We only use cookies for website functionality and security.

How we’re harnessing technology to enhance employee expertise, not replace it

Jon 1.jpg

For the November edition of The Intermediary, Paragon Bank Transformation Director, Jonathan Workman, explains how we're investing in technology to equip employees to provide industry leading service.

I recently attended the NRLA’s Landlord Conference. It was an excellent event that provided a forum to explore a wide range of topics, but an interesting theme that ran through various aspects of the day was how we engage with technology.

Our expectations of technology and digital experience grow daily. How we interact, shop, exercise, get around and entertain ourselves has been turned upside down by technological advancements in the past decade, and our expectations of technology have increased as a result.

Once we had to walk to the video shop to watch a film; today we can simply ask our TV for it.

Unless businesses evolve, they will wither, and the mortgage industry will be no different. If we look at our own segment of the market, younger landlords and intermediaries who are entering the buy-to-let market have only ever known a digitally enhanced experience.

As part of our strategy to position Paragon for future growth, we commenced a digital transformation programme two years ago that will improve the way our brokers and landlord customers interact with us, as well as how we operate internally.

It will deliver benefits across almost all aspects of the way we work.

It will not only improve the experience of engaging with Paragon from a landlord and intermediary perspective, but will also make us more efficient and data-driven, ultimately improving how we operate.

From an application perspective, for example, this will result in reduced ‘touch points’ in the process and a shorter time to offer. Landlords will be able to know more quickly whether it’s a case we can or cannot support, helping their business. 

A key element of the programme is the development of a digital platform that will help us deliver market-leading service.

After extensive scoping of the solutions already on offer, we took the decision to build the platform in-house because this approach would provide a completely bespoke solution, developed to meet the needs of our stakeholders.

We established a cross-functional team, including IT, Change and Transformation, with resource also pulled in from other areas, such as Insight and Marketing.

Working in an agile and ‘feature-driven’ way has helped us to incrementally work on small elements of the larger, more complex system that we’re delivering, some of which intermediaries may already recognise, such as our relaunched Broker Portal.

A key aspect of this traditional method of system development is continuous experimentation and feedback loops to help you us learn and improve throughout the project. This saw ‘user stories’ fed into the development teams for shorter development ‘sprints’ lasting two weeks to reach an agreed objective. This was made possible by doubling our original investment to expand our User Experience (UX) team, whose role in optimising the design and building prototypes for customer and colleague feedback was vital.

An online research community made up of over 200 mortgage intermediaries and 600 landlords was developed. This provided a tool for two-way engagement, so brokers and landlords were able to inform our initial plans and then provide feedback to help refine the platform at various key points throughout its development.  

At the heart of the project is using technology to equip our people to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Our people use their expertise to assess each case individually, enabling us to find solutions to some of the most complex cases. In an increasingly specialist market, this is something that we are enhancing instead of moving away from, but we are doing so by addressing many of the pain points that brokers have helped us to identify.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) will mean we can access trusted data quickly, minimising the documentation requirements for brokers and landlords and, where appropriate, automation and AI will reduce labour-intensive tasks, while reducing the potential for inputting errors.

This will be complemented with workflow routing to mean that applications are managed by the most appropriate member of our team, who will have a clear view of each case to help them quickly direct their attention to where it is required.

These are just some of a host of features that will transform the experience of those who work with and for Paragon. While our close collaboration with the industry throughout the project means we’re pretty confident that our efforts will be well received, we’re not going to spend too long patting ourselves on the back and have plans for the next phases of our digital transformation programme.

This article was first published in The Intermediary.