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Is there ever a good time to launch a new lender?

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Maria Harris19 October 2016
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It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times this year as we’ve gone through our journey from the initial idea to building a bank, getting our regulatory approval and gearing up for go live. Launching a new, digital only bank was a no brainer. We do almost everything on apps or smart devices today – our social media, instant messaging, booking a taxi, booking a holiday, even controlling our central heating, but not a huge amount in the world of mortgages. I decided that trying to change the whole world of mortgages might be too much of an ask for day one but I do believe there is lots of scope to change things for the better.

It feels like we’ve taken a long time to build our mortgage proposition, especially when you can buy an application system off the shelf. I wanted this to be different though. Starting with a blank sheet of paper was daunting but it means that our entire journey has been built from the ground up with you and your customer at the heart of it. One of our biggest advantages (and scariest challenges) has been that we have no back book or complex legacy systems.

Building an end to end process that really works for an intermediary and their customer, with meticulous attention to detail and backed up with the right service, products and criteria was worth taking the time over. Now that we are live, it feels amazing to know that something you’ve designed from scratch and put your heart into is about to be tried for the first time by a real customer.

My customer is you, the intermediary, and we’ll only be successful if we do the right thing for you and your customer. To make sure the quality is where you need it to be and to make sure we’re in the market with consistently good products, we’ve started with a limited number of distribution partners. I know it’s frustrating when new lenders come to market and everyone wants to use them but as a new lender you have to protect your balance sheet, your service and your reputation and grow from there. So think of this as our growth phase. We will broaden our distribution once we’re happy that we can manage bigger volumes while still delivering the right levels of service and support.

Service is everything in our industry, something that’s talked about a lot but is notoriously difficult to deliver consistently. It’s something we’ve challenged ourselves on throughout everything we’ve designed right down to our decision to have no sales people, no targets, and no cash bonuses – our BDMs and support team are genuinely here to help you and your customer. Whether it’s our criteria, system or products you want to talk about, or someone to attend your conference or team meeting, one of our team will be there.

As you’d expect with a digital bank, we’re using the most innovative technology available to make the mortgage application and the customer journey the best it can be. Our system gives you real time, automated decisions everywhere we can, decisions you can trust and therefore a service that you can rely on. We’re also using the latest tools during the mortgage application to reduce the amount of paperwork and manual processes that can sometimes slow down the application so you should find that we’re quick and easy to use. For your customer it’s all about the experience of the Atom App. From using biometrics to log in, receiving real time updates and notifications about their mortgage application, through to in-app technology that allows your customer to self-serve or contact us 24/7, it’s what digital is all about.

So now we’ve spent all this time building what we think is a great mortgage proposition, is it a good time to launch? I’m hoping you guys will tell me it is. I don’t doubt we’ll have got some stuff wrong. There will be things we’ve not thought of and sometimes stuff just doesn’t work the way you thought it would, but you have to start somewhere. We’ll evolve and refine as we grow, taking your feedback and suggestions on how we can make it even better and always looking at how we can improve. I’m looking forward to sharing our progress with you.