Mortgage Sales – Human or Digital?

Rob Phelan, Director of Digital Transformation at Bank of Ireland UK

09 November 2017


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Will there be a time where mortgages are agreed without speaking to a single human? Possibly. But most would agree that customers, and advisers, aren’t quite ready to move to a self-service mortgage market.

At present, both new and existing customer journeys offered by the majority of lenders continue to be best handled by human advisers, rather than virtual advisers or a combination of the two. This can be due to the complexity of an enquiry or the customer finding comfort in speaking with another person. There also remains a sizable demographic that prefer to speak to a person opposed to a digital interaction.

However, customer led desire for digital self-service is clearly on the rise. Many predictions suggest significant proportions of mortgage sales will shift online and that intermediary sales will decline.  This presents lenders and intermediaries with the difficult responsibility to balance both human and digital mortgage sales.  It also indicates the challenge in identifying the optimal mix for their target market, so that needs are met and there isn’t any excess digital investment or human resource.

Two key areas worth considering:

  • Appetite for digital engagement (measured through analytics)
  • Channels of choice and how mortgage customers want to interact

The fundamental question:  How quickly are mortgage customers adopting digital behaviours?

Appetite for digital engagement

With the use of analytics, lenders can have a better picture of customer preferences and use this information to their advantage. Such as mapping out their customer journeys and looking at purchasing a home from the customers’ perspective. This insight tells them what devices and channels are being used by customers throughout the journey, and ‘why’ they have been selected.

Often the chosen channel is based on the transaction or service that needs to be fulfilled. Much of identifying the right channel mix involves understanding what the customers’ needs are. It’s possible to identify the best channels for each stage of the customer journey using these insights.

Channels of choice and how mortgage customers want to interact

Self-service (such as virtual advisers) is currently best applied to limited tasks, such as supporting with browsing questions and education opportunities.  For example when collecting specific information in the initial fact find of the mortgage conversation. There’s an opportunity for lenders to assess if self-service can be more efficient than a contact centre.

Similarly, there’s an opportunity for brokers to understand what their customers want from an intermediary transaction and whether using digital engagement could help free up time to look at more complex cases and make their lives easier.

It’s important to understand that as automation grows the value of human interaction also increases. It’s crucial that where end to end digital self-service is mobilised, lenders should ensure someone is on hand to support 24/7. This change would see a dynamic shift in the way lenders interact with their customers and intermediaries. In return, it could change how intermediaries choose to interact with their customers.

This indicates that, although digital interaction is unlikely to take over human interaction any time soon, intermediaries and lenders should be embracing technology and continuing to look at new ways customers’ want to do business.



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