Obvion and Topicus launch state-of-art interactive portal for mortgage advisors

07 juli 2022 • Deventer • 6 minuten lezen

A revolution is coming to the mortgage world. Thanks to smart data linking, in the near future, homebuyers will know their borrowing capacity in almost real time and they will be able to arrange their financing efficiently. Obvion Mortgages, along with IT specialist Topicus and UX experts Nerds & Company, has laid the foundation for this: a cloud-based advisor portal.

With around 170,000 loans outstanding, Obvion is a top 10 mortgage provider in the Netherlands and its market share is growing rapidly. The Heerlen-based Rabobank subsidiary has €35.8 billion outstanding and sells exclusively via intermediaries consisting of more than 2,000 affiliated advisory offices and a total of about 6,000 independent mortgage advisers. And Obvion processes thousands of new applications every month.

Optimal customer intimacy

Until recently, mortgage advisors had to do this in an advisor portal that was based on severely outdated IT. Danny Niels, Digital Consultant at Obvion: ‘That portal dates from 2015, with heavy databases and an outdated interface - as if you were looking at a jam-packed complicated pdf.’

For the new portal, Danny Niels had a clear and ambitious goal: ‘Where the old platform worked like a heavy and slow 'data dump', the new portal had to make a giant leap forward in communication with advisors, for optimal customer intimacy. It had to be intuitive, lean and mean, cloud-based and linked to the MijnObvion environment for our consumers.’

By linking all important data sources in real time, the new portal had to give advisors quick and clear insight into the status of applications for new mortgages, into their own portfolio and into certain communications between Obvion and the consumer. ‘In addition, we wanted the system to be able to send push notifications as soon as a customer does something in the MijnObvion environment that requires advice from the advisor. For example, if a consumer wants to pay off their mortgage, but does not know on which part of the loan. Linking the new advisor portal to the MijnObvion environment must make this possible.

‘For consumers, taking out a mortgage is currently often still a stressful and rigid process with complicated forms and long approval procedures. While an advisor can often give a good indication of the feasibility of the mortgage in advance.’

Dennis Hollander, Topicus Business line Manager

Speed up your mortgage application

All those clever functions and possibilities require many data links. ‘A mess of links,’ Danny Niels laughs afterwards. Because of this complexity, he approached Topicus in 2020. They also built and manages the MijnObvion environment for Obvion. On behalf of Topicus, business line manager Dennis Hollander, who in addition to his work at Topicus is also a part-time mortgage adviser, became involved. At Topicus he focuses on improving the customer experience for mortgage applications with smart IT solutions. Hollander: ‘For consumers, taking out a mortgage is still often a stressful and rigid process with complicated forms and long approval procedures. While the advisor can often give a good indication of the feasibility in advance. If we link systems properly, we can optimize all the steps and arrange a mortgage more efficiently.’ The Topicus IT knowledge came just in time. Hollander: ‘Obvion wanted to use a digital platform to support advisers in optimally fulfilling their role and thus provide the consumer with an optimum journey. Exactly the challenge that we like and that we, as a business partner, like to think about.’

Intuïtieve user interface

The project started about a year ago. An elementary part was the faultless link to the equally new platform of the Mortgage Data Network (HDN), the 'aorta' of national mortgage information to which every mortgage lender is linked. Danny Niels: ‘In terms of functionality, we divided the project into phases, such as setting up the technical basis, the link to the new HDN and the development of usability and an intuitive user interface.’

‘We design and build software purely from the perspective of users. For the Obvion advisor portal, we mapped out the emotion and customer journey of the users on this platform.’

Tim Klein Robbenhaar, co-owner of Nerds & Company

For the latter, Topicus also involved the end users in the process from day one. To this end, it called upon the knowledge of UX specialist Nerds & Company, with which Topicus had already collaborated on a number of occasions. Tim Klein Robbenhaar, co-owner of Nerds & Company: ‘We design and build software purely from the perspective of users. For the Obvion advisor portal, we mapped out the emotion and customer journey of the users on this platform.’ From a Topicus initiative, Klein Robbenhaar and his colleagues organized user panels and interviews. ‘In the process, all user situations and questions were addressed. Such as, what do you use the portal for, and how? What information do you need? Where and how do you look for it? And when and how do you prefer to receive it?’

Four sessions with each three consultants were held. Klein Robbenhaar: ‘We used the results to create a clickable design, which we then tested with users and further improved. Only then did we build it. This was an unusually thorough approach for a B2B platform, but it did produce the desired result: advisers now find exactly the information they want, in the place where they expect to find it.’

Immediate insight into applications at all times

The new design opens up a variety of useful options and functions. ‘The new interface provides a better user experience. Never before has it been so well-organized, clear and real-time. Advisors can create their own office account with fellow advisors and now have immediate insight into the status of applications and the related communication between Obvion and the consumer. They have their own environment including all customer files and can therefore always provide their customers with up-to-date information. Changes no longer need to be submitted on paper or through complicated processes; they can simply be done online. The advisers also see every change, including the consequences for the consumer, and updates and additions are automatically sent to them. They can even set which notifications they want to receive. That saves a lot of support phone calls.’

‘The HDN connection was crucial: it went from local to the cloud, and this could not be allowed to go wrong, because without HDN traffic you have no business.’

Danny Niels, Digital Consultant at Obvion

Exciting phase

On 23th of November 2021 at 8 am the new platform was live, barely nine months after the start of the project. This took place in phases: in activation rounds of 500 each, all six thousand advisors were connected. "An exciting phase," recalls Danny Niels, "because the HDN connection in particular was crucial: it went from local to the cloud, and that couldn't go wrong, because without HDN traffic, you have no business."

 Another exciting aspect of the new portal was the large number of external data links. "There are certainly several dozens of them," says Danny Niels. "Three for the adviser portal, quite a few for the MijnObvion environment, plus of course HDN. It is a complex landscape, but the transition went flawlessly.”

Commendable reactions; satisfaction score 8,7

At the end of December 2021, the new platform was fully live and in intensive use; on 2 December at 09 am, the obsolete platform could be taken offline after more than ten years of loyal service. Danny Niels and Obvion are satisfied. ‘The reactions of our users are praiseworthy: they immediately gave the platform a score of 8.7. The usage is at the expected level and thanks to the clear interface, the number of helpdesk questions has decreased substantially. Searching in applications is easier, additional information is easy to find and making changes is also very simple. And you no longer need a manual for the new portal - it works completely intuitively.’

Better than other platforms

Hollander also looks back with pride on a successful launch. ‘The new portal is three times better,’ he concludes. ‘Obvion has improved contact with its customers, the advisor can better fulfil their role and the consumer gets clarity faster. Next steps forward are real-time data sharing, digital signing, adding sustainability to mortgages and possible subsidies, and more accumulated customer knowledge. We are already implementing and scaling this up. What I really like about it: we really worked together as partners on a business level.’ Klein Robbenhaar of Nerds & Company is pleased with the reactions of users to the design, interface and usability. ‘The advisors find it much better than other mortgage provider platforms. That’s a big copliment.’

Foundation for future expansion

Danny Niels is also positive about the cooperation. ‘We took an agile and short-cycle approach. At a few points we should have looked more closely at the feasibility of some functionalities, but we always made timely adjustments and achieved our goals for the launch. A remarkable achievement, especially since the entire project ran under corona restrictions. We now have a good foundation for future expansion. In car terms, you could say that we have gone from a three- to a six-cylinder: much stronger, much faster, many more possibilities. We have many years ahead of us.’

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