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Homing in on digitalizing the mortgage journey

Buying a house is one of life’s big events, yet banks have been slow to exploit the benefits of digital to support customers through the journey. Is this about to change?

Buying a house is one of life’s big events, yet banks have been slow to exploit the benefits of digital to support customers through the journey. Is this about to change?

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15th August 2016

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Kevin Phillips

Remember what buying your first house was like? The excitement. The anxiety. The panic. The stress. Will they accept my offer? Has the mortgage been approved? Will the chain fall through? What time can we pick up the keys?

Moving house is not only a long, involved process, it also involves lots of different people: estate agents, vendors, mortgage providers, solicitors, removals, insurance brokers… the list goes on.

For some time, banks have been exploring how digital can help them improve the mortgage element of that journey, which needs to meet the expectations of today’s tech-savvy customers.

But digital promises to do more than simply improve the customer experience and speed up the mortgage approval process; it also offers banks a great opportunity to improve customer loyalty beyond the mortgage and house buying journey – into home ownership.

Where are we today?

When it comes to digital, banks have tended to focus their attention on the low hanging fruit, primarily current accounts. High-value services, including mortgages, have been neglected. In fact there is no widely deployed digital financial solution for taking out a mortgage.

Today’s mortgage process is largely manual with just a few splatters of digital. It may begin digitally (e.g. with an online payment calculator), but it doesn’t stay that way for long. In the background case tracking and account servicing may have been digitised, but that’s about all.

This is hardly surprising when you consider that the mortgage process is a complex flow of interactions, and that these must comply with strict regulations. It requires a large number of documents to be shared and for signatures to be obtained, amongst other things.

In a nutshell, attempts to digitise the mortgage application process have faced two key hurdles:

  1. Ensuring the whole process is compliant and enforceable.
  2. Turning mechanical, siloed processes into a simple, engaging and joined up customer experience.

Overcoming the hurdles

But the mortgage journey can be – and is now being – digitised.

Addressing the first of those hurdles, the technology and knowhow needed are now available. Expert companies have tried and tested technologies for sharing documents digitally, for example. Their solutions – which also digitise signatures – have already been shown to comply with regulatory requirements across diverse industries. The customer simply photographs their documents and attaches them to the digital form on their mobile, PC or tablet.

On the second point, we’ve seen companies across a diverse range of industries making significant steps towards delivering engaging and seamless customer experiences over recent years. Today’s customers’ expectations of an ‘omni-channel’ experience can and are being delivered – in retail, banking, and a number of other customer-facing industries.

In fact, the mortgage journey can now be delivered completely digitally – from application to approval. And if the customer decides they’d prefer some face-to-face interaction along the way, that’s OK too. The technology and knowhow are available for delivering the seamless real world/digital engagement that today’s customers want.

A bigger opportunity

But digital mortgages actually offer banks an even greater opportunity. Digital means that banks can support their customers throughout the whole house buying experience – from choosing the ideal home at the start of the process to finding the right removals firm at the end.

Banks will gain a better understanding of customers’ needs, desires, and behaviours, and this, in turn, will increase loyalty and open up new cross-selling opportunities.

More importantly, banks will be able to build deeper, longer-lasting relationships with these customers – relationships that will continue as homebuyers become homeowners. They’ll be able to continue to connect with the borrower throughout the lifetime of their loan.

And when the mortgage approaches its renewal date, the bank can ensure that it’s in the front of the customer’s mind when they start looking at remortgaging.

A mortgage app

So what might this digital experience look like?

Imagine a digital finance app, offered by a bank to their customers to support them throughout their home buying journey.

Linked to Rightmove, Zoopla, or any other similar website, the app would help the buyer find their ideal home. The bank would be able to suggest mortgage options based on more than just the customer’s financial situation; with deeper insight into what the customer is looking for, those suggestions could also be tailored to more closely fit the properties that the customer is most interested in.

The app could also recommend local solicitors, removals firms, and more. It could offer options for building, contents and life insurance – not just during the house buying journey but also in the years beyond.

A simple button could put the customer straight through to a customer service representative for a voice or webchat conversation at any time during the application process or mortgage lifetime.

In a nutshell, the app would be an easy-to-use, one-stop shop for all the customer’s home buying and home ownership needs, and a great way for banks to build customer loyalty and enhance the digital customer journey.

Are you thinking of digitising your mortgage process? More importantly, are you looking at how digital can help you increase customer loyalty and put you ahead when customers come to renew their loans and insurance?

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