We take a look at some of the tools that are helping brokers automate their processes and improve efficiency.
This feature appears in the April 2021 edition of The Adviser magazine.
For most brokers, the main technological offering they utilise is their aggregator’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. Traditionally, the software mainly focused on organising and storing customer data and loan documentation, but over the past few years the systems have become much more focused on creating automated workflows and driving productivity, whether through proprietary technology or by embedding external tech platforms into their systems.
Brighter Finance founder Marcus Roberts tells The Adviser’s Elite Broker podcast that he has found that his aggregator offering has come on “leaps and bounds” in the last six months, particularly welcoming the adoption of the ability to DocuSign things like the credit guide and the privacy consent.
But as brokers are now busier than ever servicing record numbers of borrowers and writing unparalleled volumes, many have been calling out for more, turning to other tools and tech to help drive efficiencies and speed up their processes.
As Evolve Loans broker and director Jai Hobbs says: “Technology needs to be a big part of a broker’s offering – embracing technology and making it easier for our clients. Everything is at our fingertips these days. So, we, as an industry, need to evolve to give our clients an option [of a digital process], not to take away the face-to-face, but just make the process a lot less cumbersome and a lot easier to gather that information and gather what we need,” he says.
What’s out there?
Many companies have already been shaking up how the mortgage process works and providing brokers with tools to help take their business online and connect with clients digitally. Whether it’s screen-scraping tools to access bank statements, digital signature providers, remote VOI tools to complete identity checks, or ‘soft’ credit checks that don’t impact scores – there’s a gamut of tools on market to help speed up the process.
Businesses operating in this space have also been looking at updating and overhauling what they offer the market to help make the experience more seamless.
For example, mortgage broker platform HashChing initially started out as a lead generation platform for brokers but has been overhauling its range of tools and services to assist brokers with attracting and retaining customers in a “digital mortgage broker business environment”.
The broker platform’s customer relationship management (CRM) system now includes business management tools with functions such as reminders to follow up with leads, and the ability for brokers to use video call functionality with customers. It also introduced DigiBroker last year, a digital marketing service designed to assist brokers in building and maintaining their online presence.
HashChing CEO Arun Maharaj says the platform has new technological tools in the works to help “make brokers’ lives easier”, too. For example, it is working on a new consumer app that will “allow brokers to engage with their clients like never before”, he says.
“The technology will rival what consumers can get from the banks, and will allow brokers to become a financial hub for all their client’s needs.”
It is also working on an updated referral portal, which would allow brokers to manage and track their referrer performance, and allow referrers to directly add new clients to the broker’s database.
Mr Maharaj adds that it will soon be introducing new post-settlement reports and data-mining capabilities to “give brokers the ability to track key data points across their pipeline, effectively manage their clients’ post-settlement, and get the most out of their database.”
Other elements of the mortgage’s journey, including the legal aspects of the process, have been given a technological overhaul, too.
For example, mortgage processing, property law and conveyancing law firm Purcell Partners built its cloud-based software LEXTECH in 2017 to digitise the settlement process – a traditionally paper-heavy process.
As Purcell Partners’ head of operations, Jack Meredith, explains, the web-based platform is designed to make settlements faster, cheaper, simpler and more transparent. It integrates technologies like electronic signing, digital verification of identity and electronic mortgage registration, and lets all parties involved in the transaction (lenders, brokers, solicitors, borrowers) communicate, share documents, and record important dates.
Once a loan receives credit approval, the firm receives settlement instructions from its clients via the LEXTECH platform. These would include the particulars of the loan, conditions, outstandings and disbursements. The law firm then issues the loan documents for electronic signing via LEXTECH, disburses funds, and registers the mortgage on title so that it is enforceable. Lenders who use LEXTECH can invite brokers on to the platform (as it is a permissions-based software), which would enable them to view borrower files for free.
Mr Meredith says: “With footings in the cloud, LEXTECH has been able to provide lenders and brokers with access to an electronic file that can be opened from anywhere at any time – whether in the office or working remotely,” he tells The Adviser, adding that this was particularly useful during COVID-19, when mobility restrictions came into play.
Looking forward, Mr Meredith says that LEXTECH is seeking to improve its digital VOI facility, focus on artificial intelligence enhancements, and additional integrations with third parties to give clients access to a larger suite of services that can be tailored to their individual needs.
However, while emphasising the vital role technology could play in a brokerage, he says there is a need to a balance digital tools with good customer service to boost customer satisfaction.
He concludes: “Customers want to trust these digital processes, and by doing so, can ‘opt in’ to the technological advancements of lenders. This trust is built by complementing a strong customer-facing team with an efficient and easy-to-use system.”
While Australia has successfully managed to curtail the spread of the coronavirus through various measures, and a vaccine rollout holds promise, Mr Maharaj warns that the dust has not settled on the COVID-19 crisis yet, meaning disruption could still continue throughout 2021.
As such, he advises brokers to continue automating processes within their brokerages to ensure minimal disruption to businesses regardless of external events.
“Time spent preparing your business to compete online is time well spent,” he emphasises.
Similarly, Azura Financial director Ben Hawley tells The Adviser that brokers should look to embed best-practice processes and tools as early as possible.
He says: “The longer you’ve been broking for, the harder it is to transition into a different process. Whereas, when you’re a new broker, you’ve got a lot more time to invest to work on those best-practice processes.”
What brokers use
“Aussie has introduced a program that’s called FileInvite – that’s excellent. It’s a program that allows us to send an invitation to a client via email. They then get a password via a text message and that requests the documentation, shows them how to upload it, and then it also allows them to send back any messages that they have. That has been a godsend in this period. Once that data comes back, it actually gets exported and creates PDFs and pops it into a folder on OneDrive.
“We’ve also been identifying clients using the different tools, such as ZipID, IDyou, and using Zoom and Skype sessions with clients and recording them.”
“The process we use is very much technology-based as much as possible. There’s no paper at all. We’re paperless now, which is fantastic.
“We use BrokerEngine to free our workflow so we can identify if anything is urgent or anything needs to be worked on very quickly.
“What it also enables me to do is if someone has a large workload and we need to share that with someone else, we have the ability to assign it to another staff member.”
The brokerage also uses applications such as BankStatements.com.au to analyse clients’ statements and transactions data, and Microsoft Teams internally to discuss files with his staff, he says.
“We use a system called Streak, which is driven by Google. It’s like an online diary for every single file. The whole team has access to it. Different activities inside those client files are then assigned to different team members.
“All of our emails and correspondence go to the clients, and they’re all then attached inside Streak as well. So, everyone can simply access it and know exactly where each file is up to. It’s diarised every single day and keeps us extremely organised.
“We work in a paperless office, so it’s not like we have notes in the old diary that each day we write down the client’s name and what’s needed to be done. It’s shown strength also when we’ve been working remotely because it doesn’t matter where anyone is. If someone unfortunately is off ill or something like that, we all have access, and everyone can pick up where other people have left off.”
“We use an editable PDF for our fact find, and we use BankStatements.com.au for all of our bank statements, which has been fantastic – it makes the client’s life so much easier.
“Another big change we’ve noticed is now that comprehensive credit reporting is coming in, we’re not having to do as many initial credit checks on clients. We used to probably credit check around 20 per cent of clients if they were concerned about an issue or if there was any concern they might have some negative history.
“With comprehensive credit reporting, it’s an upfront job, so we’re getting that before we work towards where we’re going to go, which lender is going to suit, and what the solution is. That’s probably been the biggest change we’ve seen in the last 12 months.”
“One of the biggest things I stood for when I started Accession Finance was creating an easy process for people that is consistent regardless of the type of clients that you have.
“We were using DocuSign very early on, before it became accepted by the banks. We use BankStatements.com.au to help clients generate their own bank statements. It’s a third-party application that allows you to download the bank statements with the clients, and the client receives it in the format that they would get from their bank itself.
“We also use Calendly, which synchronises with your diary but allows you to stipulate particular days for particular appointments, and allows the appointment invitee to schedule individual meeting slots. I think that’s helped with working with everyone’s schedules in the team.”
Find out more about technology and its role in the mortgage space in the April 2021 edition of The Adviser magazine, out now!
[Related: What’s next for mortgage innovation?]
Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.
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