The Interview… Neil Wyatt, sales and marketing director at Mortgage Brain

The Intermediary speaks to Neil Wyatt about Mortgage Brain’s innovative use of technology, how it supports brokers and what’s next for the firm going into 2024.

Just to begin, give us some background about yourself, your career history and what brought you to Mortgage Brain.

I started in mortgages with a business called Private Label in the late 90s. They then went on to become GMAC.

I left there and worked for a couple of specialist lenders and distributors and then ended up at a business called Platform Home Loans in 2006.

I joined Platform originally as a corporate account manager, and then through several restructures and a change of ownership, Platform was relocated early in 2012 and myself and six other people moved to The Co-operative Bank.

There, I became head of distribution and over the next seven years we took that business through a 15-fold growth. I got to the point where the business had grown so much, and we’d done a lot, but there were a lot of other opportunities out there that I wanted to pursue.

Before I left Platform, there were many businesses talking about APIs (application programming interfaces), integration with lenders and also the benefit of sharing data.

It was clear to me that technology would influence this market, and I had the opportunity to help shape some of that at Mortgage Brain.

Mortgage Brain has undergone some substantial changes since I first joined. We’re embarking on a massive, transformational change from a technology viewpoint, which will change the market.

The job is not done yet, but in the three and a half years I’ve been here, there’s definitely been some major changes and we can see that reflected in the market.

How does technology factor into Mortgage Brain’s proposition and in what ways does it help streamline the process for brokers?

We’re a technology company; technology is all we do. Every product, every service we have, is tech-based first and foremost.

What’s important is how this helps the end user – whether that’s a bank, building society or broker.

I think the industry is a bit fragmented from a technology point of view. There is a lot of legacy technology out there, in that, you’re trying to connect legacy applications to each other, as well as new cloud-based applications.

I have two hats really – “How does existing technology help people today?” and “What’s got to change?”

At Mortgage Brain we ask what has got to change to really capture and transform this market, and that’s really the exciting stuff.

The legacy technology isn’t broken, but clearly legacy and heavily configured tech is not conducive to an efficient marketplace where everyone benefits from using technology. We aim to fix that.

Given the advent of the Consumer Duty regulations a few months ago, client data has been at the forefront of the conversation as of late – could you tell us a bit about how your service helps brokers store and utilise client data?

Client data has always been integral.

From a broker viewpoint – we’re talking about the practice management system, CRM (customer relationship management)– that is where this data should be held.

The question is, how do we make those systems good enough so that brokers actually want to use them?

It’s about the quality of data in the systems, and the ability to accurately report on that data, which is what the regulator will be asking of brokerages.

So, the regulator is going to want to be able to see, how you service your customers, how the advice that has been given is fit at the time and remains fit for them moving forwards.

Our legacy systems do that. They already have client files, full audit trails of the recommendations that were made and full documentation.

It also has the ability for advisers to set workflow and tasks and to engage with their customers.

The changes that we’ve had to make to our systems is to make sure that we can add additional questions in and make them compulsory.

So therefore, the practice principles can actually do the report to ensure that the consumer is being managed responsibly and successfully.

 Other measures we have taken include working closely with AMI (The Association of Mortgage Intermediaries), the regulator and the Building Society Association (BSA) during the lead up to Consumer Duty, all with the aim of identifying what sourcing systems need to do to allow practices to have easy access to the products they were selecting and the clients they were aimed at.

We agreed that we would build a central repository so that advisers or practice principles could go and look at that central repository, and easily access all the lender specific documents.

So, when it comes to Consumer Duty, we’ve got two major things. We’ve got the Consumer Duty from a firm and a principle, in other words, how you choose your lenders and who you want to deal with.

And then for day-to-day running of the business, we’ve put compulsory factors into our systems, and we’ve made sure reporting is all there.

We also have a new system coming out that will take all of that a stage further.

With the popularity of remortgages and product transfers on the rise, maintaining a customer base has never been more important for brokers – how does Mortgage Brain help brokers keep track of their pre-existing clients and maintain those all-important relationships?

I think in the existing system, those clients are all active. We’ve built a system many years ago that would allow a broker to put flags in a system.

So, if you take a 5-year fix, the broker will put a flag in the system, and depending on how many contacts they want to have with that customer, they can build marketing off that, they can build contact points, they can build reviews.

The other thing that we have built into our incumbent back-office system, our CRM called ‘The Key,’ was what we call the remortgage module.

This will allow a broker to automate conversations with customers, for a prescribed process for three months or six months before, which basically lets the customer know that their mortgage is up for renewal and that their broker wants to touch base.

As well as that, we work with all of our lending partners to make sure that when the mortgage broker is actually doing the mortgage research, they can put in the existing lender and the existing loan amounts.

We make sure that, as long as they fill that data in, that the existing lender’s products are coming out and they’re doing a proper comparison.

We’ve also got tools in our sourcing solution, like graphing and comparison searches, so they can actually look at the existing product transfer mortgage and they can easily compare that to a remortgage that might be available to the customer.

In the new tools that we’re building out, it goes a lot broader than just existing customers – it’s also about servicing a lead all the way through from a new or potential client to one that might become a lifetime client.

In addition, the new tool that we’re building out will have an introducer portal. If you’re a mortgage broker and you have a local accountant or a new developer referring customers to you, there’s an introducer portal, which will allow that introducer to actually refer the customer to you automatically.

For brokers, they will be able to track how many leads they’ve had, say in the last six months, and how many of those leads they’ve converted to a client.

We want to give brokers all the tools that they’re going to need to make sure that for every client, they’re able to report on it and look at how they’ve been able to help them and service them.

In addition, Mortgage Brain has been hosting its series of ‘Mortgage Vision Roadshows’ across the UK over the past couple of months. Tell us a bit about these events and what has the response been like?

This is the fourth year since I joined that we have run this series of roadshows, apart from COVID when we hosted Mortgage Vision virtually, although they have been going for a number of years prior to 2019.

We think it’s really vital that all of our customers and intermediaries as a whole have the opportunity to come and talk to lenders, get an update on regulation and the economy, and earn CPD (continuing professional development).

And even though we’re a tech business, it’s our responsibility to help educate brokers on products and services, what’s new and how to get best out of lenders.

For those lenders that support these events, such as Coventry Building Society, Skipton, One Savings Bank, once they’ve been part of Mortgage Vision once, they want to do it again the next year – they love these roadshow events.

There’s a lot of events these days that are sort of ‘town hall’ style events, and therefore it can be tricky to cut through the noise and get your message across to brokers.

But the feedback that we have had is that our round tables format really work. Attendees are given the opportunity to score the value of the presentations that they hear from all the sponsors and the presentations we do as a business.

Overall, our NPS (Net Promoter Score) is in the high 80s, which is fantastic. At the first eight events this year, we scored an average of 4.85 out of five for the quality of the presentations that they received from industry speakers.

And I think to me that’s testament to the quality of the events. We had over 840 people registered, a retention rate of above 70%, which is incredibly positive given we’re not an events company, we’re not a media company.

But because Mortgage Vision’s retention rate is so high, and the feedback we get from delegates is so positive, there are some venues where we have to stop subscriptions because we just can’t cater for all those brokers. Next year, the plan is to do more than ten.

Also, we certainly want to see if we can support those customers in Scotland, and in the East of England. They are the two areas where we have huge demand.

Lastly, as we approach the final few months of 2023, what can we expect from Mortgage Brain going forward? Are there any new developments in the pipeline?

We’ve been working for the last three years on building a new back-office system to replace our existing system.

It will go into full production early in the new year, and certainly by the time we get to the end of Q1, we hopefully will be starting to migrate some customers onto it.

That system’s been built slightly differently to what’s in the market today. It is totally client centric, so there’s always one static record of a client.

Whatever you do around that client – for example, the mortgage applications they may do over the years – it all hangs off that one client.

We think that in order to drive efficiencies in this marketplace, there should be some sort of standardisation.

We’ve tried to standardise what we call ‘The Data Dictionary,’ the super question set, which means that all of our products over time will have a standard set of questions and standard set of responses.

That means that for the user, whether you’re using a mortgage sourcing tool, a criteria tool, an affordability tool, a client portal – it’s all the same, so we completely remove all the rekeying.

That system’s been a labour of love. There’s been a lot of brokers that have been involved and we thank all of them for all the support they’re providing in testing with us.

So, it really is a new system – that’s been built by customers effectively – using the latest technology in a way that will really drive efficiencies for the end user.

If you go back 15 years as a mortgage broker, you filled out an application form and you probably sent one application form to 40 different lenders.

And lenders took data from that form and keyed it into their own back-office systems – but as a broker you had one question set.

We’ve regressed as an industry, because lenders then went on and built all their own question sets.

The brokers then didn’t have that generic question set in an application form, and now brokers all have their own proprietary systems or fact finds.

Trying to match a broker’s proprietary system with 35 different lender systems doesn’t work, and that’s what we’ve seen with integrations.

What we’ve got coming early next year is a solution to that. It will start with a small number of lenders and has the ability to take data from point A, we can push it through the system to point B, C or D – but the broker doesn’t have to rekey anywhere near as much because we can match the majority of data sets.

We’re really pleased with it. The brokers that saw it at our last Mortgage Vision events were really impressed. And we are talking to some of our peers in the CRM space because we want to share it.

We think that there’s value here for the whole industry. We think there’s value here for lenders because it saves a lender having to integrate with five, 10 or 15 different providers and then manage all of those.

There’s also clear benefit to brokers – it shouldn’t matter what back-office system you choose to use as a broker, you should still be able to benefit from it.

They’re two massive things for us next year – our new back-office system followed by ‘the standardised industry plumbing.’

Then the final bit for us, which would be much later on in the year, is what we call our unified application. That basically means whatever product or service you’re using, there is one place for you to go.

Every single customer will have a bespoke landing page and those bespoke landing pages have the products and services that are available to them, along with any referral partners that are available to them. It also has any additional links that are available to them, and it’s all customer specific.

It allows the customer to go and manage their own dashboard – for example, if you want to use certain conveyancing partners, they’ll be on your dashboard.

Essentially, we’re trying to create this community, and make things easier for the broker, so we’re really excited.