We caught up with Michael Aldridge, Innovation Director at L&C Mortgages, the UK's biggest fee-free mortgage broker.
Firstly, could you give me a bit of a background on L&C and what they do?
L&C were originally set up as the mortgage arm of Chase de Vere Investments in the mid 80’s. We were there to provide a mortgage service to their clients for a number of years, it wasn't until the 90’s that it scaled up and become a business in it’s own right. Chase de Vere was sold to Bank of Ireland in 2001 and L&C was bought out as part of the deal with the idea to grow and scale L&C.
Being one of the first companies that provided ‘fee free’ advice, L&C have always been ‘for the homeowner’ and a true innovator within the mortgage sector.
L&C now span 3 locations across the country and employ over 650 people providing free mortgage advice.
Can you explain your role as Innovation Director?
I have grown up with L&C. I joined L&C in 1999 as part of an intake of 6 sales advisers and held a range of sales roles from adviser, supervisor, head of protection then sales director - so until recently I looked after sales for 6 years.
During this I always wanted to improve the process; naturally your head goes to a place where if I could improve a part of the process, or replace a piece of technology which is currently manual not only would that improve the user experience, but increase revenue and reduce cost. Creating an innovation role would allow this.
“Innovation is the creative process based on insight” essentially sums up what I have done within L&C, bringing insight into the business. Looking at data, processes and importantly looking at client feedback and what is happening within the wider InsurTech & PropTech markets.
This role has been really well received and everyone at L&C is really excited having a team dedicated to this and challenging the business which, whilst at times it can be uncomfortable, they see the value of.
What would you say is a typical day for you?
Having 3 young boys means I usually get up early and start with a run or cycle through Bath into the office. Each working morning will start with catching up on tech papers and blogs, along with mortgage and protection news, questioning myself, are there any big articles or businesses to note that I should be aware of and take forward? I will then spend some time with the team to see how they are and the status of their projects.
I get a lot of people come to me with business ideas and propositions that they think will work in the mortgage industry, it’s a case of sifting and sorting these. No idea is a bad idea, it’s just looking to see if these will be relevant to L&C and their clients - we have some really exciting projects on the go right now.
What success metrics do you have for your role?
It’s difficult, especially coming from a sales background where either your numbers were met or not. This was one of the first things I thought about, we have to be careful not to just go out and meet new business, but we have to deliver something meaningful to the business and the board.
I have to apply a first line of filtering by applying the ‘so what’ factor, how is this product, or this piece of technology going to impact the business, or is this even relevant to the mortgage industry.
The success will be in the delivery of businesses into our business or projects that we initiate that will go on to be developed. Ultimately this is how the business sees us, and we see ourselves, being measured.
How much of your role is understanding the needs and wants of users to improve their experience, through innovation and emerging technology?
L&C has always seen itself as a consumer champion, so we would always want to be completely transparent and honest with clients, this is embedded in the fabric of the business and has been since day 1 - this culture and philosophy has come from the senior management team.
We developed a CDTR Analysis which puts the client at the front and centre of everything:
- Clients: What do they want, what are their frustrations, how can we solve their problems.
- Data: Effective management is impossible without effective measurement. I need data to see pinch points and problems
- Technology: What is technically possible? It’s all well and good having a good idea but not if the technology isn’t available.
- Regulator: What does the regulator allow?
Can you give us any insight into L&C's innovation plans, and how do you prioritise new features, or new ideas?
We have roadmapped 3 major event horizons, 2, 5 and 10 years. For each of these milestones we have depicted where we think the market will be and where we will be in that journey, we like to think we will be ahead of the curve and disrupting too - it’s a case of disrupt or be disrupted!
Without giving too much away, we have a real focus on making as much of our journey as online as possible. Are we looking at Robo Advice? Yes we are. Are we looking at elements of joining the mortgage and insurance journey together? Yes we are. This all makes absolute sense for our clients.
This is a journey the whole market needs to go on, this is all about customer expectations. People expect a seamless online journey.
We want the client to choose which route they go down, mortgage advice can be delivered by a human, or a robot, you choose. Ultimately, we want clients to be able to contact us when they want, how they want - that is our philosophy, to give choice.
What are your feelings on the PropTech sector at the moment?
Really excited, it’s great to be a part of it. I really think there should be a ‘MorTech’ subcategory, it’s so prevalent in it’s own right. Aside from Habito and Trussle you’ve got the likes of Purple Bricks, what they are doing is really exciting. Nested, another great proposition - these companies are really being watched closely and everyone is really excited by what is happening.
Do you feel the increase of PropTech startups like Habito/Trussle will be a threat to L&C?
No, we were aware of them very early doors. We massively respect what they are doing and really welcome another customer focussed tech lead business joining the campaign to move the mortgage process forward - we see them as an ally essentially, and if we can all push the mortgage sector forward, that will be great for everyone.
What advice would you give to someone starting a similar role to yours in a different company?
You absolutely have to have an open mind and be passionate about technology. Research, read, connect, follow, attend events and just absolutely submerse yourself in the tech world.
Michael Aldridge joined L&C in December 1999 having graduated from Bath University with a degree in Economics & Politics.
During his L&C career Michael has held several positions, working his way up from Adviser, Supervisor, Head of Protection to Sales Director – in turn giving him unparalleled insight to the intricate workings of the business.<
In his current role as Innovation Director, as well as reviewing all processes / procedures and analysing internal data in the pursuit of improved efficiencies, he is responsible for setting an ambitious innovation and diversification strategy, leading the team to generate new ideas and business streams.
Prior to his current role Michael was Sales Director for 6 years, during this time and under his stewardship L&C saw significant growth in revenue.