Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose. I either win or learn.” These words resonate deeply with the development journey of Mortgage Hub, our award-winning mortgage origination solution. Last week, at the Money Age Mortgage Awards, I was delighted when Mortgage Hub clinched the Mortgage Technology Provider of the Year award. However, behind this triumph lies a profound learning experience. 

Mortgage Hub has been a labour of love for me personally, a project where the team and I gleaned as much from the setbacks as the successes. The journey reflects a commitment to innovation in the mortgage market, driven by a desire to revolutionise antiquated processes and enhance user experiences.  

The Eureka moment 

The idea for Mortgage Hub began with a realisation: existing mortgage software focused primarily on end-users like brokers or customers, neglecting crucial operational aspects. As someone deeply involved in operations, I witnessed firsthand the inefficiencies plaguing underwriters and call centre staff due to legacy technology and outdated processes. Low interest rates and slim margins in the mortgage market only heightened the urgency to innovate, reduce operating costs, and improve competitiveness. So, the inception of Mortgage Hub stemmed from a vision to address the systemic challenges plaguing the mortgage industry. 

Making it happen 

When I joined Target, I was presented with a unique opportunity: the chance to tackle the myriad challenges plaguing the mortgage market. From cumbersome infrastructure to legacy compliance protocols and manual operational processes, the landscape was ripe for innovation. It was an invitation to create something groundbreaking that prioritised user needs and addressed pain points in ways never before imagined. This was our mission. 

Fortunately, our parent company, Tech Mahindra, fully embraced and shared our vision for Mortgage Hub, providing invaluable support and backing. Their financial investment in product development gave us a vital head start and a significant advantage from the outset. Equally important, they opened doors to a diverse array of companies, partners, and expertise, greatly enhancing our ability to accelerate the development of our solution.

The customer conundrum 

We envisaged the home-buying journey to be one of confidence and excitement, not uncertainty and disappointment. Transforming the experience required a shift in perspective, from transactional to emotional. Applicants weren’t merely obtaining a mortgage. They were buying their dream home. Unlike getting a credit card, purchasing a home is deeply personal, representing one of life's most significant investments. To craft a seamless and enjoyable experience, we spared no effort in assembling the best talent in the industry, investing time and resources accordingly. Managing stakeholders became paramount, ensuring quality wasn't compromised for speed to market. 

The user is king 

Before delving into technology and product design, we embarked on a comprehensive journey of user research. Through countless interviews and observations spanning diverse stakeholders, from brokers, customers and lenders to conveyancers and contact centre staff, basically, anyone who had a role to play in the mortgage journey.  

The research spanned four months and hundreds of interviews, enabling us to unearth invaluable insights into their needs, pain points, and aspirations. We were also in a fortunate position as an FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) regulated business to have relationships with existing mortgage clients, who provided deeper insight and quality feedback. Something that other ‘software providers’ didn't necessarily have access to. This knowledge gave us an edge in developing a winning product. 

This meticulous approach laid the foundation for a truly transformative solution. We endeavoured not to simply digitise existing processes but to reimagine the entire mortgage application journey. Our development team embraced agility, continually iterating and refining prototypes based on user feedback. 

Partnering for success 

At the heart of our approach lay user-centred design, ensuring that the user remained central to every decision. After much research and due diligence, we chose to partner with customer experience and user journey experts AND Digital to ensure the experience was industry-leading. We’ve designed every user touchpoint and journey to be frictionless and intuitive. Mortgage Hub goes beyond software; it's a dynamic product in continual evolution. Drawing on insights from behavioural science, we refine user journeys, even down to the choice of colour palette. Our methodology prioritises customer experience and user journey intricacies, informing every aspect of our work. These principles aren't just important; they're integral to our ethos.

The long and winding road 

The path to innovation was not without its challenges. Integration into the Tech Mahindra family provided crucial support and resources, enabling us to harness the expertise of complementary organisations. However, navigating the complexities of a dynamic market landscape demanded resilience and adaptability. 

One of our key learnings was the importance of backing our strategic vision amid external pressures. Developing a market-disrupting product would take time, and patience was needed. Revenues wouldn’t be realised for some time, and stakeholder expectations had to be managed. While early client engagement fuelled excitement, it also introduced divergent demands that threatened to derail our progress. A win for the customer, like integrating Open Banking for quick income verification, meant the broker felt out of the loop. This meant they couldn’t give coaching to prospective buyers on how to modify their spending behaviours to improve their chances of getting a mortgage. So, we allowed that feature to be turned on and off in the broker interface, giving them autonomy in the journey. 

Our technology was so innovative and cutting edge that in the early days, we struggled to find developers with the required skill set and expertise to evolve it. Course corrections were inevitable, including shifts in technology stacks and recruitment strategies. For example, based on assumptions, we integrated market-leading APIs (Application Programming Interface) and 3rd party vendors into our product stack. However, research showed us that lenders may have their own preferences or existing relationships. That's why we invested in our tech stack to ensure Mortgage Hub is completely product-agnostic and can integrate seamlessly with lenders' preferred 3rd parties. 

More than software 

Amidst these challenges, the ethos of user-centred design remained unwavering. We recognised that Mortgage Hub was more than just a piece of software - it embodied a commitment to enhancing the home-buying experience. Behavioural science, user journey design, and iterative development became integral components of our approach. 

Today, Mortgage Hub stands as a testament to our dedication to innovation. Its evolution reflects our commitment to staying ahead of the curve, anticipating market trends, and exceeding user expectations. 

The road ahead 

As I reflect on our journey, Nelson Mandela’s words ring true. Each obstacle we faced, each setback we met, served as a lesson - a stepping stone toward greater innovation and excellence. Mortgage Hub isn’t just a product; it's a testament to the power of perseverance, collaboration, and unwavering dedication to excellence.  

But our journey is far from over. With Open Banking, AVM (Automated Valuation Modelling), OCR (Optical Character Recognition), and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in our arsenal, we're just getting started. The future of mortgages? It's looking brighter than ever, and Mortgage Hub is leading the charge. We’ve recently bolstered our team of in-house development experts, and with our agile project methodology, we’re continually refining and iterating the product features, user journey and processes.

We look forward to introducing the team and sharing our development plans for Mortgage Hub with you over the coming weeks and months. 

As we continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in the mortgage world, we’d love to show you how Mortgage Hub is transforming the home-buying experience.

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