In a year that’s been full of changes and shake-ups, Michelle Sargeant isn’t looking to stop any time soon. The non-bank market in NZ is very much ready for new ideas and innovations – and as National Sales Manager of Pepper Money, she’s eager to bring them to market.
“We wanted to make sure that we could offer something that was meeting the needs of Kiwis specifically,” says Sargeant. “We already knew what worked well in other markets, and we knew we’d be able to transfer some of that knowledge, but we didn’t want to take a cookie cutter approach either.”
Accordingly, that meant looking at the particular tech challenges facing advisers.
“The most immediate challenge we had was that advisers were being forced by lenders to use multiple applications for one loan,” says Sargeant. “Advisors noted it was a huge waste of time and Pepper realised that once we solved that, we’d solve a lot of related problems too – for example, speeding up turnaround times for clients.”
The solution came in the form of the Originators program, which connects with a variety of the popular adviser aggregator platforms.
“Connectivity and customisability were both critical,” says Sargeant. “It launched to our retail business in October 2019, and has proven very popular already. We’re always looking at ways to interface it across more user platforms too based on feedback from our advisors.”
However, Sargeant believes that the full potential of tech is still yet to be fully harnessed within the mortgage space within New Zealand.
“Definitely the pandemic has seen a lot of people in the space making big steps with how they use technology for communication,” says Sargeant. “They’re able to reach areas of the market for the first time, and if there’s a community spike of COVID-19, then businesses are able to still able to operate.”
There’s also been wider pickup of Pepper’s digital education offerings; weekly webinars have proved incredibly popular throughout the pandemic period nearly all held so far have been oversubscribed.
“One of the challenges with professional development has always been having to uproot yourself for the day in order to attend a seminar or a course,” says Sargeant. “We like to think we’ve removed some of that barrier to entry.”
But there’s still more to come. Sargeant believes that there needs to be further investment from advisers into tech.
“I think there’s some conversations that will need to be had around considerations like furthering your reach and expanding your customer base,” says Sargeant. “Are you utilising web marketing? How are you leveraging tech to identify future needs for your clients?”
But they’re here to help with that process too – Sargeant points to Pepper’s own Product Selector as an example. The traditional emphasis on packing a deal via multiple lenders is becoming increasingly outmoded, and Sargeant sees it as a way of circumventing the issue.
“That was something we formulated after advisers approached us and asked for a way to introduce Pepper to clients,” says Sargeant. “It’s able to identify a prospective product for a client, what the indicative loan amount would be, assesses credit score and then is able to provide a solution straight away within 3 minutes.”
Looking ahead, Sargeant notes that Pepper also plans to continue helping mortgage advisers identify the types of customers that they can work with, along with presenting different ways to grow their business and providing marketing tools that can help aid in the process. Additionally, Sargeant notes that the next steps of Pepper’s strategy will also include a focus on consumer education.
“We don’t want to put all of that burden on the advisers,” she notes. “There’s a high level of first home buyers in the market who would be an ideal fit for non-banks, and we want to make sure they’re aware of both our products, and how advisers can aid them.”