We don't see Trussle and Burrow as direct competitors because we think that the industry is larger than that. We're not measuring ourselves as to how Trussle or Burrow are doing. We're not worried by that because the opportunity is a lot larger. The opportunity for us to even capture, like, 1% of the mortgage market per year is billions of pounds. I like that other people are looking at these challenges and there's definitely room for three, four new companies to be looking at it.
We’re going see a lot of fintech, proptech, instech [companies] partnering with each other to build up working relationships where together they'll be as powerful as incumbents such as Santander, Nationwide, Haliax etc.
We're not worried about competition, but there's still a long way to go on prop and fintech. A huge opportunity if you make it.
I actually had a question about the difference between Habito and Trussle, because when I was doing my research both seemed very similar, so I thought you two would be direct competitors.
Like I said, both identified that there's an issue. Both said "hey, here's an opportunity to grow a really big, strong company that can take on a very challenging problem" and go out and seek to fix that problem and not just sit back and let the status quo. I think both come from personal experiences. Dan founded this company because he had a hard time getting his mortgage and nearly lost his house because of that. From his experience in tech he though "this is wrong, this should be solved, why are we still faxing bits of paper to each other?". To have other people to identify the same problem as well and look at it slightly differently is great.
But I think one of the things we're approaching differently is that we're directly authorised by the FCA. We have a direct relationship and authorisation by them. Whereas Trussle is an appointed representative for the Mortgage Advice Bureau. So their authorisation sits with another company and they feed into that. There's also a difference in terms of partnership. They partner quite a lot with Zoopla whereas we want to build a brand around home and life. Like I said: we're solving problems in slightly different ways.
One thing we're looking at is that we totally believe it could automated. A lot of this can be automated. If you're looking at remortgaging why can't you just go online or get an email with something that says "here's the best deal for you, click here to remortgage" and you click and it's done. That seems like a no brainer.
Over 90% of our customers prefer live chat, because they can do it at their own pace. On their phone, while they are walking to work. The biggest competitor is what is there as incumbent. Not the two guys that are starting. There's no point fighting that fight.
Where do you go for inspiration. Do you get to design a lot in your role as VP of Product?
I do, actually. I talk a lot about work, about design, but I actually design a lot. Coming from a UX background, I'm very strong on thinking about customer-focused design and psychology and how and why people use technology. What initially inspired me to get down this career route was annoyances with technology and thinking "there must be better ways to get me to my goal". As part of my role I do a lot of UX design as well, possibly around 30% of my week will be sitting with Sketch building pages, flows, wireframes, talking with designers, working with engineers to see what's possible, doing what you'd consider more of a UX role.
In terms of inspiration I use Medium quite a lot and I follow quite a lot of tags around design and UX, inspiration, business, AI, behavioural economics, psychology. Things that are not directly design related I think probably influence me more than the actual design.
Being a power user of products I think is very important for inspiration. I'm not just doing the thing I want to do, I'm asking "what happens if I go down there and how do they handle that bit and what is three levels deep in the navigation. What is their onboarding flow?” Looking at how everybody else is doing it and reading reviews, seeing videos and looking at feedback on people actually using products is a big inspiration. You can avoid some pitfalls. Being involved and reading loads is probably the best thing.
Which research methods do you use at Habito to understand users' needs?
Before I actually started, we got invited to a research group that Habito put on. There was a room full of people with three conversations going on with three groups of people all talking about mortgages. We had to sit behind a dark glass, like in CSI and listen to these people talk about mortgages. We got really good detailed reports back from these psychologists who said "these are your user types. These are their problems, these are their pitfalls. This is the issues that they see. Now you need to build a brand around that". So my first introduction was very deep into research.
We base a lot of what we do on that research and we continue to review that to make sure it's still relevant. For a more products point of view, we run lots of user testing. We use online user testing like Usertesting.com where we give tasks and get them to rank and give feedback on. We put our new brand out and asked them to compare us against other mortgage brands and get feedback on that. It helped us to refine our brand. We do product onboarding journeys with questions such as "Do people understand the questions? How does that form make you feel? What if you wanted to save it and come back later?". So we give people quite a lot of tasks.
We're designing a product and an experience for people who are in a heightened emotional state. "I'm moving in with my partner and buying a house for the first time. My son is going to college, I'm remortgaging to pay for it" or even the other way, "I'm getting divorced, I need to move out and I need to downsize." We need to understand how we design around that and the element of fear is very important. So from a user testing point of view it's very hard to say "imagine you're getting a mortgage".
But one thing that we have which is great is first-line contact with our customers. So when they come through the Habito journey, once they've done the AI part, the chatbot part, they're actually talking to people. We've built up a very good relationship with the mortgage experts to deliver engineering feedback, direct feedback from customers. We have very open feedback channels on Slack where we put our NPS score (Net Promoter Score, measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company's products or services to others), our Trust Pilot scores in there. We're very good at holding up our hands and being accountable. A lot of feedback comes from current users as well. I never worked anywhere where there's such direct connection with our customers.
There's the initial research and then the continual product feedback that we get from testing, which is pre-release. When it's live, how do people navigate when it's live. Because it's always different in lab to when you put it live. I'd rather put something live and iterate on it then spending 9 months building what we think it's the perfect thing and then launching it. Because we're in a such a fast-moving industry, that you need to be pushing things continually forwards and not waiting.
Even our broker experts can get the engineering team to fix problems in 20 minutes, whereas before, when they were in more traditional businesses, they'd have to file a ticket then it would be 2 years later that they'd get that change.
We treat our team as customers too and all their feedback goes to making things better.
How do you tackle the challenge of selling Habito to more senior users, if you have this problem? They often prefer to talk to a person on the phone.
Our target demographic is people who need a mortgage and sometimes people who are older don't need a mortgage. If you're 65 and you're looking for a 20 year mortgage, you'll probably not gonna get it. Because there are different rules about lending into retirement. But then it comes back to how do we educate people when that is the case. So we do a lot of education as you go through the journey. If our chatbot picks up that you'll be lending into retirement, we'll talk about the implications of that, we'll get you prepared about what documents you'll need. We're trying to make it easy for people to understand. We're making things large enough to click and not miss. Stuff like that. But we do tend to find that our main demographic is probably between late 20s to late 40s. They don't have a problem with technology like with seniors. it's a very different paradigm designing something for someone who's 75, but they're not the ones getting a mortgage.
We do however have to deal with people who are technophobes, essentially, and that doesn't have to be older people. One of the things you mentioned in that question is the use of telephony. We're not against to talking to people on the phone. If people would rather call, we'll pick up the phone. We will guide them then through the forms and the application process online. Because, at the end of the day, we need your data in the computer one way or another. It's not the greatest use of our expert's time to be filling that form in for you. So we will help you do that on your own. But if you'd rather talk to someone that's not a problem. We're not egotistical to it being online, we're interested in being customer-centric.
What piece of advice would you give any young aspiring designers?
One thing that helped me is to not take feedback personally. You will put your blood, sweat and tears into what you do. You should give everything into what you design. But when someone is giving you feedback and subjective, it's not a dig on you. It's not an attack on you personally. At an agency I used to work, when I interviewed there, a guy said "We are going to argue about work, we are going to have tense moments. But I'm not arguing against you, I just want the work to be better". That kind of ethos is really important.
Being involved in the industry, going to meetups, getting involved, going to talks, learning from peers, building a mentorship network is really important. Having people who've been there and done that you can question is always really important. Using products but also reading books that are completely non-products or design-oriented. When you think of UX, a lot of that is psychology. So understanding human needs. Books like Sapiens or Homo Deos or Daniel Kahneman. Not related to UX, but in the realm of psychology, of people. Because essentially you're building products for people. So you need to understand how people work with technology. Actually sometimes technology might not be the best solution. How can you build something manually? Like those Amazon buttons to reorder washing powder. It's a digital thing but it's a physical product. Looking for inspiration on non-traditional sources is really important.
In the last couple of years getting into design and UX has become a lot tougher. We're hiring at the moment and we see a wide range of experiences and quality of portfolios. Things for me that make a portfolio stand out is not just the design it's how you used design to solve a problem. If your designs aren't solving a problem, they're art, which is very different from building a product. Just because something is beautiful, doesn't mean it's usable.