Through first-hand experience of how inefficient, slow and bureaucratic every moment of mortgage lending can be, we were excited by the idea of bring P2P lending to property for the first time in 2013. By adopting the principles of P2P that were doing so well in consumer and SME lending, we knew we could drastically improve a sector that is completely dependent on human resources to get things done. After two years of concerted technology development, the time it takes to approve mortgage applications has dropped to under a fortnight.
We grew quickly with support from investors who have watched P2P lending evolve and mature. Yet, we have had to fight hard for trust from our partners in the mortgage broking sector.
Words like ‘FinTech’, ‘startup’ and ‘P2P’ have been fantastic for fledgling companies to gain traction and attention in the financial system. But, as our business establishes itself as a mainstay of property lending, these can be as much a deterrent or distraction as an attraction. For stakeholders – in our case, mortgage brokers – who might not fully understand how online lending works, the buzzwords have become easy shorthand for untested, unproven or risky.
The world of mortgage brokers has always valued personal interaction – handshakes and relationships built up over time. Brokers and advisers whose livelihoods rely on arranging mortgage deals were concerned that going online would leave them jobless. We learned quickly that we had a responsibility to break down the misconceptions that accompany any new technology that promises to speed up transactions and automate time-consuming services.
Having once been one of the offline businesses that we are now disrupting, we know instinctively how the sceptics in our sector will look at what we are doing. We have made mistakes but learned from them too, devising these four rules for building trust in any industry that is ripe for transformation, but whose incumbents may not be ready for them.
Put trust first
We work hard to put trust front and centre of everything we do. Recommendations and testimonials have their place, of course, but there is nothing more impactful for a potential partner than hearing from the company itself and knowing that the company is investing time in building relationships. Do not be lackadaisical when it comes to fighting for an industry partner’s trust and do not believe that word of mouth will do the job for you.
Life in a startup is always busy, and there is usually a tendency to focus on ‘getting the job done’. We fight this mentality to make sure we are constantly communicating who we are, what we do and how the traditional players in the mortgage market can benefit from working with companies like ours.
We also invest in good internal communications. Surely all your staff know what you do, right? Of course they do. But, the way a tech team member might describe the company to a potential partner or customer will be different to how the HR manager or a marketer does it. Create common descriptors that all employees can relate to and explain your business in ways that comfort your partners.
Educate, explain and illustrate
As a disruptor of mortgages, it is our duty to explain to people already in the sector who we are, what we do and why they ought to care. Do not assume prior knowledge. It is easy to think that people know as much as you, or if they do not, that they will want to learn. Both are dangerous assumptions to make.
In the early days, the number of times we lost out on business because we did not take the time to explain, educate and illustrate what P2P is and how it helps is more than I would ever care to count.
Tackle issues head on
Misunderstanding the risks attached to online lending is the biggest danger that can unsettle our client relationships. A persistently sensible representation of how risk is managed and mitigated is factored into every product we develop and communication we deliver.
Identify what triggers the most concerns, complaints or confusion and, while it is tempting to say ‘We’ll handle it when someone notices’, deal with it before it becomes a problem.
You cannot force people to change their minds, but you can change the story going on around them. By continuously demonstrating evidence for success through transparent statistics and happy customer case studies, the mood music has to change and even the most cautious sceptics can be won around.