Market conditions have brought us mortgage payment holidays, heightened levels of desktop valuations and increased speed of change in products. These have all been deployed at pace, and at scale, in a way that is deeply impressive to those of us who’ve driven the change agenda in our industry for so long.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I would ask: has there been any real innovation over recent weeks, or have we simply adopted existing technologies? My sense is that it’s probably a case of both – but it’s no less valid as a result.
Visibly, we can see that some innovations are making headway. Hometrack, the digital valuation provider, has seen a huge uplift in the take-up of its services. The proportion of its valuations handled by an automated valuation model has risen 15 per cent, while its desktop valuation tool has seen 500 per cent growth. Hometrack has been well-positioned to take advantage of this at this point in time, offering precisely the services that are needed when we can’t get out and about. But genies hate to be put back in bottles, and my sense is that DTVs and AVMs will increasingly be the norm. Market conditions – in terms of physical and headcount constraints, profitability, and cost benefit – all point towards this being the case.
We’ve also seen accelerations in a move to the use and acceptance of digital ID verification. SmartSearch – the digital anti-money laundering platform – has recently introduced facial recognition to verify borrowers. This technology is not new; it is available to anyone with a smartphone and is deployed in a way that is surely far more secure than having to meet someone in person to verify their passport photo.
In the intermediary space, too, technology enhancements abound. Mortgage Brain have rolled out their Affordability Hub solution, which alongside similar offerings, such as Mortgage Broker Tools, is designed to provide affordability results from multiple lenders in one system. At Twenty7Tec, we have added criteria sourcing to our product sourcing engine, enabling brokers to search across the two from one single platform for the first time.
The above examples are ones where existing tech, or tech that was ready to be deployed, has genuinely come to the fore over the lockdown period.
The pandemic has been horrific, of course, and I hope that you and yours continue to stay safe. Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that it has also given rise to a period of heightened adoption and innovation.
I think that this period has also been useful to separate the wheat from the chaff – the hubris from those who are delivering. We will see mass adoption of the new solutions developed during this time, but we may also wave goodbye to some solutions that sold a better story than they could actually deliver. That’s something to welcome in my view. The ability to deliver on your promises will always separate the weak from the strong when it comes to technology.
Equally, somewhere out there in the wild, people are working on the technologies that may prove to be our industry’s equivalent of Uber or WhatsApp – both of which were forged in the last downturn. We’re a part of that, as are the other names above, but the conditions and ease with which ideas can be turned into prototypes means that we’re likely to see even more innovation over the coming months. Innovation is happening fast, and it’s only when we look back in 12 to 18 months’ time that we’ll be able to see quite how far we’ve travelled in such a short space of time.
James Tucker is chief executive of Twenty7Tec