FR: You’ve recently overhauled your adviser-facing mobile app – what was the thinking behind it, and why now?
Having released the original version back in 2019, we were always looking to enhance it and continue to add greater depth to its functionality going forward. While the feedback we received from users of the original version was positive, we understood that it had its limitations and that the next logical step was to build in the ability to generate KFIs, with future plans for application submission. This is in addition to its existing features such as case tracking, and access to both product documents and our adviser toolkit and marketing support.
It seemed like the perfect time to refine the concept, knowing that advisers would at some point be hitting the road again. As a result, having an enhanced technological asset to help them in their advice journey was a critical touchpoint and end goal for us. We’re all pleased to have delivered that, and look forward to both what will hopefully be a well-received refresh and continuing to use it as a strong foundation to keep building on.
FR: Do you think the past 18 months have been a watershed moment for technology in the equity release sector?
I’d argue that the industry’s always been something of a quiet achiever technology-wise, delivering substantial achievements that have probably gone largely unnoticed compared to high-street lending. While a number of those in the sector have improved their own adviser-facing technology (indeed, we improved our own adviser portal last year), I think the important thing to note is the way that there’s been a greater technical synergy between the various aspects of the process.
We’ve integrated with the Iress and Advise Wise sourcing platforms, enabling real-time data transfer and near-instant KFIs respectively. Additionally, we’ve introduced Countrywide’s self-serve valuation booking system on our Classic range, a first for the equity release sector. It all contributes to improving and streamlining the adviser journey, allowing them to focus on best serving their customers.
FR: Do you think that the pandemic has affected the industry’s relationship with technology?
As with so many other aspects of life, it’ll certainly have caused people to reflect and adapt, and the changeable nature of life of late will almost certainly cause people to reflect on their processes and use of technology and assess their future procedural resilience.
I suspect that in some quarters those nice-to-have innovations suddenly took on greater importance, and going forward there’s going to likely be a far more proactive attitude to technological development. We’ve seen the impact and benefits effective technology has had, whether it’s through large-scale projects such as portal updates or sourcing system integration right down to systems to aid working from home, digital learning resources, and virtual events, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become a greater point of strategic focus in the sector in the future.
FR: Do you think technology will be increasingly used as a service delivery tool in place of traditional contact methods?
Even though we’re very much a technology-led organisation, we also understand the fundamental importance that having effective and accessible service provisions can have – it’s why our mantra is ‘service made possible through technology, made meaningful by people’.
Technology is probably best viewed as a facilitator to streamline processes and enhance user experiences rather than a true replacement for effective service – there are all manner of touchpoints for both advisers and customers that really benefit from human contact in the right circumstances, and consequently, we need to use technology as a complementary addition to a user journey rather than something to replace those more personal traditional points of adviser and customer contact.