The mortgage market needs to up its automation game, now more than ever

May 14, 2020

Richard Carter, Managing Director of Equiniti Credit Services, explores how adopting open technologies can help mortgage providers accelerate their digital transformation, improve customer services and boost their recovery in a post-COVID-19 world.

In terms of technology adoption, it is widely acknowledged that the mortgage market lags behind the consumer credit sector. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has highlighted the need for lenders to boost their automation capabilities to enable better digital services for customers, enhance their risk management capabilities and streamline their operations to aid recovery.

As the impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the country, mortgage providers deserve recognition. They have acted quickly to assist their customers in this time of crisis, granting payment holidays to a staggering one in nine mortgage holders since the UK’s lockdown began. But such unique and (almost) overnight demand pressure-tested lenders’ operations, with some customers complaining about being put on hold for hours, as staff grapple to support as many callers as possible. Official advice from UK Finance[i] has warned consumers that ‘telephone lines remain extremely busy’ and advises them instead to turn to their lender’s website as a first port of call.

Those mortgage providers that have already set out on the road to digital transformation have been able to perform better, communicating more effectively and offering their customers a level of autonomy through automated self-service facilities. As with any service sector, customers remember the experience just as much, or sometimes more, than ultimate benefit gained. Although no-one can yet say for sure what the post-pandemic world will look like, it is fair to anticipate higher demand for seamless digital services.

The mortgage market, therefore, needs to up its automation game to prepare for what lies ahead.

Encumbered by their legacy systems, mortgage providers need to think strategically about how they can bridge between their existing infrastructure and the ability to deliver new, consumer-centric service offerings, all while reducing costs to recover lost income. In this instance, finding the right technology partner can unlock a number of significant benefits throughout the entire lifecycle of the mortgage management process.

Servicing existing customers

As households begin to get back on track, those who took mortgage holidays will need to have clear sight of how their payments terms that have changed. Others may be looking at how they can release equity from their existing mortgages to support family or secure themselves against any future financial crises, some may want to switch products entirely to secure more stable interest rates. All these scenarios will create additional administration for mortgage providers already contending with outdated internal processes or outsourced servicing platforms. Integrating API-led technology into their existing systems will enable mortgage providers to simplify these complexities and reduce the operating costs associated with mortgage management through increased process automation.

With social distancing measures likely to impact human interactions for months, perhaps years, after lockdown has been lifted, we are also likely to see an increased demand for remote access and self-service environments from existing customers. Mortgage providers have been traditionally been slow to adapt to consumers’ demand for fast, online access to their accounts, which is the norm across other areas of the credit industry. Granting access to digital self-service environments, where customers can manage their own accounts and make payments will create both internal efficiencies for lenders and give customers added reassurance that they are in control.

By integrating API-led platforms now, lenders can also ready themselves to launch new, consumer-centric services enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and open banking data. Consumer research[1] conducted by Equiniti Credit Services pre-pandemic, found that just 40% of those surveyed said they would be unwilling to give a lender temporary access to their bank transaction history if it could lead to a better, more personalised mortgage rate. With only 12% saying they would seek the advice of a broker when their mortgage deal comes to an end, open banking data not only opens up the chance to keep customers once their current period has ended but also creates an opportunity for lenders to deliver, more flexible and tailored products. Imagine a mortgage product that could flex according to life circumstances offering holidays and flexible payment terms to suit different life stages.

Creating an end-to-end process

Such technologies can also support efficiencies in the mortgage application process. Currently dominated by intermediaries, who require lengthy face-to-face appointments to support applications, social distancing may see a move to increased remote application processes either as a result of extended measures or through consumer cautiousness. Open banking data, integrated via API-led platforms, could create opportunities for real-time affordability assessments, derived from bank account data, transforming the current admin and paper heavy process. Only 26% of those questioned in our research study said they would not trust AI tools to determine their credit worthiness, showing that consumer willingness to accept such services already exists.

Planning and remaining complaint

Any event on the scale of COVID-19 offers a chance to integrate learnings into future scenario planning. Having a contingency and risk assessment for pandemics and other incidents will certainly be on the agenda, both for internal stakeholders and regulators alike. We expect to see stricter regulations on lenders’ reporting practices. Choosing a technology platform that provides access to real-time data monitoring tools, as well as FCA-regulated personnel, can help lenders to quickly identify and responsibly manage risk and remain compliant the throughout the mortgage life cycle.

Finding the right partner

While supporting customers must remain the key focus, mortgage providers need also to prepare for what’s to come. With this in mind, the mortgage market can no longer afford to be behind the curve. Finding a partner that can integrate an open platform which is adaptable and flexible to accommodate in-house origination systems will be a key factor in post-lockdown preparation. This will arm mortgage providers with the tools they need to adapt to the new market dynamics, and launch competitive new services while remaining compliant with the sector’s regulation.

To find out more visit: https://equiniti.com/uk/services/eq-digital/credit-services/

[1]A UK research study of 2,000 UK consumers conducted in Q4 2019 by ResearchBods on behalf of Equiniti Credit Services and Credit Kudos https://equiniti.com/uk/news-and-views/eq-views/a-brands-new-decade/

[i] https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/press/press-releases/one-point-two-million-mortgage-customers-given-payment-holidays-lenders


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