In the digital era of rapid technological advancements in FinTech, its closely related cousin the ‘mortgage market’ has fallen behind in the adoption of new technology. While the financial sector overall has embraced new innovative technology, offering seamless and instantaneous customer experiences, the mortgage and home buying experience is still slow and antiquated. It is here that the CTO plays a crucial role in mortgage digital transformation within lenders: it is probably one of the most exciting and challenging roles in the organisation – but your success all depends on how you manage data and technology.
“Today, a CTO in the mortgage sector plays a leading role in making data more meaningful and effective. They understand that data is the organisation’s most valuable asset – which can make an impact across the entire business – not just confined to IT projects.”
There is nothing less abstract, and more important, than digital transformation in the mortgage sector. As CTO you’re responsible for bringing critical initiatives into fruition that impact the organisation and positively enhance your clients’ experience.
Here, we explore how application programming interfaces (APIs) are at the forefront of this change and four key steps that CTOs in the mortgage sector should follow to revolutionise the mortgage process.
The emergence of APIs in mortgage automation
Lenders are investing in mortgage hub technology, APIs and open banking functionality to increase efficiency and cut costs from the mortgage sales process. APIs, have existed for more than five decades, but have grown in popularity in recent years – particularly in the mortgage industry. Essentially, APIs allow different online systems to link together seamlessly.
“Without APIs, the digital experiences that we expect every day as consumers wouldn’t be possible. APIs are doing everything from driving information-rich marketing campaigns and connecting mobile apps; to streamlining internal operations. Businesses now know that investing in an API strategy can pay significant dividends.”
Spencer Wyer, Chief Technology Officer, EDM Group
Research conducted by IRESS revealed that API technology is expected to provide the most transformative efficiency gains over the next three to five years, in order to improve the mortgage journey for customers:
- 96% of lenders believe that Open Banking technology will improve the mortgage application process for customers over the next two years
- A third of lenders surveyed are in the process of implementing or are now accepting applications via API’s into their intermediary online digital platforms
Over half the lenders assessed provide three fifths (58%) of the best in class functionality, but the remainder are falling short of intermediary expectations
4 steps to revolutionise the mortgage process using API technology
So, considering how important APIs appear to be, there are four driving forces at play which will ensure CTOs in the mortgage sector can leverage data for maximum effect:
1. Overcome legacy thinking and systems – and mitigate risk
Legacy technology is a key inhibitor to digital change. A CTO must recognise how legacy technologies, thinking and cultures may be holding their organisation back. Due to the complexities and size of legacy systems, traditional banks have a backlog of changes and incur significant costs to realise change and run their IT systems. To overcome legacy challenges, most lenders will continue to make incremental improvements to legacy technology; or, they think they need to start over, outside of the legacy technology, which can be costly and overwhelming – but most importantly, not necessary.
“APIs are being used across the financial sector to share information in a much more secure and efficient way. For example, lenders can also use APIs to access a client’s income and expenditure through Open Banking. So, if a lender has the banking app on their device, they will be able to provide the broker or lender access to view their banking transactions without breaching any security.”
(Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette)
2. Develop a data strategy
The key challenge for established lenders is “how do we make our vision a reality?” To do so, you must view digital as an enabler, not an end in itself. Base your data strategy on the customer experience and consider the application of digital changes beyond the mortgage transaction itself. Your data strategy should outline your objectives and the strategic initiatives that will help to achieve those goals. It’s crucial here to identify key action areas and priorities into manageable chunks.
3. Get stakeholder buy-in and support
Colleague awareness and buy in is a key enabler to successful digital change, keep stakeholders involved through the process by providing walk throughs, transparency and rationale for the changes, focusing on the benefits. The CTO must therefore play a crucial role in breaking down the internal barriers that face IT, primarily the risk aversion and scepticism from your risk teams regarding the security and safety of ‘the cloud’. Here, it’s important for IT to provide facts and reassurance that cloud adoption is safe, and beneficial to the organisation.
We explore this further in our ebook the CTOs guide to delivering digital transformation and automation in the mortgage sector – download it here.
4. Work with an outside partner to adopt API technology
“The (mortgage) market is now at an inflection point in terms of the adoption of new technology, driven by the rapid expansion in the use of Application Programmable Interfaces. We are still at a relatively early stage of adoption in financial services, but that is rapidly changing. API-enabled ecosystems are slowly gaining traction and are having a transformative effect on the market.”
Competitive advantage cannot be determined by your organisation alone, but by the partners and ecosystems you choose. To remain competitive and evolve with the pace of digital technology, you will likely need to collaborate with third parties to provide the latest technologies and services. Technology partners can establish new ways to help lenders and intermediaries overcome the challenge of legacy systems.
Seek opportunities to work with third parties who can complement or enhance your existing capabilities or add new ones such as the development of a ‘middleware’ layer (that is, something that connects new digital technologies to legacy systems) to improve digital agility.
This includes using APIs to share data securely, and work synonymously with your legacy systems and connect disparate systems – instead of replacing them entirely, which is costly, timely and unnecessary. This will free colleagues to add greater value to the customer and to the business, to help speed up decisioning and support data sharing between intermediaries and lenders.
“Application programming interfaces (APIs) help speed up internal and external data sharing. Externally, they allow real-time data gathering, which, when combined with other technologies, can provide instant data analysis. This can allow pre-population of application information, or automated checks, such as customer affordability validation.”
(Source: Council of Mortgage Lenders)
UK mortgage lenders benefiting from API technology
Below are some examples of mortgage lenders in the UK market already utilising and benefiting from implementing API technology:
Nationwide has begun piloting API technology with the aim of cutting time spent by brokers on sourcing products and submitting applications. The main aim is to cut down on rekeying data, because brokers currently rekey data across multiple systems when collecting client information, sourcing products and submitting mortgage applications – so the main aim is to cut down on time spent doing this. The APIs will enable brokers to get a decision in principle faster and more efficiently. (Source: Mortgage Solutions)
NatWest is working on an API for many different aspects of the mortgage process and sees a huge opportunity to deliver process improvements and reduce errors through these APIs. (Source: Mortgage Solutions)
By following the steps above, this will help CTOs in the mortgage sector to:
Drive innovation: instead of being left behind by new disruptive technologies, and instead using them to create new opportunities
Keep IT relevant and modern: by exploring cloud architecture and API solutions to deliver data faster for more informed decision making throughout the mortgage journey
Automate processes: using intelligent APIs and workflows to automate clerical tass and free up valuable internal resources across IT and mortgage teams
Mortgage lenders will continue to invest in digital innovation to enhance their customers’ experience, optimise operational efficiency and improve profitability. UK mortgage companies must consider their strategies for today against this context. They must also ensure they are ready to react with agility to future changes to remain relevant to customers in a constantly evolving landscape. APIs may not be ‘new’, but they are the future. They save time, they reduce errors, and they are more secure – so we expect to see them more and more going forward.