Blog post
May 2, 2023

The role of design in creating a seamless mortgage application

by Konnaire Scannell, Senior Product Designer 

The what

Here at LendInvest we appreciate that design thinking applied correctly means the difference between a forgettable experience and one a broker will remember forever. It’s my opinion that we should strive to aim for the forgettable as often as possible. We’re all familiar with the Jared Spool quote ‘Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.’

HubSpot’s research from June 2022 shows that 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service, which Bain and Company found that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by between 25% and 95%. Inversely, Zendesk found that around 80% of consumers say they would rather do business with a competitor after one bad experience.

In a bid to give our users what they deserve, a huge part of that customer experience is to make these things straightforward. We keep in regular contact with all types of our users, and the biggest piece of feedback we get is that it’s largely a volume game.

A seamless mortgage application flow should be easy to complete, with progressive disclosure through the use of sensible, conditional logic. A rubbish application flow requires the broker to pick up the phone and speak to a LendInvest team member to guide them through the process step-by-step. This simply doesn’t scale for either party.

An extremely normal photo of Ida and myself attempting to make the customer experience straightforward

The why

Any instance of a broker or borrower needing to call a LendInvest team member is indicative of a larger issue. It’s wasteful, both in regards to the broker’s time but also means a greater overhead and time lost internally. Brokers don’t want to spend time trying to resolve things over the phone; they want to see their loan progressed quickly. LendInvest team members don’t want to resolve issues over the phone; they want to package and offer loans quickly. It’s a lose-lose.

The how

Generally, we begin each project by taking a step back. We’ll work with industry experts as well as business analysts and tech leads to figure out a core hierarchy of questions, integrations and roadblocks for the users. This allows us to split the application into manageable, sensible sections while providing the user with a clear flow, set of expectations, and sense of progress.

We’re always asking if things are in the right section, order, or phrasing. What makes the most sense to a human being? How can we reduce cognitive load? How can we build trust?

We group our technology goals into two themes at LendInvest: to remove customer friction and to improve operational efficiency. We see these two themes as symbiotic; for example:

In order to progress with a loan, we need to verify a borrower’s identity.

Traditionally, this would mean a broker submitting the borrower’s information as part of the application process (be it decision in principle (DiP) or a full mortgage application (FMA)), then an underwriter or case manager taking those details and independently running a verification.

If we break those steps down further, this means a broker has to capture these details in an initial fact-finding session with their borrower, and submit them to our application form. From there, an underwriter would have to copy those to a third-party verification tool and cross-check them against the other details the broker has given us. This could represent anything from a few minutes to a few hours – or even a working day – as each application would have to be manually checked and verified on this and tens of other data points. If any of these bounce back, we then have to chase the broker for more information. Again, this can represent hours or even days to rectify.

That’s just a terrible experience all-round. We’ve got a ton of customer friction and absolutely zero operational efficiency.

In this instance we integrated with an ID verification company called Jumio, calling their API as part of our application flow. The broker doesn’t need to wait for anything to happen and gets instant feedback on whether it’s passed or not. There’s no need for an underwriter to jump in and verify another data point, saving a ton of both the broker’s’ and LendInvest’s time.

Imagine doing this across something north of 30 different data points. Well, we have. The time spent waiting for both parties is dramatically reduced.

This is just one of many ways we leverage design thinking and our internal technology to provide both a better experience for LendInvest staff and, critically, a much better one for our customers.

The outcome

Reduced cognitive load for our customers

Applying for a mortgage – whether you are a borrower on their first ever attempt or a broker on their 10th of day – can be a stressful experience. Depending on the product, obtaining a decision in principle can involve potentially hundreds of questions with tons of divergent logic. We do everything we can – often in the background with snazzy integrations and different calculation engines – to lift as much burden from the end user as possible.

Frankly, a lot of third-party tools and competitors offering similar services simply don’t do this, keeping users in the dark.

An earned sense of trust

By providing brokers with near instant feedback about everything from ID verification to credit searches all the way to our rates and products as they get deeper into the application process, we build transparency into our design. Nothing is hidden from the broker, and everything is disclosed at an appropriate time. When it comes to things like privacy and security, we’ve already (hopefully!) established a strong level of trust by being open and clear from the beginning.

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