One of Australia’s biggest banks has made a $16.5 million strategic investment in digital mortgage service uno.
Big four bank Westpac has invested in the young mortgage platform, one of several new fintech platforms that are disrupting the mortgage broking industry, which launched in May to help “redefine how Australians buy or refinance their home”. The $16.5 million investment is said to be one of the largest Series A raises in Australian history.
The website offers customers more hands-on power to the home loan search process, and direct access to similar technology and information that traditional mortgage brokers use. uno.’s offering also includes support and advice for customers via chat, phone and video.
Founder and CEO of uno., Vincent Turner, said that since the platform’s launch, “thousands” of registered customers have used the platform to compare “more than $400 million worth of mortgages”.
According to Westpac’s chief strategy officer, Gary Thursby, the investment decision was taken after the bank noted uno.’s “impressive” success and “its potential to become a serious player in the home loan market”.
“Westpac has been involved since the concept phase [of uno.],” Mr Thursby said, “and today we’re pleased to announce we will increase our involvement in uno. as a strategic investor”.
He added that the bank was “proud of its reputation as a supporter of early stage fintech companies like uno that drive digital innovation and benefit Australians”.
uno.’s Mr Turner highlighted the disruptive nature of the platform, saying it “challenge[s] the status quo by giving customers the ability to search, compare and settle a home loan in the one place, which has proven extremely useful for busy professionals”.
Mr Turner added: “We knew from the start that by creating a platform with direct visibility to lenders’ products and pricing, we could give Australians greater control over the home loan process and the confidence to achieve the best home loan deal.
“With the healthy investment we need to drive the company forward, we are excited to keep expanding and help more people get a better home loan.”
Platforms such as uno., Hero BroKer, and Joust, have descended on the mortgage market in recent months, eager to establish themselves as legitimate distribution channels.
However, some mortgage brokers have staunchly defended face-to-face customer service in the face of robo-advice.
A number of mortgage professionals told The Adviser that despite the flexibility and convenience promised by new mortgage platforms, relationship building remains the most crucial aspect of the broking business.
“Technology is fantastic but at the end of the day it’s a relationship business,” Jeremy Kruse of Smartline commented, “we can’t automate the process fully … there are some things that technology can’t replace”.
However, uno.’s CEO said that the company had “worked hard to test and enhance the customer experience, as well as finesse the functionality of [its] original platform to include options such as new calculators and video chat”.
While there has been some hesitance to embrace fintech, others in the industry have said that “there’s a space for everyone”, and that fintechs can act to bolster and expand the businesses of their broker counterparts.
[Related: The Fintech Boom]
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