Why lockdown has led to years of fintech progress

Karl Deeter

February 16, 2021

Karl Deeter is CEO of OnlineApplication.io

Not that long ago, the idea of a national lockdown in the UK would have seemed extraordinary. Yet here we are, still waiting for confirmation on precisely when the third lockdown will conclude, and what sections of life will return to something approaching normality.

These measures have obviously presented all sorts of challenges to the mortgage market. Yet it’s difficult not to look at the state of things today and feel a sense of optimism, to recognise the fact that in some ways lockdowns have pushed the market into a more positive position than at the outset.

Before the pandemic, the mortgage process for many borrowers involved no shortage of physical interactions, whether they went directly to a lender or through a broker. This was far from ideal for the bulk of borrowers, but they put up with it because all too often they weren’t aware of an alternative.

Lockdowns have changed all that, forcing even the most apathetic about technology to reconsider the way they were operating. There’s no longer the sharp distinction between the firms who operate on an online-only basis – and who have been positively evangelical about the potential technology offers to improve things – and those who maintained a physical presence. The measures have meant that everyone has had to get up to speed with how to conduct most if not all of their mortgage processes remotely and online.

This is not progress to be sniffed at. Each and every month in which the nation has been locked down, and pushed even the most tech reticent firms to revamp the way they operate, has pushed things forward. We’ve effectively seen decades of progress in terms of the adoption of financial technology in the space of just a year.

And as these processes come online, minds are being changed. Borrowers aren’t having to set aside hours of their day to visit a branch in person or arrange a face-to-face meeting with a broker. Instead they are able to get that mortgage application sorted in just a few minutes. Once you’ve had a taste of that, why on earth would you want to go back to the old way of doing things?

There is now a big question of speed. If lenders, brokers, conveyancers or anyone else within the market wants to succeed in the future, the question is not whether they can afford to make the most of technology to support their operations, but how quickly they can get those software systems in place. Businesses that don’t accept the changed landscape and drag their heels will inevitably be left behind.

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