Mortgage Choice rolls out new core broker platform

Mortgage Choice says its new platform offers a 30 per cent productivity boost for its network of brokers

A new core platform built by Mortgage Choice has increased its brokers’ productivity by close to a third and set the financial services provider up for the future by enabling rapid delivery of new features, according to Vincent ten Krooden.

Ten Krooden, the company’s head of technology, has been tasked with building up the in-house development capabilities of Mortgage Choice. Historically, the company outsourced its development work.

The company was launched in 1992 by Rod Higgins and Peter Higgins, originally as a network of mortgage brokers. Its remit has expanded over the years and it now describes itself as a “fully fledged financial services provider”, with a national network of mortgage brokers and financial advisers. At the end of 2018, Mortgage Choice had more than 400 franchises around the country.

The company invested $3.4 million in the new broker platform, which it says is part of a move to “futureproof” the operations of its franchisees. It replaces a decade-old application based on version 1.1 of Microsoft’s .NET framework. Although the struggle to keep the old system compatible with Windows 10 was responsible for some of the impetus to rip it out and build a replacement, that was not the sole driver, Ten Krooden told Computerworld.

Thanks in part to its monolithic design, adding new functionality to to the old platform “would take, at a bare minimum, eight weeks,” he said. “The new platform enables continuous delivery of new features.”

“Historically, everyone would build everything in one system and then technology changes and you can't extend it and scale it out, so you have to start again,” Ten Krooden said. By contrast the new system makes it easy to “chop and change” as necessary. The tech team can deploy transparently in real-time across the network of brokers, Ten Krooden said.

The new platform is mobile-friendly, online and underpinned by a microservices-based and API-driven design.

It acts as a “single pane of glass that allows us to plug and play different systems, with the same user experience,” he said. As a result, brokers no longer have to enter data in multiple systems, with all the implied potential for human error.

Preventing the double-entry of data has helped deliver “massive” efficiency gains for brokers, Ten Krooden said. Members of a pilot group were “instantly reporting a 30 per cent increase in productivity” when they switched over

“So people writing 30, 40 loans a month — they would totally get what the system brings to the table for them.”

The pilot started with a group of around 20 franchises. Word of mouth about the new platform meant that more people pushed to be included, he said.

“People were saying, ‘Look, I want to get on the pilot as well’. So through the six weeks, we went from 20 to 85 franchises. So that’s about 150 users. That is a great outcome. If people are saying that the system is vastly better than to what we've had in past and they want to be part of that pilot, then you know, you don't want to hold them back.”

Following the six-week pilot, Mortgage Choice focused on a phased rollout, synchronising the data between the legacy platform and the new one overnight and allowing brokers to move across when they felt they were ready.

From September to November the whole network of around 450 franchises was moved across, with the support of webinars and face-to-face training as well as training videos available from within the platform itself.

For the new system, the company largely built on a Microsoft stack, with SQL Server and Dynamics CRM managing data. The frontend uses Angular.

Mortgage Choice uses Ping Identity to secure access to the system. The company has a hybrid cloud approach, with Nutanix providing on-prem hyperconverged infrastructure.

Ten Krooden said his team is still working on enhancing the platform. “The next key functionality is we're integrating an automation workflow process management system,” he said. “That’s the next cab off the rank, and there is a separate piece of work around a customer portal.”  

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