Slaying the Data Dragon

by | 20 Oct 2020 | Mortgages


What if we could work with our data and use it to create a totally different customer experience and a better outcome?

Data, data, data. We now create 2.5 quintillion bytes (2.5 followed by 17 zeros) of data every day through mobile devices, smart TVs and the internet of things, and over 90 per cent of the world’s data has been created since 2016. The number of people connected to the internet has almost doubled in five years and is still growing – so no wonder data and how we use it is currently one of the hottest topics in the information technology sector.

For financial services, our obsession with data has felt as though we’ve been trying to slay a dragon – how do we store it, how do we keep it safe, what do we need to be compliant, and how do we prevent breaches and the nasty fines that come with it? These are the very bones of security in banks’ and lenders’ worlds, but it makes data something to be feared, respected and handled with kid gloves. What if we could work with our data and use it to create a totally different customer experience and a better outcome?

Data innovations

We’re seeing innovations in the treatment of data every day from banks and fintechs that are redesigning or creating new ways to enable payments, service current accounts and provide better financial management tools, yet the way we use data to write mortgages remains stubbornly rooted in its own practises from the 1930s.

The entirely flawed process of buying a house involves making a financial and emotional commitment based on the limited property data that you can access from the estate agent or seller. We make the customer jump through hoops to provide their mortgage intermediary or lender with bank statements, payslips and any other paper-based documents that we think we need to evidence their worthiness. Then, finally, when the customer breathes a sigh of relief that they qualify for a mortgage and can proceed with their purchase, BAM – we start delving into the data that we really needed before any of those decisions were made.

No easy access

The amount of data that is associated with our homes but that as a customer we don’t have easy access to is staggering.

As a customer or a lender, we’ve all experienced the lengthy processes and delays during purchase while we wait for search or property data, suffer the breakdowns in the transaction chain, and bemoan the huge amounts of duplication in time and cost that reduce 10% of buyers to tears. This isn’t a snipe at conveyancing – we’ve all allowed the process to stay in the ‘too difficult to change’ box. Until now. All of the data that we need to make the home-buying process faster, slicker and safer for everyone needs to be pulled right up to the front of the journey, readily accessible, where it’s needed.

Maximise the value of data workshop

Support and collaboration

I’m under no illusions. You can’t change a century of embedded processes quickly or without moving mountains, and to achieve the true transformation of the data provision we need requires the support and collaboration of a huge number of parties across government and the industry. The overhaul has started and it’s being driven by an entity called the Home Buying and Selling Group.

Set up after the government’s call for evidence on how to improve the process of home buying and selling, the group comprises 150 participants across government departments and industry sectors with the aim of making the process seamless for customers.

To create a cross-industry data provision with one source of the truth – which includes all property conveyancing information, digitally sourced from an approved data authority – may sound like utopia, but in today’s world of open data, APIs and connected devices, this should be our minimum expectation.

Putting the customer in control of the data associated with their home and giving them the tools to share it will completely transform the buying and selling process, along with a host of other benefits. Even simply improving the time taken from mortgage offer to completion would save the industry hundreds of millions of pounds. This could be a big change – and one that feels overdue.

Maria Harris, technology consultant, Digital Cat Consultancy

This article was first published at

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