Can you explain Eligible.ai as if you were explaining it to my mother?
We are a technology company that is trying to make the mortgage space easier for all the stakeholders, whether it's lenders, customers or advisers. We approach the mortgage process from the customer’s perspective and then build solutions for businesses, so they can better serve these customers.
Our first product, Mortgage Screen, makes the process of retention much more straightforward than it is today. For advisers, retention should be easy business; these are customers that they know and trust them. However, it's still taking advisers several hours to retain a customer, when it should be taking minutes. Mortgage Screen solves this by harnessing advisers’ existing customer information in order to track analyse, monitor and contact customers on their behalf. Mortgage Screen allows a customer to log into a collaborative online space; where they can work alongside their adviser to get through the process more quickly.
Why do you think that now is a good time to disrupt the mortgage market?
I don't really like the word disrupt. We call ourselves technology enablers.
For over a decade now, mortgage technology has been overly focused on the “back office”, to account for changing compliance and regulatory requirements. However, as we have seen in every other industry, technology is placing a greater emphasis on customer-led approaches and the mortgage market needs that as well. Two recent phenomena confirm that it’s the right time for the brokers to focus on improving their “Front office”, customer-facing technology.
The first is that lenders have frankly upped their game and product transfers technology is improving. That's a real threat for advisors, and it becomes more difficult for them to maintain long-term customer loyalty. Secondly, digital challengers are offering a new proposition to consumers, which is convenience. Today, customers expect convenience; and over time, convenience is equated to a trusted, high-quality service.
Mortgage Screen is a tool that allows advisers to offer the same level of convenience as Lender’s product transfers and the so-called “robo-advisers”, so that they can maintain their high-quality service offering to end-customers.
Some people get incredibly skeptical about AI, and others get excited about the opportunities. How do you manage expectations around that?
One of the reasons that AI has generated an adverse reaction is that some digital challengers have weaponised digital innovation to discredit traditional advisors and lenders. We completely disagree with that. We stand on the side of the experienced incumbents in this market, and we think they're irreplaceable.
However, we do believe there is room for improvement on the tools being used. When assessing any new technology; the question we need to be asking is: "can these are tools assist you in doing your job more easily?"
How is the reception amongst brokers?
Something I'm very proud of at Eligible is the feedback about our approach. We are viewed as a firm that genuinely listens and tries to understand problems. That, for us, is a milestone in itself. With regards to the product, the feedback is that Mortgage Screen reduces a lot of the friction in retaining a client. There's a lot of extremely mortgage advisers that want to do their job well and are constrained by their internal processes.
So firstly, they really like the idea of being freed up to effectively do more of what they're good at which is giving advice. And not be burdened by admin and compliance.
And second, advisers find Mortgage Screen easy to use and simple. That has been the cornerstone of what we're trying to do. Eligible as a business is continuously focused on understanding the complexities and making them simple.
How do you get the end user to share their financial information online (Open Banking) without scaring them off?
It goes back to my talk during the Dock9 Mortgage AI event. Innovation doesn't work without trust. It will take time for people to get comfortable with sharing their banking data, but eventually, it will become the norm. The phase we're in right now is similar to where online card payments were six to seven years ago. You did not give your credit card details to a small independent website. But you were comfortable with large retailers. Because those large retailers you trusted.
People will have varying degrees of success when they employ Open Banking. But the core has to be 'Do you have the trust of the customer?' If you have that trust, then you're best placed to try to get them to use these technologies. In the long-run, open-banking will add value and simplify the process. But the adoption curve will be slow.
What is the most interesting lesson you've learned so far?
We spent a lot of time interviewing lots of brokers - and we asked them "Tell me about your day? What's the first thing you do? What's the last thing you do?” And everything in between.
The pattern that emerges is that brokers today live across many “systems”. Some of these “systems” are obvious, such as emails, CRMs and sourcing tools. But then there are less obvious, but equally important “manual systems” that Advisors. For example, an excel sheet that an advisor creates to track their customers (i.e. hotlists). Other “manual system” might be post-it notes and finally the trusted notebook. It quickly became evident that an advisor must jump across numerous systems to do their job. The solution had to allow advisors to “live in one place” and furthermore the customer needed to live there as well.
Mortgage Screen has always been about creating this living workspace – where people could collaborate, so you didn't need seven different “systems” to progress the conversation with your customer. We’ve consolidated all of that into a single system; which automates a lot of the process and uses collaboration between customers and advisors to drive efficiencies.
What was the biggest challenge?
Navigating sales processes. This is financial services, and it's also the most significant decision that a customer is going to make. This is a debt that follows them their entire life. So as a business we take compliance and regulation very seriously. Our challenge is developing solutions that automate it.