Freehold: Technology vs people’s needs

Everyone appears to be boarding the good ship ‘technology’ in the apparent belief that it is the single most important catalyst to future success and riches – at least those with the resources, financial or otherwise, that believe it is where the future lies.

I think they are probably right. But is it really as much the holy grail as it is perceived? Or are some people jumping aboard a bandwagon with no pre-determined destination and eschewing all else in its wake?

I am a great believer in harnessing technology wherever possible to reduce costs and ultimately contribute to delivering a better service. That clearly makes good business sense. But as to how far that can be taken, I have to admit I am not entirely sure.

Without doubt there are identifiable benefits of integrating systems – primarily the cost-savings associated with avoiding dupli” Only about 10% of our intermediaries use our online case tracking system regularly as they still prefer to speak to someone”cation. In a non-technology environment just think how many times the same piece of data can end up being entered. The broker completes an application form, the packager re-keys it onto its own system, then keys it again onto a lender’s system and, depending on the result, possibly another, let alone a valuer’s system and possibly a conveyancing firm’s too. It all takes time and time costs money. For a packaging firm there is also a benefit in keeping a broker in its own environment rather than the lender’s.

There do, however, still appear to be a significant number of unanswered questions – most interestingly, whether some of the leading developers are actually keeping a keener eye on the consumer market where margins are fatter and are using the intermediary market as a test bed for their systems.

If that is the case, can technology be used ‘stand-alone’, to provide consumers with an all encompassing sourcing, advice, and submission tool? It would have to be written, be readily available and cost-effectively maintained, would need critical mass to make it worthwhile and still provide a high degree of accuracy. The risks would be great, but so too the potential reward.

Accuracy could prove to be the biggest issue. It certainly seemed to cause huge difficulty in the sourcing process for the likes of Trigold in trying to accommodate GMAC-RFC’s menu-based products. The issues were understandable because of the different ‘languages’. It can be like trying to teach Spanish to a German but doing it in English.

And even if all of this can be achieved, can a software system also be designed with sufficient interactivity to ensure a customer is kept interested for long enough to complete the whole transaction online? We are social animals and some people still think it is good to talk. Our in-house PULSE software includes a facility for brokers and networks to track their cases online but only about 10% of our intermediaries use it regularly as they still prefer to speak to someone.

I haven’t even explored here the issues surrounding an ever-increasing need to apply treating customers fairly principles but these too need to be considered. It is still perhaps the case that a combination of technology and people power will prove to be the most effective solution.