SBG and Aviva invest £5m in tech start-up

Michael Lloyd

April 2, 2019

Sesame Bankhall Group and Aviva have invested £5m in technology start-up firm Acre Software to transform the mortgage process for advisers.

They said the exclusive arrangement between SBG and Acre will help to transform the way mortgage and protection advisers process business and service their clients.

John Cowan, executive chairman, Sesame Bankhall Group, said: “After undertaking a comprehensive 12-month review of the market, we concluded that we could no longer ignore the new competitive threats circling around our profession and we had to act.

“Working with Aviva Ventures, we saw an opportunity to turn the threat posed by new disruptive technology on its head. Acre will bring the latest technology know-how, and that coupled with our distribution expertise will help advisers and their clients reap the benefits.”

Acre was born out of Founders Factory, which is an organisation that offers an incubator for start-up companies and assists with product development, market insight and capital. Aviva Ventures is an investor in Founders Factory and worked with SBG to help facilitate Aviva’s investment in Acre.

Despite the rise in direct-to-consumer strategies, led mainly by lenders and new challengers, nearly three quarters of mortgages are facilitated by advisers.

However, in order to retain their position, advisers need to match the speed and end-user experience of these market disruptors, but are slowed by fragmented workflows and compliance headaches.

Acre’s goal is to radically improve the whole experience around the mortgage and insurance application process for advisers and their clients.

Acre uses blockchain to bring together all the components of the mortgage advice process into one unchangeable ‘record of the transaction’, putting brokers back in control of their business and offering a faster journey for consumers.

With the volume of transactions provided by Sesame Bankhall Group, Acre aims to become one of the largest users of blockchain in the UK.

Justus Brown, chief executive and founder of Acre Software and former Founders Factory chief product officer, said: “Buying a house is one of the biggest financial transactions a person can make, yet the process is slow, opaque and fragmented, which is increasingly out of step with consumer expectations.

“We’re changing this – levelling the playing field for brokers using innovative tech, while putting an informed consumer at the centre of the mortgage process.

“We are thrilled to have SBG’s distribution muscle and industry expertise, along with Aviva and SBG’s financial support at our disposal on this journey.”

SBG served over 10,000 financial advisers across the UK and facilitated £42bn in mortgage completions last year.

Ben Luckett, managing director, Aviva Ventures, added: “Acre is a fantastic example of the kind of fintech business we want to help nurture.

“They have identified a market which could be improved through technology and they’ve gone for it by securing a very large distribution partner, which is often the missing ingredient for success.

“I’ve really enjoyed watching the company develop, and the investment we’re announcing today will allow them to build their team further and realise their full potential.”

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