Balancing the benefits of technology for commercial lending

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Tom Simpson, Managing Director of Commercial Lending at Yorkshire Building Society (1

We need to recognise the benefits technology can bring, but with a note of caution, says Tom Simpson, managing director of YBS Commercial Mortgages.

Here at YBS Commercial, we’ve recently started the process of rolling out our broker portal. This is something we’re very excited about, because it will allow brokers better control of the applications they’ve submitted, and will also provide them with unlimited access to the latest updates on their applications, so they can request information or see what’s outstanding on their cases.

A balancing act

All of this is great, and can only improve things in the long run. However, we know that we need to keep a balance between the introduction of technology and maintaining high levels of broker and borrower service. Lender technology doesn’t always have to do absolutely everything – and this is quite a deliberate move.

What I mean by this, is we’re taking a great deal of care to ensure that our offering is not just all about technology. Instead, lenders try to strike a fine balance between recognising the importance of human interaction and the benefits technology can bring. Indeed, some have focused on providing an offering which requires speaking to a person only by exception – this isn’t what we are, or will ever be, about, but it can only be a good thing for brokers and their clients to have a choice in how they do business.

It’s widely appreciated that the use of too much technology within a process can cause frustration and anxiety to customers – perhaps who need to clarify just that one complex point with a human. We get it. And the risk of negative feedback and ultimately loss of customers, isn’t one we’re willing to take.

A positive start

Generally, we see a great response to new technology in the market. Brokers can really see the benefits –like the secure document sharing which our portal provides, allowing them to upload and download all the documents required, freeing up their precious time. But we recognise there will always be those who are cautious, and perhaps even those who believe the introduction of new technology like a portal implies less heavy-lifting work for us and more for them.

This isn’t the case, however. Yes – technology can help us to process things more smoothly – freeing up internal teams to focus on complex tasks, but this is about making things easier for everyone, which is surely no bad thing.

In developing our portal, we took the time to refine the interface to build something bespoke which met our – and our broker’s needs. That’s why the portal asks for around a third less information than required on our paper application form – a huge benefit not only to us, but to our brokers too.

Commercial catches up

The pandemic, as we all know, has accelerated the use of technology in society as a whole. For us, the broker portal was already on our radar – but perhaps the pandemic has encouraged more openness to the changes it might bring, following in the footsteps of the wave of technological advancements which were forced upon us, as employees were sent home to use Microsoft Teams or Zoom to interact.

What’s next?

There’s no doubt that the direction of change is being driven by technology, both now and into the future, as more lenders adapt it, and more customers and brokers take it on board. But this isn’t something to fear – as long as we take care to ensure that relationships stay front and centre of those transactions.

We firmly believe that technology can only complement our offering – enhancing those relationships and the service we provide.

This, we believe, is a winning combination.