for digital bank 86 400, which recently rebranded to ubank following its acquisition by NAB. For the new player with a plan to make home loans paperless, the pandemic turned out to be an accelerant.

What was formerly known as 86 400 only came out with a home loan product in late 2019, and this radical paperless application system suddenly made a lot of sense when the pandemic broke out just a few months later.

“The pandemic came along, where you can't see anyone face-to-face any more, and you have to rely on this,” said George Srbinovski, head of broker distribution.

The bank was able to pivot faster than most in other areas too.

Many of the current 15 business development managers on Srbinovski’s team, for example, were interviewed remotely and vetted for their “Zoom presence” because it was apparent that much of the bank’s sales activity was going to happen remotely.

“We didn’t have massive legacy systems where we couldn't work from home, so it really was amazing,” Srbinovski said.

With no models for success to rely on, Srbinovski opted to focus on a broker-first strategy and align with aggregators while providing a very high level of service to build the business.

“You can look to others for inspiration, but there’s no manual for how to start a bank from scratch, how to start a distribution channel from scratch,” he said.

Srbinovski said the product was rapidly accepted by brokers and customers, which showed “that you can be paperless and do home loans and still have that connection with the customer and have an amazing end product as well.”

86 400’s success was not overnight, Srbinovski said. With the pandemic as a tailwind, a lot of footwork went into building momentum.

“We were just getting out there and talking to brokers and getting onto aggregator panels and getting brokers accredited and getting them used to the way we do loans,” he said.

The bank is just starting to accredit more brokers and receive strong testimonials and feedback on how to improve the product. For 86 400, which is still at the growth stage, the momentum is continuing to grow in the current market as restrictions on movement ease.

“We are definitely here to supercharge our growth and increase our reach to more brokers and more of their customers,” Srbinovski said.

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