UX Insider Interview: Piers Freke-Evans, Head of Product at Dynamo Mortgages

Author Livia Thimotheo
  • Date June 26, 2018
  • Reading Time 7 minutes
Piers2

Can you explain Dynamo as if you were explaining it to my mother?

I imagine your mum compares her options when her mobile contract is up. She should do the same with her mortgage. By switching, the average person can save up to £300 a month. But we know it’s really hard to understand what is the best mortgage for you and what is the best deal for you. There’s a lot of friction. Dynamo’s mortgage experts make it super easy for you to find the best mortgage and to make the switch. We’ve put the easy bits online, and you get personal advice from a human. And we don’t charge you a penny.

What was the “eureka” moment that led to the creation of Dynamo?

Senior executives from the UK’s largest mortgage broker and a UK digital venture builder met at an event and got chatting about the benefits of a digital channel for mortgage customers who don’t want to have to pay fees or make face to face appointments to get mortgage advice. That was the beginning of Dynamo and the joint venture between Countrywide and Blenheim Chalcot.

You said there’s a lot friction getting a mortgage. No one wakes up thinking “today is a great day to remortgage”. How is Dynamo planning to change people’s perceptions?

Our job is to help you understand in 60 seconds how much you can save by comparing your mortgage options. In a month it’s real money, over 35 years it can be the most important financial decision in your life.

We’ve heard so many stories of terrible experiences of three-hour phone calls with bank advisors only to find out they can’t give you a mortgage because of some quirk about your home. There’s still lots of paperwork, scanning, faxing. We’re chipping away at that pain with technology and great advisors.

How many lenders do you work with?

We work with a panel of 19 carefully selected lenders which collectively account for nearly 90% of the gross lending within the market.  We pride ourselves on transparency and getting the best outcome for our customers. That's why we promise to let our customers know if we can see they would be better off sticking with their existing lender.

Do you work with specialist lenders as well?

We don’t offer specialist lending like second charge, high risk or bridging finance.

How is Dynamo going to benefit the mortgage market?

Our mission is to help borrowers navigate the maze of the mortgage market.  To do that, we are rebuilding the mortgage process from the ground up and putting the customer at the very heart of it, delivering a new, tech-enabled experience which will change the way in which people think about their mortgage.

With the backing of the UK’s largest mortgage broker, Countrywide, our customers can have confidence in our market knowledge and great relationships with lenders and the exclusive rates that go hand in hand.

Piers3

 Does Dynamo do user research?

Yes, absolutely! We have a bunch of customers who help us called Dynamigos. We meet with them regularly, conduct in depth interviews, beer and pizza evenings and surveys to test our hypotheses, gather insights and co-create new features. Understanding  our customers is absolutely crucial.  We need to understand what we’re doing well and how we can improve.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned?

We’re constantly finding surprising things - for example, that customers really value knowing that a human is on hand via webchat or a call to help with their application questions even if they don’t actually use them.

Getting a mortgage can take a bit of time. We’re all busy, and typically people like to do their finances in the evening. Kids turn up, you get distracted. In testing, our customers asked for an exit or pause and resume function. So that they can stop after 10 minutes and then come back to it and do the next section of the application.

We’ve also realised how much time people spend completing their application whilst commuting.  But it’s annoying when the signal gives up.  So one of our next features is the ability to have the answers saved locally on your phone and when the signal returns, the answers upload.

There’s been a rise of online mortgage services lately. How are you planning to stand out from the crowd?

There’s a rise because there’s a need. I wouldn’t say we are just an online mortgage service. We hope to be the best mortgage switching service where people can do stuff they want to online, but know that there’s a human mortgage expert available to them. The most important part for us is to listen to our customers and co-create solutions with them. By starting with the idea that all customers are different, we want to create tailored experiences for everyone depending on their circumstances and their financial confidence. So giving power back to consumers.

What was the most interesting thing that you’ve learned working for Dynamo?

That people can save so much money each month by switching their mortgage.

Piers4

I wrote the following question thinking you had a design background...

I look after product and the product team but all of us feel like we have ownership over the product and the customer’s experience. We’re all designers because we’re dealing with problems and coming up with solutions and we take a human-centred design approach to that. So whilst I have a product role and a software engineer sitting next to me has a coding specialism, actually we’re kind of all designers.

So then you’ll be able to answer this question. Designers love to talk about learning from failure. Can you give me an example of that?

We work in a regulated environment where we can’t risk giving the wrong advice to our customers so we can’t afford to fail for real. But we’re constantly coming up with ideas, and testing them in sandboxes. The biggest problems tend to be with APIs and integrations because they’re the most complex but we can always roll them back.

Talking about API integration, what do you think of Open Banking? Because it’s a great opportunity but also there’s a big roadblock which is user trust. They’ve always been told to not share their banking details. How is Dynamo dealing with that?

People are increasingly aware of their own data, my inbox was bloated with GDPR emails and the Cambridge Analytica situation was a real reminder to everyone in the age of big data. With open banking you’re not just providing your email, you are potentially giving someone access to all your bank statements. For us, it’s all about being very clear exactly why you need someone’s data, how you’re going to look after it and how it’s going to benefit them. So we need to be very transparent on the safeguards, policies and procedures we have in place to take the best care of customers’ personal information. If we’re asking a customer five questions to access their bank details, we need to be clear we’re giving them more benefit than the effort and trust.

What would you say is Dynamo’s biggest challenge in the next 12 months?

We see so much opportunity to create transparency and redress the balance between lenders and consumers. The challenge is picking off what will deliver the most value fastest. So for us it’s so important to be clear on who it is that we’re serving and how best we can do that.

How do you choose then what is the next feature that is going to bring more benefit?

One of my favourite tools are feature cards. In user testing we put different features or problems in front of customers and allow them to allocate some value or money to each. We let them decide our roadmap for us.

To experience Dynamo for yourself check them out at https://dynamo.co.uk/

If you're interested in enhancing your online offering then speak to the mortgage website experts at hello@dock9.com or call us on 0207 977 9230

 

Pictures from Judit Toth